Reg. Trib. Milano n. 418 del 02.07.2007 - Direttore responsabile: Elisabetta Brunella

International Edition No. 177 - year 16 - 1st March 2021

Special issue on the occasion of the 71st Berlin International Film Festival

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Dear Readers,

Paolo Protti
together with the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 has brought us an extremely negative global result in the cinema sector and in particular in the sector of movie theatres. Elisabetta Brunella writes about this in another article, in which specific data emerges from some European markets and from which indications and suggestions may be drawn that can be considered useful for facing the future: more room and more consideration for local, domestic products but also for added content. It is now March 2021 and in practice the markets have yet to re-open. Although we have no new indications, everything would seem to confirm the fact that for the rest of 2021 the trend will remain the same. Today we are on the threshold of re-opening our cinemas and sharing the collective enjoyment of watching films, which is what we most appreciate.

But is is undeniable that the scenario has changed and that we shall therefore have to face a period of transition in which the rules of the cinema-going market will undergo considerable modification.


May 2021 be a much better year!

The pandemic has closed movie theatres and opened a fast track for digital platforms where a great many films have been shown without waiting for their theatrical release.

Apart from our commercial issues, without doubt a strong need has been felt to provide products to consumers confined to their homes over these many months.

I believe nothing will be the same again. Where should our attention be focused?

The practices of the windows have already undergone considerable modifications. In addition, an increasing number of products lose the path of theatrical release in order to fuel the "war" between platforms, be they Netflix or Disney+ or Amazon Prime.

The movie theatres must inevitably find new points of balance. I am convinced that the cinema-going experience will remain the central focus for the valorisation of films and without them a basic driving force would be lost for keeping "the seventh art" at the same level. But relations between exhibitors and distributors must change, both in economic terms and in terms of programming and promotion. As exhibitors we shall have to face the challenge of becoming more and more closely in touch with our audiences. This is true both on the functional, aesthetic and commercial front of our theatres, in order to make them a pole of attraction to the general public, and also in terms of the valorisation of events that give a sense of exclusiveness.

In this spirit we look towards the coming re-openings in the hope that, unlike 2020, they will be definitive. And we shall all work together to fill the movie theatres again and so continue to share the thrills and emotions.

Paolo Protti,

(Per leggere il testo in italiano cliccare qui)

Diversity of content: a key-word for the life of the cinemas
by Elisabetta Brunella

It is undeniable that diversity is an asset both in Nature and in culture, but the figures on cinema-going in this annus horribilis seem to confirm that the same goes for the cinema.

The figures already available on admissions and box-office in cinemas worldwide over the whole twelve-month period of a tormented 2020, confirm the crash we had already registered for the first nine months and communicated in DGT Online Informer 171. Indeed, they paint an even more negative picture, since the restrictive measures adopted almost everywhere in the last quarter have made it impossible to consolidate the slight recovery that began in the summer and to take advantage of the Christmas season.Tolo Tolo

Thus, after a record 2018 and a quite satisfactory 2019, the United States, the world’s leading market, see their box office fall by 80%. Europe also sees highly negative results, though on the whole, less so. On the Old Continent, audiences dropped from 76% in the United Kingdom and Ireland to 57% in the Netherlands, taking in Spain’s and Italy’s 72% and Germany’s and France’s 69%. Performance in the exhibition sector has obviously been affected by the duration of the lockdown imposed on the theatres and the extent of limitations to the number of seats on sale, but also by the presence of productions that have made it possible to replace, at least partially, films from the Stars and Stripes, whose releases were halted on the big screen until better times, or even re-routed onto the digital platforms.

The productions that have come to the aid of programming almost completely deprived of blockbusters are mostly domestic ones. The case of Italy is emblematic, where domestic films, headed by Checco Zalone’s "Tolo Tolo", as well as by "Odio l’estate" ("I hate Summer") by Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo, account for 56% of total box office. In France, too, the share of domestic films has risen considerably to 45%, or ten percentage points more than the previous year, compared to a drop of 15 points for U.S. films, falling from 56% to 41%. Amongst these French films emerges "30 jours max", the most widely viewed domestic title, chosen by over one million spectators. Outside Europe, the Japanese market, which has experienced a 61% squeeze, has held out thanks mainly to domestic products, first and foremost "Demon Slayer" the manga that performed so exceptionally well at the box office.

But another pleasant surprise comes from the field of added content. An overview offered by the ECA - the organisation bringing together professional players and companies in the sector of added content - shows that the impact of this sort of production on total box office experienced a considerable, widespread increase, in the more or less general re-opening of theatres from June to October.

If results in Brazil are particularly striking worldwide, and added content in the country has risen from 0.3% to 3.9%, in Europe, too, the increases are not negligible. In Germany the incidence of added content has risen from 1.3% to 1.8%, in Italy from 2.5% to 3.4%, in the United Kingdom - the European leader in this sector - from 4.0% to 4.2%. In September 2020, box office from added content far exceeded one million pounds in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Where, in terms of traditional films, the "guiding light" was "Tenet", in the sector of added content the real international success was "Break the Silence: The Movie", which in the United States came in twelfth place in terms of box office, out of all the titles released after the onset of the pandemic. But the BTS’s fourth film also came in fifth place in Brazil and in the top 20 in Italy, the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as in its home country, South Korea.

To sum up, faced with a halt in releases of movie productions in a strict sense, added content has proved to be a resource for cinemas searching for products to enhance their programming. Not to speak of the fact that added content tends not to "go out of fashion": for music lovers - whether of pop, or classical, opera or ballet - the opportunity to see again on the big screen events or productions that have made their mark on the history of the genres is always of immense interest. Of the 45 titles distributed in October in the United Kingdom and Ireland, only 11 were new.

The fact that distributors of added content are ready to support the keenly desired recovery of cinema-going is demonstrated not only by what has happened over the past few months, but also by the wealth of products in the 2021 catalogues, challenging the uncertain perspective of this ambiguous period, which looks on the one hand towards a new surge in the pandemic and on the other towards the return to normality promised by the vaccines.

And so, Rising Alternative, the historical brand of added content, purchased by the Spanish A Contra Corriente, offers the Opéra de Paris, live, with "Faust" and "Notre-Dame de Paris", as well as prestigious recorded performances, including "A riveder le stelle", the show that replaced the First Night of the Scala in Milan.

Also "made in Spain" are the recorded versions of "La Traviata" and "Tosca" at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, as well as "Turandot" and "Billy Budd" from the Teatro Real in Madrid, distributed by Versión Digital, whose catalogue also includes a series of evergreens from the Arena in Verona, such as "Il Barbiere di Siviglia", "Aida", "Nabucco", "Turandot" and "Carmen", covering the 2010 - 2018 period.

But there is not just music: Versión Digital also presents the documentary "Almost Ghosts" by the director Ana Ramón Rubio, which won the award for best documentary at the Arizona International Film Festival in 2019.

In Central-Eastern Europe, Pannonia Entertainment also offers visual music, and more. Now backed by eight seasons of experience, this dynamic distribution company, launched in Hungary but operating on six markets, counts on once again being able to offer Royal Opera House opera and ballets in 2021.

Another traditional date is the one with André Rieu: "Andre Rieu Magical Maastricht: Together In Music", distributed in Hungary, as is the Pompeiimost recent concert by one of its soloists, Mirusia. This will also be seen in the Czech Republic and in the Slovak Republic, Romania and Poland as soon as cinemas re-open. Again music, but in the form of documentaries, with "Up from The Streets - New Orleans: City of Music" and "Ronnie Wood - Somebody Up-There Likes Me", on the Rolling Stones’ guitarist.

Addressing a younger audience in Hungary and Romania comes a concert by the new, all-girl band, the Little Mix.

Alongside music, Pannonia Entertainment will continue to place ballet in the limelight, thanks to screenings of the Matthew Bourne Ballet in Poland and in the Slovak Republic, and to the documentary "Béjart Ballet for Life", which is shortly to be released in Hungary.

Pannonia Entertainment will not fail to continue celebrating the great art of all times and to pay homage to the cinema. Hungarian audiences will thus be offered films such as "Botticelli, Florence and the Medici"; "Pompeii - Sin City"; "Raphael"; "Munch - Love Phantoms and Lady-Vampires", as well as the documentary "Fellini of the Spirits", a tribute to the great master of Italian cinema, whilst in the Czech and in the Slovak Republics it plans to redistribute "Total Recall". Again in the field of art documentaries, in all six countries where Pannonia operates, the episode in the series on Dalì entitled "Salvador Dalí: The Youth Diaries" will be on offer.

The sources for domestic market trends in 2020 are Box Office Mojo and Comscore.

This text is based on an article published in the Berlinale issue of Cinema & Video Int'l, the MEDIA Salles media partner.

(Per leggere il testo in italiano cliccare qui)


From the USA: little cinemas, big ideas
by Angelica Riva

After the shock of the first lockdown, the U.S. cinema community tried out various different strategies for relaunching cinemas, which had been deserted for months.

On a scenario marked by the absence of new releases, subject to constant postponements, and by the closure of movie theatres belonging to large chains such as AMC, Regal and Cinemark, the spirit of initiative of the East Coasts smaller exhibitors caught the eye, as they rolled up their sleeves to organise safe and original ways of attracting audiences and balancing their accounts.

Chris Escobar is the head of Atlanta's historical Plaza Theatre, the oldest cinema in the state of Georgia, which has been operating without a break since 1939. In a radio interview with NPR, Escobar states that he kept the Plaza closed, so as not to place his staff’s and audiences’ health at risk, not opening until 3 September last to screen "Tenet", after having adopted all the necessary precautions for avoiding contagion in the theatre, incurring huge expenses against a limited box office.

With the reduced seating capacity imposed by the containment measures, Escobar can only fill a total of 50 of the theatre’s seats. Needless to say, the income from the sale of so few tickets is unable to cover expenses. But, as early as May 2020, Escobar came up with a valid salvage plan: the opening of 2 drive-ins where spectators could stay in their cars and enjoy the film chosen online, with the possibility of bringing with them food directly from home. One of the drive-ins is located in the parking lot of the Plaza itself and the other at Dad’s Garage, which obviously takes a percentage of ticket sales.

But open-air cinema was not Escobar’s only brilliant idea. In fact, although it is still possible to watch films at the drive-ins, private screenings are also available for a maximum of 10 people inside the theatre. In addition, the Plaza sells virtual tickets for watching a film in streaming on its website, as well as offering the opportunity to those who have produced a full-length or short movie to rent the theatre and screen their own film directly, without the intermediary of the usual distribution channels. Again online, Escobar has organised streamed screenings of titles shown at the Sundance Film Festival, programmed from 28 January to 3 February 2021.

Another exhibitor also chose to offer valid and attractive alternatives, in order to continue working after the first lockdown. This was Chris Collier, acting for the group of 4 small cinemas managed by Renew Theaters in Pennsylvania and New Jersey: the County Theater, the Ambler Theater, the Hiway Theater and the Princeton Garden Theatre.

Collier transformed the area’s parks into authentic open-air cinemas, thanks to the use of inflatable screens.

Although brilliant and safe ideas, these initiatives can only keep cinemas on the threshold of survival with no possibility of increasing their turnover. However, Escobar and Collier take a confident attitude towards the future of their sector, as the huge attendance at their "alternative theatres" hold out high hopes for a return to the big screen: the world of the cinema - they believe - will manage to survive the pandemic.

(Per leggere il testo in italiano cliccare qui)

UK: how do you feel about cinemas closing during the Covid pandemic?
by Angelica Riva

As the extraordinary mass vaccination effort proceeds, having already reached 20 million citizens, the United Kingdom is hastening to draw up a programme for getting back to "normal". A life made up of activities that used to seem so everyday as to be negligible up until only a year ago, but whose lack is keenly felt today. Amongst these, cinema-going is prominent, watching films on the big screen.At the start of the second lockdown the Guardian gave a voice to its reader-spectators. Those who thought that cinema-going would not go back to being "what it had been" were not lacking but there was a prevalence of those who who emphasised that the collective cinema-going experience continues to be unique, in particular because it is able to satisfy demands that go beyond the mere viewing of a film.

In its Culture section, after having investigated what the English thought about the impossibility of seeing a film on the big screen and whether or not they intended to return to the movie theatres, on 13 October 2020 The Guardian published a selection of replies.

"Cinema brings hope in a way laptops cannot"

"If cinema doesn’t survive, the Tories will have shattered a diamond of culture"

"I’m isolated, autistic, under pressure, and was relying on the local Picturehouse to keep me sane"

"I like sliding down in my seat in fear and that doesn’t happen when I’m distracted by the dog"

"Precautions have changed the experience into something that’s harder work"

"We were an audience of two. Weird, and sad"

"We’ll probably never return to the city centre in the evening again"

"When the new James Bond finally opens cinemagoers should boycott it"

"Reopened cinemas felt like classical music concerts during wartime"

"Cineworld was my lifeline for four years"

"Without cinemas there will be no film industry."

For most readers, cinema-going still implies far more than a simple leisure activity. The theatres offer the opportunity to take a breather from everyday life, in the shelter of the dark space between the four walls of the auditorium, whilst focusing on a single big screen that transports you into another reality, something that doesn’t happen when watching the film online in your own sitting room. Many have criticised the Government’s choice, because they believe that the cinema is also a cradle of culture, of joy, emotion and fear, to be shared in the atmosphere of the crowded auditorium, fearing that restrictions might irretrievably wipe all this out.

Amongst the thoughts gathered and published by the newspaper, there are others that contrast with what has been stated up to here, coming from those who agree with the restrictions or even believe that the temporary closure of cinemas is the prelude to a revolution in the way films are viewed.

"I’d feel awful if my parents died because I just had to see Tenet"

"I’m not sure there is a great future for cinemas, pandemic or not"

Fortunately, the latter is a small minority, whilst most English people of all ages and all social statuses seem to be impatient to queue up again at the Cineworld or Odeon box-office, or that of any other small but very precious local cinema.


(Per leggere il testo in italiano cliccare qui)

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MEDIA Salles
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Edito da: MEDIA Salles - Reg. Trib.
Milano n. 418 dello 02/07/2007
Direttore responsabile:
Elisabetta Brunella
Coordinamento redazionale:
Silvia Mancini
Redazione: Angelica Riva 
Raccolta dati ed elaborazioni statistiche: Paola Bensi, Silvia Mancini