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Berlinale 2021 - EFM

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

At the EFM, a discussion organised by CICAE explored the future of arthouse exhibition

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BERLINALE 2021: The panel, entitled “The Evolution of the Arthouse Exhibition”, took place on 3 March during the European Film Market

At the EFM, a discussion organised by CICAE explored the future of arthouse exhibition

What future should arthouse exhibitors expect? This is the main question tackled by one of the panels that took place during this year's European Film Market, entitled “The Evolution of the Arthouse Exhibition.” The discussion, held on 3 March and moderated by Johanna Koljonen, author of the Nostradamus Report which was presented at Göteborg one month ago, saw the participation of six speakers, namely Christian Bräuer, managing director of the Yorck Kino Gruppe in Berlin and chair of CICAE; Daniela Elstner, executive director of Unifrance; Niklas Nienaß, member of the EU Parliament for Germany; Roberto Olla, executive director of Eurimages; Mira Staleva, deputy director of the Sofia International Film Festival and Cinema House; and Harald Trettenbrein, head of unit at European Commission's EACEA - Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency.

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After a short introduction, Koljonen asked the speakers to share their ideal vision of the arthouse exhibition's future. Bräuer expressed optimism and said that “theatrical exhibition – and especially the independent one – will be the most trusted source for audiences, in a world marked by content overload,” whilst Olla saw an ideal future where “there's space for everyone in the industry, and the big fish is not eating the small fish” and “different ways to exploit audiovisual work coexist.” “If the implementation of a regulatory framework proves necessary to do that, then let's go for it,” he added. Nienaß highlighted the importance of opening or re-establishing new cinemas in rural areas. Meanwhile, Staleva said that she would like to see long lines to enter cinemas once again; and to do that, it wouldn’t be enough to bring high-quality titles, it would also be necessary to invest in education, for instance by bringing cinema as a teaching subject in schools. Next, Trettenbrein expressed his hope for the Europa Cinemas network to grow, and Elstner pointed out that there will be “one or two crucial moments” when exhibitors will need to reconnect with audiences, despite the continuous alternation between shutdown and reopening we're currently facing.

Speaking about future contents, Olla commented: “The offer of audiovisual content – including films – should not forget younger audiences. There's a certain tendency in terms of funding that content shouldn't necessarily target younger audiences. In an ideal world, more attention to these viewers will make the whole picture brighter and more beautiful.” Koljonen asked whether funding bodies or projects themselves were resistant to this type of change, mentioning the role of Olla as a decision-maker himself for Eurimages: “It's a sort of yin-and-yang mechanism, and there is a shared responsibility in this,” replied Olla. Later, most of the speakers agreed that attracting younger audiences remains one of the major challenges, and that they were the main target to intercept in order to gain traction and space in a mediascape ruled by streaming giants and high-budget marketing campaigns.

Towards the end of the panel, Bräuer invited the industry to think about exhibition and distribution with “a more holistic approach,” where mainstream/blockbusters flicks and art films, streaming platforms and distributors, European and international titles may coexist and all stakeholders should try to negotiate and find together their own spaces.

Elstner and Staleva agreed that more direct work with exhibitors could help to develop audiences, especially in smaller countries. Interestingly, Staleva proposed to encourage the implementation of schemes allowing sales agents to provide relatively old titles for lower prices, titles which otherwise would never find distribution and would only be accessible through piracy.

In a final round of contributions, all of the speakers expressed positive thoughts about the future of arthouse exhibition, highlighting how important it is to keep viewers engaged during this moment of hardship.

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