Bustling Belgium: Exhibitors Gather in Brussels for UNIC Cinema Days

On October 28 and 29, representatives from UNIC’s 38 member countries (a warm Boxoffice Pro welcome to the trade group’s newest member, Cyprus) will convene at the Radisson Blu Royal in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss the trends facing the exhibition industry this year. Digital platforms and premium experiences are two of the major topics on the docket—but, UNIC CEO Laura Houlgatte assures us, there’s plenty of downtime between sessions to catch up with cinema compatriots and hash out solutions to some of our industry’s challenges over coffee or a cocktail.

After welcoming words from Houlgatte on the afternoon of the 28th, Cinema Days will start with a keynote debate between film producer Louise Vesth and exhibitor—and recent winner of the 2019 UNIC Achievement Award—Peter Fornstam, founder and managing director of Svenska Bio. Explains Houlgatte, “It will be a discussion like we’ve had in previous years, examining big topics in the industry and getting [the speakers’] feelings about what they think, where we’re going, and what are the trends.” Phil Clapp, CEO of the U.K. Cinema Association and president of UNIC, will moderate.

Following that opening discussion is a panel on platforms titled, “Cinemas and tech giants – partners or competitors?” moderated by Sarah Lewthwaite of Movio. “Basically, are [platforms] friends or foes? Do you have to work with them? How can you work well with them? How do you manage your bargaining power?” says Houlgatte. That panel will be followed by another on premium experiences. Though cinemas will, of course, be represented, Houlgatte is particularly excited about bringing another voice to the table. An operatic voice, one might say. “When I think about premium, I think about the opera,” Houlgatte says. “It’s a very special experience. How do they manage to sell this and market it? What is premium for them?”

Day two begins a series of six rapid-fire sessions, pairing quick presentations on a variety of subjects—H.R., accessibility, untapped audiences, auditorium design—paired with Q&As. “Really quick, really snappy,” says Houlgatte. “Just to make sure we keep everyone on their toes!” Following that come two parallel labs, one on cinema marketing and the other on technology. 

As in past years, the UNIC Cinema Days schedule is packed with “loads of coffee breaks, which people always like” and long breaks for meals, giving attendees—Houlgatte estimates that people from between 20 and 25 countries will attend—ample time to network and discuss issues brought up during the official UNIC programming in more detail. “We have usually a nice dinner somewhere, to make sure everybody can network with everybody. That lasts for three or four hours. It’s much smaller than CineEurope, so it has a much more intimate feeling, if you can call it intimate with 150 people. But you see what I mean. As intimate as it can be! … It gives you the space to have a proper chat with people, and that’s what we really want to create with this kind of smaller event. People actually get the chance to talk to each other and interact with each other.”

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