Venice 2020 - Venice Production Bridge
Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
The post-coronavirus challenges facing arthouse exhibitors at the centre of debate in Venice
The Venice Production Bridge panel entitled “Opportunities and challenges in the Arthouse sector following the pandemic” saw the participation of seven prestigious speakers
On 5 September, the third day of the Venice Production Bridge (3-11 September), a panel entitled “Opportunities and challenges in the Arthouse sector following the pandemic” took place at the Hotel Excelsior's Spazio Incontri. The discussion, moderated by Cineuropa's own editor-in-chief Domenico La Porta, saw the participation of seven industry speakers, namely CNC's director of international relations Mathieu Fournet, IFFR director Vanja Kaludjercic, President of CICAE and of the AG Kino association of German arthouse cinemas Christian Bräuer, President of the FICE association of Italian arthouse cinemas Domenico Di Noia, Imagine Film Distribution's associate manager Tinne Bral, Poland's Kino Pod Baranami director and member of Krakow Film Klaster Marynia Gierat and chair of the European Parliament's Culture and Education Committee Sabine Verheyen.
La Porta, after introducing the “elephant in the room” — namely, the crisis currently faced by arthouse cinemas owing to the outbreak — and the importance of finally having an A-list festival taking place physically, gave the floor to Verheyen. The chair said that some schemes to protect arthouse exhibitors were in place but “did not have the same impact everywhere” and that the committee was currently fighting to get a minimum share of 1% of the budget (or €7.7 billion) for the cultural sector. “We're not asking that much, considering that 4.2% of the European GDP is produced through cultural activities”, she added. Speaking about the Creative Europe Media programme, Verheyen explained that the new ideal budget should account for €2.8 billion spread over seven years; however, some member states are reluctant and are trying to push for a €1.64 billion investment, which would be just slightly higher than the last seven-year programme's fund.
Later, Fournet talked about the current situation facing French exhibitors, saying that “the CNC has set up different measures to help the sector, especially arthouse cinemas” and has guaranteed “more flexibility for paying taxes and social contributions”, while being able to keep on paying all of the other subsidies. He also confirmed that in September a new emergency plan would be implemented, with new bonuses for producers and distributors to encourage the release of fresh titles. He also touched upon the collaboration in place with Unifrance, which, among other objectives, aims at promoting French movies in foreign cinemas.
Next, Bral recalled the timeline of cinema reopening in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and highlighted the steep decline of arthouse cinemas' revenue (which were not helped by the poor summer programming) as well as the importance of good communication campaigns to bring back viewers to cinemas. Within the Benelux area, the Netherlands is the market showing the best response, while Belgium is struggling as it is penalised by the limited number of screens.
Later, Gierat explained that her team had built up a digital platform with the help of a New Zealander firm and used mostly social media and newsletters to keep in touch with viewers. The reception of their efforts was generally good and viewers were keen to watch even old releases. Brauer, on the other hand, pointed out that the biggest challenge currently is to establish a “fair model” balancing the relations between exhibitors and VoD platforms as well as the urgency of receiving support to keep cinemas running.
Kaljudercic believes that this peculiar phase can represent “a moment of reflection for when things will go back to normal”, whose repercussions are still difficult to predict. Di Noia reported the encouraging results of Italian cinemas' reopening and how the national industry was living a state of grace in 2019 and during the first two months of 2020. Moreover, viewers showed their solidarity during the lockdown, refusing in many cases to cancel cinema subscriptions and not claiming refunds. On 7 August, 80% of Italian screens are open to viewers and the releases of Tenet and After We Collided are bringing good profits. “We still lack a strong art film, though, perhaps caused by Cannes not taking place this year”, he added. Besides, Di Noia is confident that the crisis may become an opportunity for European art films, as he doubted that 200-300 million Hollywood budgets will be still invested because of the many risks in place, thus “our cinema may become more competitive and more present”.
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