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.
The Digital Single Market strategy was adopted on the 6 May 2015. It includes 16 specific initiatives which were delivered by the Commission until January 2017. Legislative proposals are now discussed by the co-legislator, the European Parliament and the Council.
The Digital Single Market Strategy is built on three pillars:
1. Access: better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe;
2. Environment: creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish;
3. Economy & Society: maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.
Under this umbrella strategy, the European Commission made a number of proposals affecting the audiovisual sector (AVMSD, Portability, etc.) which are described below.
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 policy reforms related to cinema and the AV sector - including the Geo-blocking Regulation, Portability Regulation and Broadcasters’ Regulation - do not undermine the key principles on which our sector depends, namely contractual freedom, 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.
Film theft is the biggest threat to the well-being of the film industry, including cinemas. Given the committed involvement of cinema operators in the fight against film theft, UNIC welcomes concrete actions to improve the enforcement of intellectual property rights and ensure that ongoing copyright infringements are prevented, all intermediaries contribute to this endeavour and the robust EU rules concerning copyright enforcement are implemented more effectively across all Member States.
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.
Preventing individuals from recording films and soundtracks in the theatres is therefore a key priority for UNIC’s members. In this context, cinema operators and their national associations engage in a range of activities – generally a combination of campaigns to raise audience awareness and programmes against camcording in cinemas – to prevent film theft. We also rely on the respective legal frameworks in their territories in order to successfully tackle illegal recordings, 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, through supporting effective anti-piracy solutions, 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).
In May 2016, the Commission proposed a revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive which 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 new Article 13.2 perfectly reflects a key concern for UNIC, to ensure fairer competition between all stakeholders and UNIC welcomes the flexibility granted to Member States to request financial contributions from online services established in other countries but targeting their national audiences. We believe this is a positive step towards the creation of a fair level playing field between new online and existing players.
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.
On 30 May 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation establishing the Creative Europe Programme, in the context of the Multiannual Financial Framework Proposal for 2021-2027.
The evaluation of the current MEDIA programme found that it has several strengths, including its support for the cross-border distribution of non-national European films, the fact that MEDIA-supported films reached over 65 million overseas admissions per year and the Europa Cinemas network, whose cost-effective project has resulted in every €1 invested generating an estimated €13 of revenue.
The abovementioned findings were fed into the Commission’s proposal for support to the cultural and creative sectors and, consequently, the relevant strand of the Proposal for the next Multi-annual Financial Framework after 2020, released on 2 May 2018. The proposal was then adopted on 30 May 2018, and included a substantial increase for the MEDIA budget – rising from €820m to €1.08b.
The budgetary proposal will now be discussed by the European Institutions, with the final decision then falling to the Council, acting by unanimity, with the consent of the European Parliament. Some Member States have already raised their concerns about this ambitious proposal, complaining that a smaller EU should have led to a smaller budget. The proposed Regulation for the new Creative Europe Programme will also be discussed and adopted by the European Parliament and Council.
Innovative developments across the sector have enabled cinema operators to curate their offer and connect with their audiences more closely than ever before. Upgrades in regards to sound and image quality make the cinema-going experience more immersive, whilst audience engagement strategies – such as the use of social media, data analytics and targeted marketing – allow cinemas to reach their audiences in new ways and further develop the social dimensions of cinema-going.
Cinemas represent multi-faceted community resources. All sites, whatever their size, provide their local areas with a valued community resource, a trusted meeting place for a broad range of local people. Many are ‘cultural hubs’ providing access not just to arthouse and other specialised films, but also to other arts and creative opportunities. And most provide much-needed employment for their local communities, either directly, or through supporting local services and suppliers. Cinema exhibition also remains the ’gold standard’ for seeing a film together – on the Big Screen – as envisioned by the film-maker.
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.
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 have 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.
Cinemas in many UNIC territories benefit from preferential VAT rates on tickets because of their value as a cultural resource. That said, cinemas in other territories are often at risk of excessive taxation, which could negatively impact their ability to re-invest in their business to best serve their audience. Such increases in VAT only results in a short-term boost to government returns, whereas, in the long-term, it can be particularly damaging for both the industry and the state.