"We laugh together, we reflect together on what we are experiencing, we cry together, we are horrified together, etc. We come together to see!"

Kicking off UNIC's new Big Screen Feature - providing a behind-the-scenes look at the world of cinema exhibition through the eyes of professionals themselves - Edna Epelbaum (CEO, Cinevital AG, Cinepel SA, Cinemont SA, Quinnie Ltd.; President, Swiss Cinema Association; Vice-President, UNIC) discusses the job itself and the value of the Big Screen.

Describe your typical day at work. 

A daily routine in an exhibitor’s work is rare… Our industry depends on several aspects. One day rarely resembles another. We depend on good content to bring the audience into the cinemas and we also depend on the weather (especially in a country like Switzerland people are always in need of fresh air and sun) and furthermore we need to focus on events (BtoB, cinemas as platforms for discussions with directors, actors and producers) etc. As far as programming is concerned, Mondays are engraved in our daily routine – we rarely have a calm start to the week as on this day we programme our screens. In Switzerland we still programme week by week. The results of the week-end determine the prolongation of a film, which is discussed and negotiated with the distributor of the concerned film. For me personally, this is still the heart of my business. I put a lot of emphasis on a diverse programme – i.e. I try to balance big blockbuster movies and smaller Arthouse features and also give a platform to national productions. I believe that through a good balance of the programme and events with directors, actors and debates we attract more people and create the special something that cinema is all about: experiencing a film together! Linked to my passion about my profession and film is, of course, the financial department, HR, marketing, etc. The changes in our industry are very fast and we need to keep up with our strategical thinking and development – for example the changes taking place in the digital era or new marketing developments via social media. As the president of the Swiss Cinema Association and a member of the UNIC Board of Directors, I also spend a couple of hours each week on political strategies in our market and association work. These might not always be directly linked to my business, but I strongly believe that we all need to participate in association work to develop and understand our needs and the needs of our audience in our industry.

The moment you fell in love with the big screen? 

Allow me to use a film to cite my childhood; Il Postino best characterises my upbringing. I am the third generation in our family business. My grandfather came to Switzerland in the 1930s and opened his first cinema. My father took over in the 50s and expanded the business and, in 2010, my passion for film became my profession. As a child, the projectionist’s room was my TV. We lived just above a cinema so I was free to walk down and take my little chair to watch the films a little aside from the audience – that is why I compare my childhood to Il Postino. I counted my days to start working as an usher at 16 and probably watched Amadeus 13 times, I could imitate Dustin Hoffman's role in Rain Man in English, French and German and discovered the films of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation with pleasure, such as Les enfants du paradis. My first film in the cinema was Heidi. At the age of 3, I was convinced that people were sleeping in the dark and only I could see the magic of Alphoehi and Heidi.

The best thing about the cinematic experience? 

There are so many things I love about our industry. Last year, as part of a French Film Festival we organised a children’s afternoon and showed, as a preview, COURGETTE – the Swiss film by Claude Barras. We had 400 children in the cinema. At the end of the show Claude came in to discuss his films with the kids. The 400 children got up and applauded enthusiastically for a couple of minutes. It was magic. Cinema for me is a place filled with images we share together. We laugh together, we reflect together on what we are experiencing, we cry together, we are horrified together, etc. We come together to see! That is what is wonderful about the cinematic experience and that is why I strongly believe that this experience will always continue to exist!

A big thanks to Edna and if you're interested in more interviews like this, please subscribe to our Big Screen Feature  newsletter!

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