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Press Release – CICAE asks festivals to call for universal rules in theatrical distribution

Press Release – CICAE asks festivals to call for universal rules in theatrical distribution

Festivals take one of the most important roles in the discovery of cinema. They curate the current and future state of film, elevate young talent and showcasing diversity in filmmaking. Within their competition, small independent voices can get the same stage as big-budgeted, established films.

“The competition of film festivals, especially if funded with public money, should be a fair place for all kinds of film,” says Christian Bräuer, president of CICAE. “It’s hard to understand why Big Tech companies aren’t asked to comply with the same rules that other studios, producers and cinemas have been following for decades. It is especially concerning to see Venice Film Festival unconditionally embracing a streaming company whose mission is described by its partners as ‘world domination’.”

The unique place film festivals take carries with it a special responsibility to ensure films can continue to thrive once the curtain has fallen on premiere night. It also comes with the responsibility to maintain conditions that allow film culture, film diversity and independent filmmaking to flourish in threatening times.

The world of film is changing drastically. The past few years have seen an unprecedented concentration of market power. It is in the interest of all of us to maintain diversity in filmmaking. If a few monolithic companies can dominate the way films are made and seen, we all lose as audiences. The “dictatorship of the algorithm”, as Alejandro G. Inarritu just put it, is a real threat to cultural diversity and cinema itself.

To maintain diversity in filmmaking and moviegoing, festivals need a clear set of rules and goals that both big and small players have to follow.

“One of these rules must be demanding an actual, full-scale theatrical release for films who want to take part in competition sections. A theatrical release on the big screen is not just the best kind to experience film. It gives films the opportunity to be discussed, marketed, seen by different perspectives”, says Christian Bräuer.

Cinemas are heart chambers for local communities, allowing people to experience, discuss and talk about a film together. Whether they’re a small film club or a prestigious art-house theater, they give films a form of visibility that’s unmatched and accessible to everyone, regardless of their subscription status. Without a theatrical release, films might just be hidden away if an algorithm doesn’t deem them worthy.

This is not an argument against streaming per se. Streaming is a great way to bring movies and shows into people’s homes, even though it’s of course not a match to the communal experience of the big-screen. “We welcome every streaming company that is excited about giving their films a proper theatrical run”, says Christian Bräuer. “but every new partnership we forge has to live by the same norms on which cinemas have built their successful, close partnerships with major studios as well as independent film makers, producers and distributors over the years.”

Festivals should also set rules and goals for programming themselves to give voices from different backgrounds, countries and genders a chance to thrive. We ask all film festivals not to just sign the 50×50 by 2020 pledge for gender parity, but to constantly ask if they’re doing enough to bring that pledge to life. Words alone aren’t enough. No festival competition should include more films from the same streaming company than films directed by women.

The International Confederation of Arthouse Cinemas is a non-profit organization aiming at promoting cultural diversity in cinemas and festivals. It was founded in 1955 by the national arthouse cinema associations of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Today it counts more than 2000 members and 4000 screens across 44 countries, representing 9 national and regional associations, 61 individual cinemas 14 festivals and 4 special members.

Christian Bräuer is the president of the CICAE, president of AG Kino, the German arthouse cinema association and CEO of the Yorck Kino Gruppe, a chain of 14 arthouse cinemas in Berlin.

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