3 April 2023
When it was announced a year ago that the 2023 UK Cinema Association’s annual conference would focus on sustainability there must have been some subtly raised British eyebrows. Cinemas had only just re-opened in the United Kingdom, but “Top Gun Maverick” and “Avatar: the Way of Water” were still months away from re-affirming audiences’ love for the big screen. Was this the right time to worry about saving the planet, when cinema itself was freshly off life-support in the A&E (that’s the emergency room in Blighty hospitals), many were probably asking themselves?
It is not that sustainability has not been a topic for the cinema industry. We all know about the plague of plastic straws and we have previously heard from The Depot cinema in Lewes about the solar panels on their roof and sustainably sourced snacks. There was also the important work that had been done for many years already by the UNIC Retail Group looking at the Circular Economy, working with the UKCA and its members. Half-way through the year, when Putin’s energy war heated up and threatened to freeze and ruin cinemas, there seemed to be a subtle shift towards such a two-day event focusing on energy and related savings issues. In the end, it was an out-and-out double day pure focus on sustainability, of which energy formed a small if important part.
Taking place 21 and 22 March in London, UKCACON 2023 wasn’t just ABOUT sustainability, but tried its best to BE sustainable as well. No more tote bags (“Our assumption is that this is very few people’s first rodeo, and that we ALL have an endless supply of branded tote bags at home,” the pre-show email semi-snarked), lanyards and delegate badges to be returned and re-used, drinks were only served in reusable cups, delegate handbook printed on recycled paper and so on. The conference didn’t go as far as The Only Way is Up conference a few years back that gave delegates an option between Vegetarian and Vegan food, but at least the veggie options were as tasty as the meat ones.
It would be unfair to try to summarise the whole two days in this Editorial. Rather, Celluloid Junkie will bring you stories, reports, interviews and coverage of the people, presentations and topics that made it such a worthwhile two days. Thanks to our colleague Helen Budge we have already been covering this issue with our CJ Green series and you will be seeing plenty more “green shoots” from this. What we can say is that the organisers (you know who you are) did a terrific job and managed to make the subject interesting, relevant and important. There were a wide variety of angles and it never felt that it was repeating itself or in risk of becoming preachy. The response from the audience was positive and there were no grumblings during the breaks, but a continued discussion of the topics on stage – as well as a great deal of eating of the free ice-cream handed out.
The topics range from the energy savings of laser projectors, Scotland’s implementation of a bottle recycling scheme as well as demonstrations of how modular cinemas could be built and operated in a way that was low-carbon, affordable and community-oriented. Some topics were somewhat more esoteric and abstract than others, such as the cinema advertiser panel or “upstream” issues such as Albert (film production sustainability), while the second day contained more hands-on advice than the first one, though sadly the numbers were slightly down from the first day.
What is most encouraging about sustainability is that it is a collaborative area where different cinemas can work together without losing a competitive advantage. As the lesson from the brewery sector demonstrated, “combining resources accelerates progress, facilitates action and minimises unwise decisions.” By the end of the second day, it was clear that centering a conference around sustainability was a wise decision by the UKCA. It represented an important big and collective first step by the industry, where previously there had only been some localised excellence and compliance with directives on plastic straws. The theatrical industry cannot solve the climate crisis by itself, no matter how many times a cinema screens “An Inconvenient Truth.” While the next UKCA Conference won’t be a repeat of this one, sustainability is now firmly a part of the cinema industry’s conversation. Hopefully also of its action.
Patrick von Sychowski
, Editor, Celluloid Junkie
Russian film distributor Central Partnership has unveiled a local alternative to IMAX, called Cosmax, after the the global premium large format operator lost a local lawsuit challenging its withdrawal from the Russian Federation. The first film to be shown in the new format will be “The Challenge” (also known as “Doctor’s House Call”), a Russian space drama partially filmed aboard the International Space Station, which premieres 20 April.
IMAX pulled out of the Russian Federartion on 1 June 2022, more than three months after the country’s large scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s largest cinema chain, Formula Kino and Cinema Park, responded by filing a lawsuit on 26 October against IMAX for breach of contract. On 22 March this year the Moscow Arbitration Court demanded that IMAX fulfill the contracts previously signed with Russian cinema operators. IMAX did not resume work and has one moth to challenge the court’s decision. According to Nevafilm Research there were 50 IMAX screens in Russia as of 2021, of which 29 were part of the Cinema Park and Formula Kino networks.
The Cosmax system is said to cost 5 million rubles (USD $64,500), with “a high-quality digital projector and sound equipment needed to show films in the new format.” The developers also said that they are in the process of obtaining a patent for their technology.
One of the leading movie theatre chains in the Middle East, VOX Cinemas, is launching special offers during Ramadan to enable guests to share more movie moments with family and friends during the Holy Month.
The dedicated cinema arm of Majid Al Futtaim is inviting guests to save 30% off standard seat movie tickets in the United Arab Emirates, while in Oman and Bahrain the discount extends to some premium seats. Cinemagoers in Saudi Arabia can book 2-Movie Passes for SAR 50 (USD $13) on standard seats in standard experiences (non-PLF) and SAR 70 (USD $18.50) on premium seats in standard experiences.
Guests can also look forward to an impressive line-up of must-see Hollywood and Bollywood movies during Ramadan including “Scream VI,” the latest adaptation of “The Three Musketeers,” and “Bholaa,” a Hindi action film about an ex-convict’s journey to reuniting with his daughter.
As the largest cinema exhibitor in the Middle East, VOX Cinemas has 61 locations and more than 600 cinema screens across the Middle East.
A survey in Korea has found that the price of cinema tickets has been listed as the main obstacle for going to the cinema. The survey of 1,000 men and women undertaken by data company TDI found that 62.9% of the respondents said that expensive tickets were the biggest “disadvantage” of going to the cinema. It was significantly ahead of “inconvenience of going to the bathroom during a movie” at 16.9%, “being disturbed by others by things such as food and cell phone lights” at 14.9%, and “be quiet during the movie” at 5.3%.
Cinema ticket prices have on average gone up by KRW 4,000 (USD $3.06) since 2019. The current typical price in Korea is KRW 14,000 (USD $10.72) on weekdays, which goes up to KRW 15,000 (USD $11.49) on Fridays and weekends, with more for premium formats such as IMAX, ScreenX and 4DX. Korean cinemas have struggled to attract audiences back after the COVID pandemic, with Japanese anime recently outperforming local Korean films.
In response to the question of how interested those surveyed are in the latest released movies, 39.7% responded, “I watch them using other platforms such as OTT (online video service),” ahead of those that responded, “I am interested enough to watch them at a movie theater” (23.4%). Meanwhile, 22.2% said “I am only interested enough to look for news articles or stories” and 14.7% said “I am not interested at all.”
Convenient accessibility (60.8%) was cited as the key reason in choosing a movie theater. This was followed by projection/sound/seats (20.9%), benefits such as discounts/loyalty points (15.7%), and food and beverage services (2.6%).
Tonis Kiis, the senior vice president of international distribution at Warner Bros., has been named CineEurope’s 2023 International Distributor of the Year award recipient. The award will be presented as part of the CineEurope Awards Ceremony on 22 June at the convention in Barcelona, Spain.
Based in Los Angeles, Tonis Kiis is responsible for a wide range of theatrical film distribution activities in more than 125 countries internationally, including release planning, filmmaker relationships, partnerships with theatrical exhibitors, business development initiatives, and emerging cinema technologies. With over 14 years in distribution, Kiis has helped the studio amass a staggering USD $35.4 billion in international box office.
“We are so excited to present this award to my friend Tonis,” stated Andrew Sunshine, the president of Film Expo Group. “Tonis has played such a key role at Warner Bros. as they continue to expand and lead by example in the international market. He is so deserving of this recognition and it is fitting that we can celebrate him for this milestone achievement in 2023 – the same year as Warner Bros. Studios’ centennial celebration.”
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