The European Parliament has issued a resolution effectively calling for the breakup of United Intl. Pictures, the film distributor that represents Universal, Paramount and MGM. The move is part of a growing chorus of concern among European government officials and showbiz execs over the increasing dominance of the box office and the small screen on their continent by U.S. product.
The non-binding resolution, which was passed Nov. 17, asks the European Commission to refuse to extend UIP’s current exemption from European antitrust rules. The exemption expired in July, but UIP has applied for its renewal.
The resolution accused UIP of having a dominant position in some European markets, indirectly leading all the major U.S. distributors to adopt practices such as “block booking” and “blind booking,” which “severely affect the freedom of choice of distributors and cinemagoers alike.”
It also said that UIP’s existence led to a “concentration in the film market” that has caused the “disappearance of some European distributors … and a reduction in the overall supply of films on the market (to the detriment of European and national film production).”
UIP president and chief executive Michael Williams-Jones reacted angrily to the parliament’s action. “Had the European Parliament reviewed the facts in a neutral and dispassionate manner, I am absolutely certain it would not have voted for today’s resolution,” he said Friday.
He criticized “unfortunate errors of fact and misleading statements,” and continued, “The resolution incorrectly states that UIP’s existence has damaged the European film industry, and it seeks to attribute unwarranted responsibility to UIP for the difficulties experienced by certain elements of the industry.”
Williams-Jones also said, “The efficient and cost-effective distribution of films by UIP leads to increased film production, which benefits consumers.”
The company pointed out that since it was originally granted its exemption in 1989, its share of box office receipts in Europe has declined, totaling 18% in 1992.