It’s tough to look at EMEA as a whole since it’s made up of so many individual markets, each of which is very different than the others. In that context, what is your takeaway from the region’s 2015 box office?
2015 was a great year for cinema operators across almost all UNIC territories, regardless of the regional differences that you rightly identify as a key trait of the European industry landscape. Our members accounted for € 8.5 billion box office revenue and 1.26 billion cinema visits. That’s an annual increase of 9.6 percent and 6 percent respectively.
The year I think illustrated that audiences—despite the numerous distractions and competing leisure offers that exist nowadays—continue to have a desire to see great films on the big screen, together with friends and families. Considering what we know about the film slate over the next few years, that makes me feel very confident about the trajectory of our business.
CineEurope is celebrating 25 years this year. When did you first attend and how has the event evolved?
I joined UNIC five years ago and attended the last edition of the convention in Amsterdam. Having not worked in cinema before, I was thrilled by the showmanship illustrated at the event, which to me is also a unique and fantastic characteristic about the entire sector. Everybody lived and breathed cinema! When UNIC joined forces with the owners of the show, Film Expo Group, we felt that a move to Barcelona would signal that a new era had begun. We have since grown the convention and worked hard to also bring on board major European film companies besides our key partners from the U.S. studios. All in all I think our guests appreciate these changes. And being based in Barcelona—one of the most attractive cities in the world—of course also helps a lot.
What are some of the issues you’ll be discussing at the event?
I couldn’t possibly cover all the issues that we will address this year, but the trade show will of course again showcase the latest cutting-edge technologies and innovations that drive growth in the cinema business. As part of the seminar program we will explore how we can best engage young audiences in the big-screen experience. We will also have a look at how we can use big data to analyze and predict the behavior of our customers and examine key trends in event cinema. Last but not least, we kick off the event with an amazingly high-profile executive roundtable on Monday morning—including Jeffrey Katzenberg, Paul Donovan, David Passman, and Jan Bernhardsson—which will look at the future of cinema exhibition in a global context.
Nico Simon will be receiving the UNIC Achievement Award. Can you tell us a bit about this award?
The award was created by UNIC to recognize and celebrate individuals for their outstanding contributions to European cinema. Nico Simon—who is also president of the Europa Cinemas network—has over the past 20 years developed a five-screen art-house cinema in Luxembourg into a pan-European operator with close to 100 screens based in multiple territories. While embracing commercial opportunities and celebrating innovation, he has also always been dedicated to European film and shows an above average rate of local and European titles in most of his theaters. There are few people who deserve this award as much as Nico does.
How is 2016 shaping up for UNIC’s members? What are the primary opportunities and challenges ahead?
While there may not be as many tentpole releases this year as in 2015, we experienced a very positive first quarter with hits including Zootopia and Deadpool. The specialty of Europe is that the market is pretty resilient given strong local film production levels in many territories. We are therefore confident that this year—as well as of course the coming years—will be very positive for the industry. That said, in some mature UNIC territories we experience flattening youth attendance levels, which is something the industry is addressing head on via various youth-engagement initiatives. UNIC will over the coming months, with partners and members, complement these activities through a major pan-European research project that will examine drivers and barriers to cinema-going among teenagers. We look forward to sharing the results of that project with the wider industry toward the end of the year.
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