CINE EUROPE 2012: Spanish Politician Misses Opening Ceremony Amid Financial Crisis

Chris McGurk Headshot - P 2012
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Chris McGurk Headshot - P 2012

He cites governmental commitments amid a "difficult moment economically" for his region and country, while Cinedigm CEO Chris McGurk vowed to strike more deals in Europe.

BARCELONA, Spain - The Euro crisis on Tuesday had an effect on a big gathering of film exhibitors that takes place here this week.

Cine Europe Tuesday morning had its official opening ceremony at its new home Barcelona after the European exhibition conference relocated to the city in the Spanish region of Catalonia after 25 years in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

It marked the first time that a ceremonial event opened the gathering of European exhibitors, but Catalan government culture minister Ferran Mascarell did not attend due to a last-minute scheduling conflict, sending a substitute to deliver his thoughts on the value of the exhibition business and citing his country's tricky financial position.

The show's official opening ceremony came on day two of the four-day show, which continues through Thursday.

Mascarell sent his apologies via the Catalan government's director general for cultural promotion and co-operation Jordi Cabre. He also delivered Mascarell's speech in his stead.

"I am sorry I could not be there with you, but this morning at 9am the Catalan government convenes for a session," Cabre read. "As you know, it is a difficult moment economically, so now would not be the time to be absent from the table." Earlier this month, the Euro zone countries agreed to lend Spain's banks up to $126 billion amid a debt crisis.

Mascarell's speech pointed to the popularity of movie-going in Catalonia, with 20 million-plus tickets sold in 2011. The region's cinema-going levels make it the ninth largest market place in Europe, ahead of entire countries, such as Portugal. Sweden and Ireland, among others.

Catalonia's average cinema visits per person, standing at 2.7, also puts it on a par with the U.K., one of Europe's top movie-going nations along with France and Germany.

Cinedigm Entertainment Group chairman and CEO Chris McGurk closed out the ceremony by pitching European exhibitors his company's array of services, which include alternative content provision and software solutions for managing digital exhibition.

McGurk, a former Disney CFO, said his company plans to extend its North American footprint "across Europe" and cited a deal struck with Empire Cinemas in the U.K. as the beginning of deal making with exhibitors in Europe.

This year's CineEurope event is billed as the "official convention of the international union of cinemas,"

Exhibition chain Cinesa and United Cinemas International COO Jose Battle, hosting the opening ceremony, earlier in the morning also introduced Union Internationale des Cinemas (International Union of Cinemas) CEO Jan Runge, who is credited with beefing up the industry organization to help members cope with the ongoing digital  transition.

UNIC president Ad Weststrate welcomed industry delegates to Barcelona and dished out his organization's annual achievement award to Norway exhibitor Film & Kino's Lene Loken for her services to digital cinema. Norway became Europe's first all-digital European theater territory in 2011.

Accepting the award, Loken noted that children today are "born with a gadget in their hand, born online" and it was one of her tasks to educate them that the movie theater was a place to see films and meet socially. "Not just on Facebook," she added.