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Christian Bräuer • President, CICAE

“Cinemas must keep their audience engaged and continually communicate with them through their channels”


- We caught up with Christian Bräuer, president of CICAE, to talk through the best practices that exhibitors should be putting in place during this unprecedented emergency

Christian Bräuer  • President, CICAE

We had the chance to talk to Christian Bräuer, president of CICAE (International Confederation of Art Cinemas), to discuss the best practices that cinema exhibitors should be putting in place during the ongoing outbreak. He also touched upon the topics of reopening venues, audience engagement and Europe’s public response to the crisis. The organisation has published two lists of useful guidelines: the first contains general recommendations for exhibitors (read it here), whilst the second centres on possible reopening strategies (available here). Both pages are updated on a regular basis.

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Cineuropa: European cinemas are facing an unprecedented emergency. What kinds of initial steps would you recommend exhibitors take to limit losses and prepare for reopening?
Christian Bräuer:
One of the most difficult issues is that we can only estimate the impact at this point. Nobody knows how long the cinemas will be closed. We are trying to make the best of it by pursuing a number of actions. These would be my recommendations: exhibitors need to keep in touch with their audiences, find the best possible solutions for their employees, keep the technical equipment intact and apply for any available financial support. Even during closure, our costs for rents, maintenance and wages are high. It is more important than ever to stand up as cinemas, together, and make our voices heard at a time during which even large corporations are calling for public support.

What could cinemas do in terms of workforce management?
In the short term, all of the financial and legal help offered by governments needs to be taken advantage of, in order to be able to keep the personnel employed – the rules in place differ from country to country, ranging from short-term employment allowances to temporary lay-off payments. The difficulty is that in many arthouse cinemas around the world, there are zero-hour workers and students collaborating without actually being employed. They are in a very vulnerable situation, as they need to find a way of paying their rent and covering their living costs. We are lobbying to make relief funds available across Europe. As employers, we need to make sure we communicate properly and regularly with our staff members in these unsettling times.

What about the audience? What kinds of measures can cinemas take to maintain a good level of engagement?
Cinemas must keep their audience engaged and continually communicate with them through their channels. This can happen through newsletters and social media, but also through special campaigns aimed at involving them in the long term, throughout the closure and beyond. I am confident that the social experience of cinema and the immersive potential of the big screen will become uniquely evident when people are tied to their little screens at home, by themselves.

How would you judge European governments’ and public film agencies’ initial responses to the crisis?
The responses differ from country to country, and it is difficult to say something valid for each of them. However, I strongly believe that any action needs to involve a specific relief package for cinemas, but it is also important to keep in mind the cinemas’ role as public cultural spaces when evaluating the reopening. Cinemas have been amongst the first to be hit by the crisis, and they will be closed for a long time, operating under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Public film agencies and governments have to recognise that cinemas are the backbone of the film industry, the most important source of revenue, and a window for the production of arthouse and independent cinema. They will have to step in with aid packages to cover the losses caused by this lengthy period of closure and also offer support after the reopening to make these places of encounters and culture full of life again and to re-establish the basis of our industry.

What would you recommend exhibitors do in order to protect and strengthen partnerships and sponsorships?
Partnerships and sponsorships should be maintained, and the exhibitors should be communicating about them. We are in this situation together, after all, and showing the strength of the collaborations is important when thinking about life starting again.

Are there any recent national or European initiatives you’d like to highlight as particularly good responses to the current crisis?
The Danish government is setting a strong example by covering 80% of the cinemas’ fixed costs and up to 75% of the wages throughout the crisis. As the German arthouse association AG KINO, we have proposed a series of measures that need to be taken to protect independent cinemas. In this situation, we believe in the power of networks, as they can help governments to understand what is needed and learn best practices from other European territories.

How would you judge the European festival circuit’s reactions to the outbreak?
We applaud the fact that both Cannes and Venice have clearly dismissed the idea of hosting digital festivals this year. Everybody will agree with Thierry Frémaux that the new films by Wes Anderson or Paul Verhoeven should not be discovered on a computer, but in a cinema!

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