PolicyKey policy positions
Key Policy Positions
UNIC engages with both the European institutions and the industry to provide a voice for cinema exhibition. Through organising events, producing publications and meeting with high-level policy makers, we strive to convey the social, cultural and economic importance of cinemagoing along with the industry perspective on key policy issues. You will find more information on our key policy positions below.
On 3 December 2020, the European Commission published its Media and Audiovisual Action Plan, which guides the European Commission’s strategy linked to the film and audiovisual sector. The Plan was completed by the Council’s conclusions and by the European Parliament’s report. The Plan lists 10 actions, themselves divided under Recovery, Transformation and Empowerment. UNIC is taking part in several working groups and is following the implementation of each action.
Cinemas across Europe - regardless of size or location - make significant contributions to cultural diversity, are essential to the commercial and cultural success of the European film industry, and have a powerful social influence. In order to help our industry thrive, it is crucial that European legislation related to the film sector - including the Geo-blocking Regulation, the Portability Regulation and the Broadcasters’ Regulation - do not undermine the key principles on which our industry depends, namely territoriality of copyright and theatrical exclusivity.
Exclusive theatrical film releases help celebrate the culture of cinema-going and create unparalleled excitement around specific films - a strategy that ultimately benefits all stakeholders in the value chain.
Contracts and the exclusive rights to create value around a film in different markets help to produce, finance and distribute films effectively to the benefit of audiences. Any attempts to remove the territorial nature of copyright and licensing would have a significantly negative impact on cinema exhibition.
There is no corrective measure that would be able to mitigate the possible negative aspects of a ban of geoblocking practices. There is a general lack of understanding with regards to the value of different film markets - cinema exhibition, VOD, DVD, pay TV, free TV –, windows and territorial exclusivity and that all industry stakeholders have to work together to increase overall film revenue across all of these markets, in order to continue to provide the best content possible to all audiences and create job and economic growth in the EU.
Europe is a fragmented market for European films due to its many cultures and languages. This diversity is the key reason behind the often low demand for non-national European films. Many films require time and investment before they can be viably released outside their country of origin, only when and where consumer demand emerges and with the help of local partners who promote films at the local level. EU titles that experience cross-border success first do well in their country and are then sold territory by territory.
Lifting geoblocking would lead to a deterioration of cultural diversity in Europe and less choice for European audiences – both in terms of content but also means of watching it –, weaker circulation and distribution to local European audiences and a concentration of power in the hands of dominant players across the whole industry.
Film theft is the biggest threat to the well-being of the film industry, including cinemas. Given the commitment of cinema operators in the fight against film theft, UNIC welcomes concrete actions that could potentially improve the enforcement of intellectual property rights and ensure that ongoing copyright infringements are prevented, that all intermediaries contribute to this endeavour and that the robust EU rules concerning copyright enforcement are implemented more effectively across all Member States. These initiatives at EU level include the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Directive and the Digital Services Act.
Cinema operators enter into exclusive licence agreements with film distributors to acquire a theatrical licence for a film in a specific territory. By committing a certain share of their box office income to the film distributor in return, as well as investing in state-of-the-art cinemas, operators make significant contributions to a dynamic sector. Any illegal film-viewing or recording deprives cinema operators, film distributors, producers and creators of important revenues and prevents further investment into the creation and distribution of future works. It endangers the diversity as well as the competitiveness of European cinema, putting much-needed jobs for millions of Europeans working in the creative industries at risk.
Cinema operators and their national associations engage in a range of activities to prevent film theft. They also rely on the respective legal frameworks in their territories, through a combination of civil remedies and criminal sanctions.
Given the significant and, highly financial implications and damages copyright infringement causes to the cinema industry through losses in revenues and the erosion of the value of rights, UNIC believes that a more ambitious approach to tacking film theft at both the European and national level, would benefit cinemas as well as the entire film value-chain, and is essential in ensuring the continued growth of the industry.
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive governs EU-wide coordination of national legislation on all audiovisual media. The Directive includes provisions that provide the legal basis for film release windows (Article 8).
The revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive (2018) preserves the legal basis for film release windows and introduces the ability for Member States to request financial contributions, including those to national funds, from on-demand services based in other Member States but targeting their national audiences (Article 13.2). This Article reflects a key concern for UNIC, to ensure fairer competition between all stakeholders.
Creative Europe MEDIA is a support programme for the European film and television industries that primarily supports film distribution activities. Via the programme, the EU also supports the Europa Cinemas network, which provides training and networking opportunities as well as financial support to theatres that screen an above-average amount of non-national European films, itself seen as one of the most successful strands of the Creative Europe MEDIA Program.
For UNIC, it is vital to ensure that the value, contributions and role of cinemas across Europe are reflected in support for the sector at the EU-level through projects such as the Europa Cinemas network.
In 2020, as an immediate response to the pandemic crisis the EU institutions adopted a stimulus package Next Generation EU to boost recovery. The core component, the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), is channeled to EU Member States between 2021 and 2026 to make European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient and better equipped for the green and digital transitions.
UNIC, together with the European cultural and creative sectors, and backed by the European Parliament, called to specifically earmark at least 2% of each national Recovery Plans for culture. Unfortunately, the call was not heard. Only 14 Member States have included the cultural and creative industries in their Recovery Plans and the goal of at least 2% earmarking for culture as asked by the Parliament in its Resolution on the Cultural Recovery of Europe has been achieved only at an aggregate EU level.
The broader issue of sustainability remains prominent on the EU institutions’ agenda, as evident through the European Commission’s EU Green Deal, for instance and a focus of the Next Generation EU (2021-2027 EU budget) which requires Member States to dedicate 30% of their national recovery plans to the greening of the economy.
From the cinema perspective, UNIC affirms the necessity and urgency behind the single-use plastics Directive, as a transition towards sustainable practices is both required to address the diverse hazards caused by plastic pollution and to meet the expectations of modern cinema audiences which are becoming more receptive of issues related to sustainability.
However, cinema operators only represent intermediaries between producers and consumers in the consumption chain of single-use plastics. Therefore, cinema operators cannot be expected to carry the burden for such a transition. To ensure the availability of affordable alternatives, accompanying measures taken by EU Member States should promote and incentivise innovation and development. Furthermore, awareness-raising campaigns should educate consumers, including cinema visitors, to use the existing capacities provided by their local cinemas (such aswaste separation and recycling bins) to behave in an environmentally responsible manner. This should not represent another obstacle to cinemas’ recovery.
UNIC has launched two working groups focusing on sustainability in the European cinema industry, with a focus on retail and technology. The UNIC Circular Economy Retail Group was launched in November 2019, while a working group specifically looking at cinema technology and energy efficiency was created in January 2022.
Cinema operators are dedicated to enabling everyone to visit their cinemas and as a result make significant investments in improving access to their theatres and in relevant facilities. Everyone should have the opportunity to watch their favourite films on the Big Screen. Cinema operators have therefore implemented innovative models for increasing accessibility, often on a voluntary basis. In many cases, these voluntary solutions make government regulation unnecessary. However, when the government chooses to act, the best solutions have incorporated input from both exhibitors and cinema-goers themselves.
Cinema exhibitors around the world acknowledge that music is an integral part of the movie-going experience and that composers and lyricists, like all other contributors to the creative processes of movie making, deserve appropriate rewards for their contributions. The majority of cinemas across UNIC territories make substantial payments to collecting societies to ensure that songwriters, composers and other creators are adequately rewarded for the use of their works in films and theatres. However it is important that the royalties paid are a fair and appropriate reflection of the value that music provides to the overall experience. There is also the need to ensure transparency in the system so that it is clear how performers are rewarded for their work.
In 2022, 5-years after the transposition deadline, the European Commission concluded that there was no need to review the Collective Rights Management Directive.