For some years now MEDIA Salles has been investigating a much discussed area but one whose demand for deeper knowledge remains unsatisfied: that of added content for the big screen. In other words, the role that cinemas can play in spreading the enjoyment of art, culture, sport and live entertainment and making them more popular. In addition to the collection of statistical data, the articles published in the various editions of DiGiTalk and the communications presented during cinema events Europewide, MEDIA Salles has recently launched a new column starting with a glimpse at the Russian market. In this issue the focus has moved to Germany.
In 2018 there was a drop in audience numbers in German cinemas, whilst the market for added content remained stable
It's one of the five leading markets in western Europe, yet, according to the figures already available, in 2018 it may only just have cleared one hundred million ticket sales, the conventional threshold separating the big five from other territories. We're talking about Germany which, after recording a total of about 122 million spectators in 2017, suffers a drop estimated at around 16%, well above the dips that have also marked Italy, France and Spain but from which the UK has escaped unharmed. Yet even on the German market there is one sector that didn't decrease in 2018: that of added content. Says Thomas Schülke, one of the greatest experts in this relatively new sector of the German cinema industry in which figures and information are still scarce: "Added content and event cinema knew a very important growth in 2017: the content available is on the increase, as well as the cinemas that offer it to their audiences. Exhibitors are becoming increasingly more open to this type of programming. They realize that added content makes it possible to reach new sectors of the general public and make the big screen more attractive on weekdays while producers – especially music producers - see cinemas as a new channel of distribution. I myself have experienced it over the past few days, when bringing to cinemas, together with Piece of Magic, an international success like André Rieu's New Year concert." This positive swing regards box office, too, which Schülke estimates as around 15 million euros. How much does it cost to watch added content on the big screen? "Opera or ballet generally cost about 25 euros, with peaks of over 30, whilst a pop music concert is round 15 euros. This means that the average ticket price comes to almost 16 euros. In other words, a little less than twice the average price for a film."
The content that has taken root in Germany up to now ranges from opera from the MET, distributed by Clasart, to ballet from the Bolshoi, which, together with the Comédie Française, is distributed by Kinostar. The role played by content originating in the UK is very important. Cinemaconsult, the company created by Schülke, deals with the distribution of productions by the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet working for Trafalgar Releasing, whilst, directly from England, Seventh Art distributes the art-based films produced by Exhibition on Screen thanks to collaboration with prestigious museums.
To Phil Grabsky, founder of EOS, the panorama of German cinema is interesting, though very demanding. As well as managing delivery, translation into German and marketing, the company deals with finding the cinemas (Germany has almost 5,000 screens) best suited to offering art-based content. "The German market is not easy," maintains Grabsky, "I can understand why several distributors avoid dealing with it. There is no guarantee of a return, whereas there are markets where added content can obtain better results like, for instance, Italy. Nevertheless, since Germany has a prestigious film culture and many movie theatres that focus on quality, I believe in working with a long-term perspective. This is why the German market continues to be one of the 63 territories on which we distribute our productions. We begin 2019 with five titles devoted to painting, starting with "Degas. Passion for Perfection" and we'll be continuing from 2019 to 2020 with four classical music productions".
The UK is also home to More2Screen, the company founded by Christine Costello in 2006, amongst the first to invest in added content, perceiving its potential for cinemas as they underwent the digital shift. In Germany Costello offers pop music and dance as well as theatre, ranging from a contemporary production such as the musical "Everybody's talking about Jamie" to "The Winter's Tale" from Shakespeare's Globe. Amongst its most faithful customers are Filmkunstkinos, a company that manages several art screens in Düsseldorf. Kalle Somnitz, one of the owners, believes that the opportunity to screen content of a cultural and artistic nature has been one of the most important novelties introduced by the digitization for cinemas that focus on quality. These cinemas are represented in Germany by AG Kino. Its Manager, Felix Bruder, tells us that in 2018 this sort of cinema suffered less from the dip in audiences. He estimates around -8%, as opposed to -16%. Could this also be the merit of the fine performance by added content? As yet, it is a little too soon to tell, since the final figures are still lacking, but it is certainly an idea to bear in mind.
This article was published in Cinema & Video Int’l, issue no. 1-2/2019
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