European Cinema Owners Lobby to Keep Windows While Going Digital

Neelie Kroes p

There is political pressure on the European industry to change its policy of strict release windows for theatrical features.

BERLIN – European cinema owners are pushing back after calls by European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes for more flexibility when it comes to release windows for theatrical films.

Euro exhibitor lobby group the UNIC met with Kroes this week and, in a statement Friday, “stressed the need for an exclusive and sustainable theatrical window to enable European films to reach audiences". Such exclusivity, the UNIC continued, "was the only means to finance the wealth of European films that exists today."

STORY: U.K. Film Distributors' Association Head Calls for More Flexible Theatrical Windows

Kroes, a frequent blogger, stirred things up during the Berlin Film Festival in February when she posted a commentary criticizing “rigid release windows” that she said “make it harder for the (audiovisual) sector to capture digital benefits.” Kroes argued that experimenting with release windows, either through day-and-date bows or by releasing films online first to create buzz could “boost all sales and pave the way to cinema success." She contrasted the booming digital sales of film and TV programs in the U.S. with more sluggish growth in Europe.

“The opportunities of digital are huge,” Kroes wrote, “those who stick their heads in the sand will miss out."

The UNIC said they were able to “establish some common ground” with Kroes after their meeting and said the commissioner “acknowledges the importance of an exclusive theatrical window for the well-being of the European cinema sector."

The UNIC represents the majority of European cinema owners. It's members account for more than 33,000 screens across the continent.

This push-back on digital change follows a joint announcement earlier this week by the UNIC and European film industry associations that called on the European Commission and its member states to exclude Europe's audiovisual industry from ongoing negotiations aimed at setting up a free trade agreement with the United States.