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Brexit: Future of Independent Cinema At Stake

Brexit being now a real thing, newspapers and worries mainly concern the UK economy market, inside the borders and outside of them.

Stock exchange fall, HQs fleeing London, market trades off… all of those are no news. And the British cinema industry won’t be left unaffected either. It has incidentally been vividly expressed at the Screen Exhibitions’ Forum, which occurred in London on the 20th October, 2016.

Although expert at ComScore Lucy Jones described “the UK industry thriving as a whole”, the reality for the independent cinema in the United Kingdom may not be as bright as said.

Yes, the 2015 figures suggest quite positive news. Compared to last year at the same period, the exhibition economy went up by 7% and Jones assured that the amount of titles being released in UK cinemas hasn’t stopped growing ever since. The reason behind this new increase relies in the wider and wider choice of films introduced to the audience (i.e. 750 titles in 2014 and 850 titles in 2015). And the more there are films, the bigger is the audience, as said Jones at the Screen Exhibitions’ Forum.

However, by looking closer, the situation might not be as secure as hoped. It sure is for the Cinema exhibition economy but as far as it concerns  the actual British cinema, figures aren’t so positive. For instance, 80% of the box office incomes has been generated by US studios. If the audience for independent cinema has considerably grown for the past few years, the market itself hasn’t kept up at the same rate and cannot meet the audience’s demands.

Same thing happens for foreign language cinema, deeply falling into the depths of box office in 2015. And the situation probably won’t go on improving. The supremacy of English language in the cinema industry is well-known and established. Importations to UK will decrease given the falling of the currency and so will the film importations. “[Brexit] would halt export. As an ex-distributor, I know that if a foreign language title isn’t eligible for MEDIA (support), you just don’t touch it.” stated Ben Luxford, BFI’s Head of UK Audiences.

This really doesn’t sound good for independent cinema as a big part of it comes from non English speaking countries since the UK industry will now have to face alone the hardships of the market. It would then result in the narrowing range of foreign language films distributed in British cinemas until only a very few have the chance to be released in the UK.

The EU has contributed a lot to funding independent cinema in the UK, protecting it on a legal basis and making it part of the EU Creative Europe Program. Ian Wild, from the Showroom network, assured that deals are being negotiated in order for UK to remain within the Program and hence not lose its aids.

Similar situation for the UK membership to the Europa Cinema network, an EU support to film distribution and film-making, it is the first cinema theatre network for European films only. The United Kingdom will be dismissed from the network and lose the benefits from its membership.

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