Building sustainable growth through inclusive and data driven approaches
Led by Madeleine Probst (Head of Film, Watershed, Regno Unito) and Mustafa El Mesaoudi (Managing Director, Cinema & Rex Filmtheater Wuppertal, Germania)

Over the past 19 years, Europa Cinemas has facilitated the sharing of best practice among cinema practitioners through an annual lab here in Bologna, but also in Sofia and Valladolid, as well as offshoots in Cluj, Graz, Sarajevo, Leipzig, Thessaloniki. These gatherings allow exhibitors from across Europe and beyond to grapple with the question of how to engage audiences creatively in the past, present and future of cinema. The cinema oasis that is Il Cinema Ritrovato is the perfect context to draw inspiration as cinemas continue to rebuild their relationship with audiences and adapt their business models to the challenges of the new operating environment. What has become clear over the past year, with films such as Anatomy of a Fall, Poor Things, Perfect Days and C’è ancora domani, is that the experience of watching films together is still very much valued by audiences. Cinemas not only generate significant income for a diverse range of films in theatres; they also have the potential to unlock the wider commercial and cultural value of a film.
With some 35 million admissions for European films in 2023, the network is showing positive signs of recovery across its 1,209 cinemas in 742 cities and towns in 33 countries. Member cinemas are places where smaller films come alive and where the diversity of film production finds an audience among an increasingly challenging and homogenous market place. The labs also feed into Europa Cinemas’ flagship initiative Collaborate to Innovate supported by the Creative Europe MEDIA programme of the European Commission; an initiative that has grown from strength to strength with vital investment in 51 collaborations, which to date have brought together more than 308 film theatres. It encapsulates much of what today’s Europa Cinemas represents – international collaboration and cooperation, an engaged and proactive membership and a confident commitment to the future of cinema. For this year’s edition, the Bologna Lab will focus on sustainable, inclusive and data-driven approaches to audience and business development, partnership working and programming, as well as addressing the fast-evolving cinema landscape and consumer habits. How might we use our knowledge and passion for film – our curatorial approach – to provide audiences with distinctive pathways through the multitude of content available, and to draw them into an essential and dynamic social alternative to the comfort of their home? The Lab will reflect on the relevance of our offers and the perception of our spaces for new generations of cinema goers. We will look at innovative ways of generating income and getting the best from our biggest asset, our people.
Sustainability and inclusion will be at the heart of all our discussions, in line with Europa Cinemas’ ambitious charters in these areas. We will also hear from some of the Collaborate to Innovate recipients, who took the leap and are now well placed to help guide the next wave of participants. As we are at Il Cinema Ritrovato, a celebration of the collective experience of watching heritage films, we will also take time to reflect on the role of films of the past in shaping the future of cinema. Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival delegates are welcome to join in sessions as observers.

Madeleine Probst

We are grateful to the Creative Europe MEDIA programme of the European Commission for their financial support. Follow us at #ECBOLAB24