CineEurope: 5 Takeaways From the Barcelona Trade Show

Rocketman-Publicity Still-H 2019
Paramount Pictures

What people were talking about at this year's edition of the European exhibitor event.

Fun was had at CineEurope: Paramount executives dressed the part to unveil a sneak peek at Top Gun: Maverick and celebrate the success to date of Rocketman, confetti fireworks exploded at the end of Disney’s product presentation and Tom Hanks made a celebrity appearance. But the event is ultimately a serious affair, as is the global film business, which finds itself in a critical moment due to corporate consolidation and technological fluctuations. Here, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at some of the talking points from this year’s CineEurope trade show, which wrapped Thursday in Barcelona.

And Then There Were Five

The duo formed by Disney and Fox were alone responsible for nearly a 40 percent share of the box office in the first half of 2019, and in Europe claimed four of the top five spots in the U.K. and Spain last year. It’s no wonder the industry is concerned about the new behemoth’s potential for undue influence, including over the exhibition sector. At CineEurope, one studio executive teasingly mentioned some of Disney’s box office underperformers, without naming the studio, then warned gathered exhibitors that “one studio alone won’t keep your cinemas open.” Attendees at CineEurope, which gave Disney's Avengers: Infinity War its comScore European Box Office Achievement Award this year, may have been tempted to differ after Disney’s blockbuster closing show, featuring the confab’s sole celebrity appearance (Hanks), on Wednesday afternoon.

Or Were There Just Four?

Disney, Warner Bros., Universal and Paramount all presented their slates to packed houses at CineEurope, but Sony was noticeably missing. This was the studio’s second major trade show absence after opting out of CinemaCon earlier this year. Sony is understood to have made a strategic decision to skip presenting new products at CineEurope based on several factors, including the perceived strength of the studio’s upcoming slate, the timing of the event and Sony materials, a planned yearlong schedule of releasing looks at movies instead of all at once and a focus on other tactics leading more directly toward ticket sales. Its decision could not have pleased the event organizers and may send the message that at least one studio thinks its business model is changing.

Studios Are Betting on Women Directors

When Iran-born helmer Marjane Satrapi took the CineEurope stage Monday at the StudioCanal product presentation to answer questions about her Marie Curie biopic Radioactive, Curie’s and Satrapi's own glass ceiling-shattering careers were both on display. Satrapi is just one of a plethora of female filmmakers helming ambitious features for studios this year. Warner Bros. seems to be leading the trend, with women behind the camera on Wonder Woman 1984 (Patty Jenkins), Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (Cathy Yan), The Kitchen (Andrea Berloff) and Blinded by the Light (Gurinder Chadha).

Meanwhile, the female-led cast and story behind the Robin Hood-style stripper tale Hustlers, directed by Lorene Scafaria for STX, has ignited a small firestorm online, perhaps confirming that women, including older women, represent a great “untapped audience,” as panelists at a CineEurope roundtable earlier in the week insisted.

Disruption: Opportunity or Challenge?

The industry doth protest too much. Despite repeated insistence about the “opportunity” that the proliferation of online streaming services represents, the concern about losing audiences to the potentially more comfortable, infinitely more personalized at-home viewing experience was palpable at CineEurope. Executives are focused on two sides of the coin: on the one hand, the need to continually improve the quality and excitement of films produced for the big screen, and on the other hand, making sure cinemas offer as comfortable and personalized an experience as possible. Poorly made movies or poorly maintained cinemas are “a race to the bottom,” in one executive’s words.

Cinepolis CEO Alejandro Ramirez Magaña summed it up during an executive roundtable when he noted that young people “traditionally go to the cinema the most because they have the most leisure time.” But, he added, they “may lose the appetite or habit of going to the cinema. The challenge we have as an industry is to engage younger generations to keep going to the cinema as much as previous generations.”

The "Second Digital Revolution" Is Upon Us

If the industry is concerned about losing younger generations, it is convinced the place to reach and keep them is online. “When a 40-year-old doesn’t go to the cinema, it’s a missed opportunity, but when a 15-year-old doesn’t go, it’s a risk to the industry,” said Webedia Movies Pro senior vp and chief product officer Marine Suttle. Panelists cited statistics showing 70 percent of people access a theater’s website on their mobile phone, 80 percent of European moviegoers watch trailers on their mobile devices (a reality leading to a change in trailer design for upright mobile viewing) and an 18.7 percent increase in online ticket sales in Europe.

Facebook took center stage on Tuesday to tout its platform for movie discussions, planning and sharing, and executives weighed in all week on how best to optimize the online experience for filmgoers, interface with customers, create one-on-one relationships, theater subscription models and loyalty programs, and the pros and cons of data collection and analysis. "We’re being impacted daily by the technological change and I think our industry is very sensitive to that," Magaña said. "We can't be complacent," added Disney's Tony Chambers.