Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of experiencing the fast-paced and extraordinary development of India’s exhibition industry first hand, as a guest of Cinema India Expo. UNIC joined Indian exhibitors and our colleagues from the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI) in celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema. I would like to congratulate COEAI and the entire Indian exhibition sector for hosting such a truly inspiring and dynamic event. We will surely return!
Let me briefly introduce the International Union of Cinemas, in short UNIC. In November 2012, European cinemas will celebrate the 60th anniversary of UNIC, Europe’s largest trade association representing cinema exhibitors in the EU, Russia, Turkey and Israel. Over the past 60 years, UNIC has helped cinemas from 24 countries to join forces and to speak with one voice on the issues that matter to exhibition. UNIC represents cinema owners at an international level when dealing with governments as well as with other film industry associations and our partners from the US studios. We also co-organise CineEurope, the European equivalent to Cinema India Expo.
India and Europe may be continents apart, but nevertheless the international exhibition community faces common challenges and development opportunities in today’s globalised and networked industry - an important reason to increase dialogue and cooperation between our two markets.
What are the key issues for international exhibition from our perspective?
In recent years, there has been increasing pressure on the theatrical release window in both India and Europe. In India, films are increasingly broadcast on television just after their release on the big screen. In Europe, governments seek to influence film release practices that have been established over decades and are based on sound experience from all those that make personal and financial investments in the film industry.
Cinemas have to make clear that an exclusive and extensive theatrical release window is vital to the well-being of the entire film industry. The cinema-going experience cannot be put on the same level as other distribution platforms. Cinema theatres remain the gold standard for enjoying films, together, on the big screen. Moreover, releasing a film in cinemas has an important positive economic impact on its performance in subsequent release windows - be it television, DVD or VoD.
The fight against film theft is another global challenge. There is no sustainable creation and innovation, no quality content and no cultural diversity without fair remuneration for our artists and those that help in producing, distributing and exhibiting their works. The enforcement of copyright and raising awareness about its positive impact on culture and creativity need to be encouraged at a time when some other industries might be said to profit from the presence of large-scale and organised film theft.
Another priority shared by European and Indian exhibitors is digitisation. Europe is likely to reach near to full conversion of its theatres by 2014, India by 2016. There are numerous advantages to the digital shift, such as increased programming flexibility, more innovative content, new ways of engaging with our audience, and some cost savings. Once we are all digitised, new challenges will undoubtedly arise. The question of whether and when Higher Frame Rates will become an issue and if one should invest in laser technologies or satellite delivery are, for example, key issues that UNIC is investigating on behalf of its members.
UNIC believes that we need to support as many cinemas as possible to benefit from digital innovation. The diversity of our cinema operators, from multiplex to smaller film theatres, is a cultural wealth we share and need to protect.
Last but not the least, an important issue for European and Indian exhibitors is the management of music rights as well as other neighbouring rights. Two examples of current developments in this domain are the revision of the Indian Copyright Act that gives music artists more ownership control over their rights, thereby increasing their responsibility, as well as new draft legislation at EU level on the governance and transparency of collecting societies. Ensuring that the international copyright framework works for the film industry is a key issue for cinemas.
UNIC has in the past year been stepping up its efforts to represent the interests of international cinemas of all sizes and programming types. At a time when co-production treaties between India and its European partners are becoming more important than ever and festivals such as Europe in Love tour across India, UNIC welcomes the international outreach of its Indian friends and looks forward to strengthening co-operation between Indian and European exhibitors and celebrating the big screen together.