Since some years, MEDIA Salles has been investigating best pratictes in cinema exhibition aimed at reducing the environmental impact. We think this is - more than ever - a key topic and we are glad inagurate in our newsletter a column dedicated to sustainability in the cinema sector: we hope it could be of inspiration for our readers, and invite you to contact us in case you want to share news and ideas on the subject.
Economic, ecological and energy-efficient: the Central Filmtheater in Ludwigsburg
by Birgit Heidsiek
The efficient use of energy and renewables offers opportunities for cinemas to cut costs. The energy consumption of cinemas has been tremendously increased due to the digitization of projection systems. Moreover, energy costs are expected to rise when carbon taxes come into effect. In order to make cinemas resilient and sustainably future-proof, investments that enable the efficient use of resources are economically and ecologically beneficial, because they reduce energy costs and carbon emissions.
According to the EU, buildings in the European Union are responsible for approximately 40 percent of energy consumption and 36 percent of carbon emissions. Cinemas often have large screening spaces that must either be heated or cooled. Besides thermal energy usage for heating and cooling, electric energy for ventilation systems is the second largest energy consumption category. To reduce the energy consumption of ventilation systems, HVAC systems with recuperators, which have become a mandatory requirement in the EU Ecodesign Directive, are now the state-of-the-art technology for a growing number of cinemas.
Apart from these huge investments, small measures can also make a big difference. Technological solutions, such as time switches, presence detectors, and light sensors can ensure that lights are switched on either automatically or on an as-needed basis. At the Central Filmtheater in Ludwigsburg in Southwest Germany, the display windows and neon signs are turned on and off by light sensors. This way, the display windows in the rear of the darkened courtyard are illuminated before those in the more brightly lit foreground area. ”The light sensors are adjusted with different sensitivities, so that different areas can be controlled according to the ambient brightness”, explains Claus Wollenschläger, owner and CEO of the 108-year-old, family-run Central Filmtheater, of which he is the fourth-generation proprietor. Furthermore, the light sensors he uses are timed so that the display windows are not illuminated all night long.
The neon signs are also attached to a system that controls eight areas in the cinema lobby and the courtyard. The exhibitor installed time switches and light sensors when the lobby of the cinema was completely renovated in 1994. ”When we redesigned the lobby, we also had an eye on the energy consumption of the lighting and the monitors”, says the exhibitor. The presence detector switches on the light only if the sensor detects a customer moving in the lobby. This way, the lobby lighting is often turned off during a two-hour screening, which saves energy. Even with these small measures, substantial energy-saving results can be achieved over the course of a year.
The office also offers various cost-saving possibilities. Computer screens, laser printers, wireless boilers, and coffee machines consume electrical energy whenever they draw power from the grid. Besides time switches and sensors, simple power strips with a central switcher can put an end to wasteful energy consumption. Unconsumed energy is the most cost-saving solution. It is also crucial to consider the sources of energy efficiency, because energy is climate-neutral only if it is 100-percent generated by renewables.
The Central Filmtheater in Ludwigsburg draws electrical energy from a photovoltaic system that was installed on its roof in 2018. ”This business model generates revenue. It reduced our monthly energy bill by 1,000 euros“, says the exhibitor, who has to pay 500 euros monthly for the lease as well as the fees for the photovoltaic system. “Renewable energy that isn’t consumed by the cinema is fed back into the grid, so it becomes an additional source of income. In 2020, the photovoltaic system generated in total 59,92 MWh. Cinemagoers can even review its performance at the entrance, where a real-time display shows how much solar power has been generated“.