European cinema trade body UNIC has today renewed its call to national governments for further public funding support of the exhibition industry during the COVID-19 crisis. UNIC says the current situation is “undeniably the most challenging period faced by European cinemas in their long history,” and adds that the coronavirus pandemic “has dealt the sector a devastating financial blow, one from which the industry will undoubtedly take a long time to recover.”
The move comes as European majors including France, Germany, Italy and the UK have shuttered cinemas, or will do so this week.
UNIC, which represents the interests of cinema trade associations and operators covering 38 countries, warns, “Should adequate and swift support not be provided, the potential consequences in both a cultural and social sense would be nothing short of catastrophic.”
The lack of major studio releases in recent months and the “ever-changing need to respond to government recommendations — very often given at short notice — have resulted in massive uncertainty and risk causing irreparable damage. To say that the industry faces an existential challenge is no overstatement,” the org continues.
As maintained by several exhibition execs, UNIC notes that “all of the evidence points to cinemas being one of the safest indoor spaces in terms of COVID-19 infections.” No outbreaks of the virus have been traced to a cinema, multiplex or public screening venue, UNIC says. Fresh films have demonstrated that audiences are responding in strong numbers despite capacity restrictions and sanitary protocols.
“We call on governments across Europe to recognize the unique social, cultural and economic value of the European cinema industry, and to provide the funding support it so desperately needs to survive this unprecedented period,” UNIC urges.
Citing the European industry’s contribution to GDP in individual markets, UNIC notes that in 2019 alone, box office across the region was 8.8B euros ($10.3B) while the sector employs tens of thousands of people, supporting the entire film industry.