The International Union Of Cinemas Takes Stand Against The Screening Room: “The Risk Here Is Not Just To Cinema Operators”

By Anthony D'Alessandro, Anita Busch

The International Union of Cinemas, a European org repping exhibitors across 36 territories has issued a statement this morning against Sean Parker and Prem Akkaraju’s Screening Room concept.

The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), the European trade body representing cinema associations and key operators from across 36 territories, has today set out its position regarding media reports around the proposed ‘Screening Room’ initiative.

The vast majority of UNIC members will view the ‘Screening Room’ proposal with great concern. The model as outlined seems to offer little benefit to cinema operators and their distribution partners, while representing significant potential risks.

While it is of course up to each operator to agree terms around a film release with partners in film distribution, UNIC maintains that the exclusive theatrical release of a new film helps create unparalleled levels of audience awareness and ultimately benefits its performance across all platforms, including VOD.

All the evidence we have shows that exclusive offers work very well in digital markets and that they help to maintain audiences’ desire for high quality content. It is also known that online piracy has a hugely destructive impact on every stage of the film value chain.

We are therefore very concerned about a model that might result in a proliferation of high-quality copyright-infringing films online during the theatrical release and beyond. The risk here is not just to cinema operators but to everyone contributing to the wider film ecology.

The past decade has shown that disruptive interventions such as the ‘Screening Room’ do not always yield the greatest commercial or societal benefits; the music sector is a good example of this.

Operators across Europe will strive to continue to offer high quality and exclusive cinematic experiences at an affordable cost to audiences from all ages and all walks of life.

Yesterday, M. Night Shyamalan, Brett Ratner and Roland Emmerich joined Jon Landau, James Cameron and Christoper Nolan as those filmmakers vetoing The Screening Room’s proposal for a day-and-date service that would debut major studio titles in the home on the same day they hit the multiplex. Today’s statement by the International Union of Cinemas also reads that “no studio or major European film company has so far stated that it is in support of the proposal.” In addition today, in various trade reports, the U.K. Cinema Association, which represents 90% of British Cinema operators, thumbed down The Screening Room over piracy fears and the fact that there wasn’t any evidence to suggest that consumers would pay $50 to rent a major studio release the same day it hit theaters.

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