Heading into June, spirits are very much lifted among the European cinema industry thanks to the recent announcements regarding the reopening of cinemas in a number of countries. It goes without saying that, given everything that has happened over the past few months, we’re most certainly in need of some good news!
The fact that the vast majority of sites in Europe were required to close their doors to limit the spread of COVID-19 in mid-March, coupled with ongoing confinement and distancing measures, means that cinema theatres will feel the long-term financial implications of the crisis more than most.
It’s for these reasons that the industry is in need of short-, medium- and long-term support; just because its doors are once again open, it’s not a question of going back to business as usual right away. It would be fair to suggest that cinemas will be operating at reduced capacity for the foreseeable future, so it’s crucial that they have the means to bridge this gap in income in order to continue offering avid cinema-goers unparalleled social, community and cultural experiences in these turbulent times and beyond.
We’ve therefore been following the various initiatives at EU level over the past few weeks wit great interest and, much like many others, were eagerly anticipating the recently announced Next Generation EU recovery plan and accompanying MFF budgetary proposal.
Just in case you missed it – on 27 May the European Commission proposed a major recovery plan with the creation of a new recovery instrument, Next Generation EU. This would be embedded within the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-2027, complementing the €750 billion COVID-19 recovery instrument by with a reinforced MFF budget. An extra €11.5 billion in funding would also be made available this year, as part of the 2014-2020 budget.
For us, it’s of course positive to see culture’s mention as a key area of focus, as one of the ecosystems pinpointed as both the hardest hit and a priority for recovery, and the ambitious nature of the recovery plan as a whole is indeed encouraging.
That said, it would certainly be of great help to find out precisely how cinemas and the wider cultural and creative sectors will be able to benefit – which remains somewhat unclear at present - and we’re very much looking forward to more information in this regard.
The proposal represents the beginning of the journey, of course, and we’ll therefore be keeping a close eye on negotiations at Parliament and Council level, all the while endeavouring to ensure that cinemas, culture and creativity remain firmly in mind when it comes to both Next Generation EU and the MFF.
On this last point, it must be said that UNIC (and many of our friends across the cultural and creative sectors) were disappointed to see a budgetary reduction for the Creative Europe Programme – the only EU support scheme for our sectors at present - in the Commission’s recent proposal. We therefore hope that during discussions at the European Parliament and Council of the EU, the value of culture and creativity will be reflected in an ambitious budget that matches the success, reputation and forward-looking nature of our sectors themselves.
More information on reopening, audience engagement and financial support measures for the sector can be found in our ongoing research project into the impact of COVID-19 on the European cinema industry – available here.