Guillaume Branders, Senior Industry Relations Manager, UNIC, gives an industry update
No one could have predicted the duration and severity of the unprecedented social and economic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. European cinema operators suffered a 68.4% drop in admissions in 2020, accounting for a total loss of €6.2 billion in box office revenue alone.
But box office losses alone do not provide a full picture of the impact of COVID-19 on the industry as they represent only a share of each exhibitor’s income, with significant revenues also arising from in-theatre sales or private events. And, of course, this doesn’t even come close to touching on the social impact of the pandemic. Equipment manufacturers, service providers, as well as colleagues from the retail sector have also suffered terribly from this crisis. Thankfully, as time progressed, national authorities announced measures to support jobs and livelihoods and provided a range of support schemes to help the sector survive.
Recent record-breaking performances following the releases of various international and local blockbusters in September and October 2021 have confirmed that the cinema industry is truly on the road to recovery. And the pandemic has further highlighted the relevance and success of local European releases, which have played an essential supporting role in recent months.
UNIC: The Annual Report
The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) published its Annual Report on 4 October 2021, which includes detailed facts and figures on the European cinema industry in 2020 as well as preliminary results for the first half of this year – all of which is available on the UNIC website (www.unic-cinemas.org). The report provides an update on UNIC’s policy priorities for the year ahead, as we continue to ensure that the social, economic and cultural relevance of cinema-going remains front-and-centre in relevant regulatory discussions at EU level.
UNIC has been closely monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the cinema industry across Europe, regularly updating publicly-available research on the topic since March 2020. This exhaustive document includes detailed information on national closure processes, support mechanisms, measures relating to employment, taxation, as well as rent and other related costs. In addition, UNIC contributed to a regularly updated list of the various technical recommendations published by manufacturers and other industry stakeholders to ensure the good maintenance of digital cinema equipment during closure. Again, all of these documents are available on the UNIC website.
The UNIC Technology Group remained active throughout these times, via regular virtual meetings in addition to informal online get-togethers with colleagues at the EDCF, ISDCF, CTC and ICTA. If anything, lockdowns and travel bans have encouraged us all to remain engaged and find new projects to collaborate on. And, to everyone’s delight, the group finally had the opportunity to meet in person during CineEurope 2021, held in Barcelona.
As part of the EDCF, we have been working on making sense of new global optical safety distance standards for lamps published in December 2020 and the relevance to the European cinema industry. This collaborative exercise has proved particularly successful and resulted in the drafting of an exhaustive FAQ available on the EDCF website – www.edcf.net.
An Industry Online
In 2020 and 2021, UNIC organised several webinars on the state of the industry and reopening challenges with the support of colleagues from Celluloid Junkie, Comscore and The Boxoffice Company. And at the beginning of the year, UNIC brought together over 100 industry colleagues for a packed, three-hour programme, looking into the short-to long-term consequences of the current crisis on cinema technology, from the perspective of different stakeholders in the film and cinema value chain.
In April 2021, UNIC organized for the first time a session focusing on the issue of sustainability involving members of the three UNIC expert groups on cinema technology, marketing and retail. As part of the webinar, participants shared insights on challenges relating to energy consumption, future concerns related to the acquisition of spare parts as well as upcoming legislation on energy efficiency. The issue was again discussed at CineEurope and we will ensure that it remains high on the UNIC agenda in the coming months.
What Doesn’t Kill You…
The last two years have shown the strength and resilience of our whole industry. We would like to thank each and every individual and company for the invaluable support provided to our organisation and its members as we navigated these challenging and unpredictable times together.
CineEurope – In Real Life!
Last but certainly not least, it was fantastic to see so many colleagues in Barcelona at CineEurope. After being cancelled in 2020 and delayed in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related local restrictions, we were finally able to celebrate a very special 30th edition of the show with our partners at the Film Expo Group. For most of us, CineEurope was the first opportunity since March 2020 to network with industry colleagues and engage in the latest trends and developments in our business.
Highlights of the event included a panel sponsored by Creative Europe MEDIA on the role of local films, an executive roundtable exploring the future cinema landscape, a focus session on future cinema design and a seminar exploring audience behaviour and the new cinema experience. In addition, the Coca-Cola sessions presented key opportunities to emerge stronger from the crisis, to drive sustained growth and ‘build back greener’, while the ICTA sessions looked into various innovative solutions for cinemas.
As always, the CineEurope Trade Show showcased products to enhance the cinema-going experience, while both Hollywood and European studios shared some of their great line-ups for the coming months. We cannot wait to see you at CineEurope 2022, scheduled for June 20-23. Save the date(s)!
Before that, we are looking forward to seeing many of you again in person in Brussels in February 2022 for the upcoming UNIC Cinema Days. From all of us at UNIC, see you soon!