Since the 2018 edition of CineEurope, the Gold Award—presented by the Film Expo Group and the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC)—has been a way to honor cinema professionals who in their careers have made an impact on their countries, their companies, and the European cinema community at large.
This year’s crop of winners, says UNIC president Phil Clapp, showcases “the depth of talent there is across our sector.” Says Film Expo Group (FEG) president Andrew Sunshine, speaking on behalf of the entire FEG team, “We would like to congratulate all of those being recognized with a Gold Award this year for their continued support and dedication to our great industry.” Below, Boxoffice Pro offers an introduction to the winners of this year’s CineEurope Gold Awards.
Jan Rasmussen, Head of Screen Technology, Nordisk Film Cinemas
Javier Hoyos, Head of Food & Beverage Southern Europe, Cinesa and UCI (Odeon Cinemas Group)
Kadri Kaldma, Baltic Business Development Manager, Apollo Cinema
Kelly Drew, Operations Director (South), Cineworld Group
Max Bell, Managing Director, Bell Theatre Services
Ron Sterk, CEO, Vue Nederland
Tõnis Kümnik, Senior Projectionist/Technical Manager, Cinamon Group
What is the number one lesson you have learned from the industry’s last few years of recovery?
“I think the most important takeaway is the resilience of our industry. It’s not the first time cinema has been declared dead—or close to it. When TV became a household thing in the 1950s, it was seen as the end of cinema, and the same happened when VCRs became a popular way of viewing movies in the 1980s. The truth is that nothing replaces the experience of seeing a film in a cinema with an audience. It’s up to us to always maintain and improve on that experience. There is no substitute for quality.”—Jan Rasmussen, Nordisk Film Cinemas
“At Cinesa and UCI, upholding a strategy based on constant innovation and adaptability to market changes and client necessities has always been of top importance. In that sense, listening closely to our audience in order to understand their preferences and offer them quality products and services that can adapt to them has been essential in order to face the struggles that have risen in the last few years within our sector. That is the key to continue being leaders and managing to provide the best possible experience to our users.
“Also, when we talk about innovation, we don’t just refer to the cutting-edge technology of our cinemas. We mean content, not just of great cinematic premiers, but also regarding thematic cycles or alternative programming: new ways of consuming cinema—such as the Pack Reservado, or Pack Gaming—that allow customers to enjoy a movie in private or have fun playing video games with friends and family—and even the launch of new services, like Cinesa Unlimited Card, the first subscription plan in Spain’s film exhibition sector.” —Javier Hoyos, Cinesa and UCI
“It’s hard to say. I think the last couple of years have given the whole industry lesson after lesson. My answer depends on the day. Today I would say that the biggest lesson is that the cinema industry can be easily overlooked or underestimated by legislative organs, or maybe even customers. On one hand it feels that maybe the industry itself has taken its own success for granted, and on the other that customers also think that whatever happens, cinema will remain—regardless of the hardship it endures. I believe that one reason behind [this misconception] is the astonishing [phenomena] that everybody outside the industry seems to know a lot better how cinemas are run [than we do]. I think that this has taught us to fight for our business more.” —Kadri Kaldma, Apollo Cinema
“I guess the number one lesson I have learned throughout the industry’s recovery period is to remain resilient and positive to the changes we had to deliver. I have placed a high level of importance on reengaging with our teams, as we have had in many cases to build our workforce up again and learn how to operate a little leaner whilst we recover. Thankfully, with the exciting film slate coming this summer, this is getting a bit easier.” —Kelly Drew, Cineworld Group
“There is no doubt that the last few years have been difficult, and it is probably true that people have never had as many different options to entertain themselves as they do today. This means that the competition for clients’ attention will be even more fierce in the future. Rather than whine about it, I try to embrace the challenge of keeping our standards constantly on the rise. With so many streaming services available out there today, it feels important to make sure that every cinema guest, someone who has made the effort to attend an actual show, is rewarded with an experience that the home environment cannot match.” —Tõnis Kümnik, Cinamon Group
“It is really hard to come up with a number one lesson, as the effect of the pandemic and all the lockdowns have been so huge, and also since the industry still is in recovery. But if I have to name one, it is the importance of good, stable teams in our cinemas. They are essential for the perfect night out for our guests. During the pandemic the cinemas remained intact but, unfortunately, some of our staff members left for various reasons. We had to rebuild teams, and work in cinemas is teamwork. Good teams get the best results.” —Ron Sterk, Vue Nederland
What was your first job in the industry, and when did you think you might like to pursue exhibition as a career?
“My first job in exhibition was selling candy at the local cinema. That was back in 1981. I worked in that cinema for 9 years; [it’s where I was] trained as a projectionist. Around 2000 I became chief projectionist in a major cinema in Copenhagen—and dropped out of university at the same time. That was my career decision.” —Jan Rasmussen, Nordisk Film Cinemas
“My first job in the industry was as general manager in a Cinesa cinema, and I decided to make my career in this sector when I had the opportunity to participate in the launch of our company in Brazil, actively participating in the opening of the first six UCI multiplexes in Brazil and later, when I became regional operation manager for the north of Spain.” —Javier Hoyos, Cinesa and UCI
“I started in the cinema business 11 years ago as a hall service attendant. From that point on I have basically gone through every position that a cinema could have. From checking tickets and sweeping popcorn from the floor to managing the operations in one and even multiple cinema units, to managing the development of the entire cinema chain. It has been a ride! I have never thought of this as a career—rather, a vision I would like to work on. I have always had some idea of how things should be done. It started small, regarding maybe only one position or one unit, but it has grown into something much bigger, encompassing the whole chain and beyond. I’m definitely not done yet.” —Kadri Kaldma, Apollo Cinema
“I joined the cinema industry whilst I was at college in my late teenage years, working for AMC at The Point in Milton Keynes. I soon discovered I had a strong flair for leadership and quickly found myself involved with the rapid expansion of the U.K. industry. I traveled all over the U.K., supporting the opening of new builds and training new employees on how to run multiscreen cinemas—it was great fun and of course very different to how we do things today!” —Kelly Drew, Cineworld Group
“I started working in finance at a small but famous art house cinema in Amsterdam. At the time, Dutch cinema attendance was at its lowest point ever, with an average frequency of less than one movie per year. My father warned me, saying there would be no future in cinema because of video and television. I still have warm feelings about that period, and I remember titles such as Raise the Red Lantern, Reservoir Dogs, and the brilliant What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. During the nearly five years I worked in that cinema, I learned about new builds and multiplexes, which also inspired me to pursue a career in exhibition. I saw the opportunities and dynamics of the new cinemas after visiting, for example, Movieworld Scheveningen and Kinepolis in Brussels.” —Ron Sterk, Vue Nederland
“When I started in this industry back in 2008, my first job title was projectionist. Funnily enough, the title hasn’t changed since. However, the job itself has changed quite a bit: When I started, one cinema needed four full-time projectionists to handle all the films in 35 mm. Now it’s the digital age, and I can take care of multiple cinemas alone. It’s been quite a transition over the years.
“I must admit, there was not much deliberation when I started out. Just an interesting job offer at the correct time for me. After 15 years on this path, it looks like it has not worked out too badly. I can feel quite lucky that I had this opportunity to start working in a cinema in my hometown.” —Tõnis Kümnik, Cinamon Group
What is your favorite part of working in the cinema industry?
“I have always enjoyed the commitment and passion of people working in exhibition. That goes all the way from the staff selling popcorn to the people making the decisions. No one works in cinema because they have to. It’s always a choice of preference. Usually if people decide to make a career within exhibition, they stay there for good. But, ultimately, it’s my love of movies that drives the passion.” —Jan Rasmussen, Nordisk Film Cinemas
“The fact that every week is changing; the challenge of being able to actively influence the business; the possibility of being creative and being in a business that allows you in many cases to try new strategies; the contact with our people; the daily struggle to be better and believe that we have the ability to improve the customer experience.” —Javier Hoyos, Cinesa and UCI
“I would say that my favorite part is the people who are working in it. I can’t imagine that there would be more dedicated people anywhere else than in the cinema business. Once you’re in, you’re hooked!” —Kadri Kaldma, Apollo Cinema
“It’s great that the people that I work with are so passionate about the film industry, and they want the business to be as successful as it can be. But for me, it’s all about the people in our cinemas. I like to ensure they are highly engaged to deliver the best service in the cleanest environments and that we give them the opportunity to grow their skills in order to be our leadership teams of the future. I would like to think that I can inspire others to come through the leadership ladder and be the very best version of themselves.” —Kelly Drew, Cineworld Group
“I don’t have an absolute favorite part of working in the cinema industry. I enjoy my position as M.D., which gives me an overall view of the business and allows me to create the best environment for people to develop themselves while working with different departments. When all this results in a thoroughly refurbished cinema or a new-build cinema, that is what makes me happy and proud.” —Ron Sterk, Vue Nederland
“It’s funny how this job with its established weekly tasks doesn’t feel like too much routine to me at all. I guess it’s like this mainly because almost every week new movies will premiere, and they all have their own stories and little distinguishing technical details that I have to know to prepare them correctly for the shows. I also quite like the technical advancements I see in this business. I’m sure the cinema equipment we use in upcoming years won’t be exactly the same as it is today, because I have already seen the technology change many times during my career.” —Tõnis Kümnik, Cinamon Group