In only a few days the annual CineEurope convention kicks off in Barcelona, with over four days of showreels, previews, presentations, popcorn, awards, trade show, roundtables, seminars, networking, gossip, parties, paella, Coke & Cava (lots of the latter). We say “annual,” but of course last year’s show was shifted to October and hemmed in by COVID, while the one in 2020 was virtual. Cinema is an inherently social experience and the same with trade shows.
Despite the recent success of Tom Cruise and dinos, there is still an anxiety lingering across the European cinema landscape; an unspoken fear that the industry may be suffering from Long COVID. Audience numbers are still down across the continent compared to 2019 (which, yes, we know was a record year), in some like UK and Ireland by 20%-25%, while in countries like Italy it is closer to 35%-40%. The worry is that local and mid-budget titles are not filling the gaps between blockbusters to lift the market as a whole and the older audience appears to still be missing.
Those attending will have lots to talk about and hopefully there will be an increased sharing of best practices, coupled with a renewed focus on resolving the data-sharing knot. We can also hope for an agreement that will see films from the big streamers playing more widely in cinemas on a windows basis that everyone is comfortable with (OK, maybe not in France). There will be extra attention paid to the slates of the studios, given that there is slim pickings of big budget films in cinemas this autumn before the arrival of “Avatar 2” in December. This is a time when it would be good to play films like “Knives Out 2: the Glass Onion” and “Blonde,” both from Netflix.
While the freezing out of Russia and the departure of its cinema association from the fold of UNIC will throw a shadow over European cinema statistics, the region should not under-estimate its global importance. Having accounted for over a quarter of global box office receipts before COVID, there is every chance that Europe will perform even better than that this year. This is because China continues to grapple with on-off lockdowns, which will see the global box office crown returned to North America. Gulf states are meanwhile passing up pretty much every release from Disney these days, on account of the inclusion of LGBT+ content. (We don’t yet know how they will take to semi-naked and visibly pregnant Na’vis in the Avatar sequel.)
So while there are worries about the cost-of-living situation across Europe, there is little cinema can do about it other than hope that families will still want to take the bus to the multiplex, even if they can’t afford to fill up the car. Some cinemas like Curzon in the UK have started to cut ticket prices, but others can ill afford to. As always, the focus has to be on providing the best customer experience for people to come to the cinema, because there is no better advert for cinema and than a good cinema visit. Let’s toast to that in Barcelona, enjoy each other’s company and then head back home and redouble our efforts.
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