While more Americans made it over to CineEurope this year than did European to CinemaCon, they were still small in number. The Motion Picture Association’s Chairman and CEO Charles (Charlie) Rivkin was one of those and, even though he spends a considerable amount of time in Washington DC, he packed enough sunny California charm to make up for the rain on the first day of the conference. Rivkin gave a speech that paid tribute to Europe’s cinematic history and politely acknowledged that though relations had been strained between Hollywood studios and cinema operators at times during the pandemic, he still saw a great partnership continuing. This is his speech.
Hello everybody, I am Charlie Rivkin, the Chairman and CEO of The Motion Picture Association. I want to start by thanking UNIC and the Film Expo Group for putting on this incredible event, year after year, and for giving me the chance for the first time to address this great community of cinema exhibitors and their national associations.
I am truly honored to stand before you, on behalf of the Hollywood studios I represent, to convey our immense respect for Europe as a bastion of culture. I am proud of our thriving commercial partnerships and delighted to celebrate a friendship that dates back to the birth of cinema itself.
Europe is widely regarded as the continental birthplace of cinema, as far back as the Magic Lantern, a crude projecting device invented in the Netherlands in the 1650s, and the Stroboscope, invented in Vienna two centuries later. But we celebrate two Frenchmen – August and Louis Lumière – most of all.
In the 1890s, the two brothers invented the cinématographe, a camera that – incredibly – could record, develop, and project film.
All the magic and possibilities of the movies in one device!
Auguste had this to say at the time: “My invention can be exploited as a scientific curiosity, but apart from that it has no commercial value whatsoever.”
He may not have been clairvoyant about the future, but Auguste certainly came to appreciate the power of cinema.
At one of the Lumière Brothers’ first screenings, which included their short film about a train approaching a station, some audience members ran out of the theater in a panic.
How far we have come since then! Imagine what the Lumières would make of 126 years of proud European history: the Renoirs, Buñuels, and Fellinis of yesteryear …. The Von Triers, Almodovars, and Vinterbergs of today.
American producers and distributors have been investing in Europe since the silent era. The silver screen vividly illustrated the key role they played in economically rebuilding the continent after World War II. Movies like Roman Holiday – featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, shot at the Cinecittà studios and on location around Rome –reassured American audiences that Europe was safe and once again open to the world ….
Today, Europe is a bustling hub of global co-productions.
Even the most cursory glance across the continent shows the breadth and depth of those commercial partnerships, especially with our member studios.
NBCUniversal’s “No Time to Die”, the new James Bond movie, filmed in many locations in the UK and Europe, just enjoyed its world premiere in London. As one critic noted – quote – it “looks spectacular, with gorgeous movie stars (doing movie star things) in lovely locales.”
Other 2021 releases include Walt Disney’s “Cruella” and Sony’s “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway,” both filmed in the UK …
Universal’s “House of Gucci” and Netflix’s “The Hand of God,” both filmed in Italy …
And Warner Bros.’s “Dune”, featuring Spanish icon Javier Bardem, filmed some of its locations in Hungary and recently had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
Today, I want to salute the economic robustness of this sector, and the resiliency it has shown in weathering one of the toughest challenges in a generation.
I want to underscore how proud our member studios are to be your partners in our continuing economic and cultural growth.
And as the Motion Picture Association prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, I’d like to revisit the core elements that I think will enable us to maintain the creativity, vibrancy, and yes, the magic, we are known for, long into the future.
Our industry has always thrived thanks to our deeply held transatlantic ties and the depth and diversity of our many collaborations.
Europe is the third largest film and AV market in the world which creates two million jobs across the region – one million directly attributed to development, production, and distribution, – and another million that are indirect. And these jobs are only growing….
Just like in the United States, small and medium sized businesses are the heart and soul of the European sector. The owners of these business owners infuse the industry with their energy, commitment, and creativity. And the sad reality is, they were especially hard hit by COVID-19.
Covid certainly tested the world. Most cinemas closed. Admissions in the EU and the UK dropped by 70 percent. Many movie studios had to push back their release dates, or (in some cases) release them directly to premium VOD.
But it’s a testament to the sheer resiliency and initiative of European filmmakers and distributors, that Europe suffered far less of a drop in earnings, admissions, and productions than many other regions.
As the International Union of Cinemas, or UNIC, reminds us, just before Covid struck, European cinemas had recorded their best results in 15 years, with revenue from admissions reaching the 1 billion Euro mark for the first time since 2004. They were more than ready to do it again!
And two films – Hollywood films shot in Europe that speak to the continuing strength of our partnership – enjoyed great box office success on both sides of the Atlantic. One was “1917”, which was co-produced by DreamWorks, and was the top film by admissions in Europe, the UK, the USA, and Canada. The other was “Tenet”, a Warner Bros. film, that was also successful here and in the US.
Governments across Europe have recognized that our industry could spur a wider economic recovery, especially by creating desirable jobs for a major part of the economy that needs employment: young people.
So, they responded, sending emergency funding, and advancing support payments to theater owners, producers, and other workers in the creative sector. They also relaxed regulatory requirements for investors and filmmakers, allowing them to proceed with productions with fewer delays or red tape hurdles.
Here in Spain, for example, the government approved a support package of EUR 76.4 million for the cultural sector in May 2020. And last March, it announced a EUR 1.6 billion investment plan for the local film industry that will continue through 2025.
There were similarly positive initiatives in the UK, Germany, France, and Italy. Even though the pandemic is far from over, I believe that we are moving, slowly but surely, from dark and challenging times into a tremendous resurgence.
It is the making for quite a comeback story, in the spirit of many movies that European audiences have enjoyed recently, like Warner Bros’s 2020 “Dream Horse”, shot in Wales, about an unlikely race horse that makes it all the way to the Grand National ….
Or “Raya and the Last Dragon”, Walt Disney’s 2021 animated movie about a young female warrior who must gather allies around her to vanquish a dragon and save her ancient civilization.
And even though Disney’s “Shang-Chi” was filmed mostly in Australia and the U.S. it is a comeback story that European audiences have loved, grossing more than $366 million worldwide and, in the United States, the first pandemic-era release to cross the $200 million mark.
The magic of the movies is as strong as ever ….
The difference is, the resurgence of the creative sector in Europe is very real, and the question is, how do we sustain it?
One of the ways we at the Motion Picture Association work to do that is by fighting piracy. It is the single greatest threat to the global audiovisual community. It harms local and foreign films and businesses. It threatens jobs. It undermines investment. It reduces tax contributions to governments. And it stifles the very creativity that is the lifeblood of our industry.
That is why in 2017, the MPA formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – or ACE – which has evolved into a powerful global coalition committed to reducing piracy and protecting creators.
We have enjoyed great success everywhere …
Here in Spain, for example, the MPA worked with national police investigators, supporting them with our technical resources and knowledge, in an operation called ATRIA which targeted hundreds of illegal streaming services.
We also worked with the Spanish police, and a host of other law enforcement partners, (including Europol, Interpol, and Eurojust), to take down the illegal Mobdro app. More than 43 million users worldwide had downloaded this app to watch football matches featuring teams from La Liga and the English Premier League.
But, thanks in large part to the Spanish Police, more than 20 domains and hosting servers were blocked. And tomorrow, I am going to Madrid to meet with the leadership of the Spanish National Police to thank them for their outstanding cooperation and teamwork in this critical effort.
I want to also thank cinema owners, – some of them here today, – for standing together with us to reduce camcording.
Our work together, along with the Spanish National Police, resulted in the successful arrest of individuals in Madrid and Pamplona who were illegally filming premieres and uploading them to specialized, illegal sites. And pre-release piracy can reduce box office revenue by as much as 20%.
Last month, we announced two successful take downs in Germany. One was Iconic Streams, an illegal streaming service operating in Dresden, that offered over 3,500 channels.
The other take down was against Fille-linked, an Android app popular in Europe and the United States that enabled users to install pirated movie streaming applications.
Europe also leads the world in blocking illegal websites – which makes an enormous difference.
We have seen great success in Italy where the piracy levels have remained flat, thanks to the concerted efforts of the audiovisual industry lead by FAPAV, and the support of the Italian government and law enforcement.
These are just a few of the decisive actions we are taking to protect the livelihoods of cinema owners and the industry at large.
I would also like to address something on the minds of theater owners, not only here but around the world, and that is – how to exist in our digital ecosystem. As this industry enters its second century, the challenges are as daunting as they are uncertain.
We obviously cannot predict what lies ahead, we can remind ourselves that the magic of the theatrical experience continues to burn bright.
Quentin Tarantino, who just purchased the Vista Theatre, a 1923 single-screen, art deco movie theater in Los Angeles, said recently: “I’ve got a living room. I want to go to a movie theater. I don’t want to recreate my living room.”
Not all of us can purchase our own theaters, but let me tell you about the studies conducted in recent years by your American counterparts, the National Association of Theater Owners – or the other NATO. In fact, its President, and my friend, John Fithian is with us today.
These studies have found that consumers who go most often to the movies also consume streaming content just as frequently. In other words, they have an appetite for everything.
As another study finds, consumers consider a theatrical opening to be the stamp of quality. If a film has been released in the theaters, they know it has pedigree and deserves to be seen on the big screen.
As I have said before, we are living in the golden age of content – for all of us to enjoy – , wherever we choose to find it. But there is no substitute for going to the movies. And I am confident about our future as our industry returns to production and cinemas reopen to entertain audiences.
And if governments can create and support an environment that protects copyright and encourages inward investment, then our creative sector can continue to make the movies that… Provide great entertainment ….
Astonish, delight, and move global audiences …. Bring illumination to life ….
And ensure that Europe remains the powerful economic engine and bastion of great culture.
Our industry has always thrived thanks to our ties, our collaborations, and our collective resolve.
And this comeback story is only just beginning.
Thank you, my friends in exhibition.
Thank you, fellow lovers of culture, commerce, and art.
May the movies live on – forever.
Thank you, everyone.