The launch of the Global Cinema Federation (GCF) at this year’s CineEurope and Shanghai Film Festival caused ripples across the worldwide exhibition and distribution communities. There were, naturally, lots of questions and rumours swirled about what the nature of the GCF was and what its agenda would be. Celluloid Junkie is the first publication to speak exclusively with Cinépolis CEO Alejandro Ramirez Magaña who will head up the new trade group. The GCF’s founding members include the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) and the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), as well as AMC, Cinemark, Cineplex, Cinépolis, Cineworld, CJ-CGV, Event Cinemas, Les Cinemas Gaumont Pathé, Regal Entertainment Group, Vue International, and Wanda Cinemas.
Celluloid Junkie: It must have been quite a challenge to pull together a truly global cinema trade body. Can you share some of the “behind-the-scenes” about its formation?
Alejandro Ramírez: It was actually not as difficult as you suppose in some ways and more difficult in others. There is a broad feeling in global exhibition that the time is right for us to put our voices together and to share our concerns and information. Pulling that off over 24 time zones is time-consuming and complex, but the desire was strong, as exhibitors from around the world made their way to CinemaCon and CineEurope to hammer out details and get the GCF under way.
CJ: So the launch itself was no less of a challenge, given the many time zones involved?
Alejandro Ramírez: Yes, as you can imagine. We had many participants at CineEurope and others at the Shanghai Film Festival. Already very busy and awake while our counterparts slept. To say nothing of translating documents and the like.
CJ: Was the initial reaction from the cinema industry what you had hoped for?
Alejandro Ramírez: Over all, the reaction was positive. There was some concern that the GCF might be supplanting existing regional and international trade associations, but of course two of the most effective associations – NATO and UNIC – were part of its creation. There were concerns from smaller, non-international companies that they were being excluded, but the opposite is the case. Membership is open to all exhibitors and they have further opportunities for representation through their regional and national associations.
CJ: What about the Hollywood studios?
Alejandro Ramírez: Most studio executives have cautiously welcomed the GCF. Many issues we share in common – trade barriers, regulation, technological innovation, and movie theft affect the entire industry and transcend borders. On those issues, we can co-operate more effectively with our studio partners through the GCF. But there has been some suspicion among some studio executives that the GCF might bring more strength to exhibition on a global basis. And honestly, we are okay with that.
CJ: Has there been interest from cinemas other than the founding members to join since the announcement?
Alejandro Ramírez: Indeed. We have been reaching out to cinemas around the world and they are reaching out to us.
CJ: What other work has been taking place since the announcement was made?
Alejandro Ramírez: We have had working groups identifying the key areas in which the GCF should operate and are developing positions and laying the groundwork for information sharing around the world.
CJ: How can the Federation make a difference in regions that don’t have a cinema trade body (the Gulf, Africa, Southeast Asia, for example)?
Alejandro Ramírez: Initially through outreach to individual cinema companies. The GCF can supplement and augment the work of existing trade bodies, but where there are none, we can be of assistance in helping those regions coordinate and build alliances and plug them into what is happening in the rest of the world.
CJ: Are there any issues facing the global cinema community that you see as particularly pressing in 2017?
Alejandro Ramírez: As you know, we identified key areas for the GCF to focus on in our announcement – movie theft, theatrical exclusivity, music rights payments, accessibility and related regulations, relationship with major studios and the wider creative community, technology and standards, international trade and foreign investment – they all command our attention, but will be addressed in different ways.
Theatrical exclusivity is always a major concern for exhibitors, but competition laws vary widely, as do distribution practices. In France, for example, there is a law that sets the length of theatrical exclusivity. Where we can be most effective is in sharing data to give exhibitors a clear picture of what is happening in this space.
CJ: Are there any areas where the Federation will definitely not get involved, or any misconception about what the Federation’s role is?
Alejandro Ramírez: The GCF’s role will vary with the issue. Information gathering on windows, pursuing standards on technology where appropriate and where it benefits exhibitors, advocating for legislative changes where regulations are onerous. We will be directed by our members and co-ordinate with existing stakeholders.
CJ: Is cinema becoming a more global business, with operators such as yourself owning cinemas on several continents, and how does that sit at a time of a move towards protectionism?
Alejandro Ramírez: It is, and even where it is not the issues confronting global exhibition are the same. The move toward protectionism is not uniform. Most exhibitors believe a free flow of products and services benefits the industry and its customers. We will advocate for that where appropriate, but it is important sometimes to remember the climate in each country and to know when a global voice will, or will not be productive.
CJ: What are the plans for the Federation at this year’s CineAsia in Hong Kong in December?
Alejandro Ramírez: In Hong Kong during CineAsia the GCF Advisory Board and Executive Committee will both meet to discuss and adopt policy positions, to formalize the GCF operating structure, and to recruit additional members, particularly from the Asian region this time.
CJ: Thank you for talking to us and see you at CineAsia.