International Exhibitors of the Year: Ricardo and Fernando Evole

Yelmo Cineplex’s top management duo, Ricardo and Fernando Evole, who are honored as International Exhibitors of the Year at Cinema Expo, represent all that is good in Spain’s exhibition sector: a family-led business that has invested in innovation and renewal.

Cinema Expo’s nod coincides with the 25th anniversary of Yelmo Films, launched by the economist Ricardo Evole in 1981.

He found inspiration for his company outside Spain traveling from Madrid to French border towns to enjoy pics cut or banned under Franco’s dictatorship.

Yelmo Films launched cautiously. “I wanted to have a solid start and then see what happened,” recalls Evole, today Yelmo Cineplex’s prexy and CEO.

In 1998, Evole inked with U.S. exhib Loews Cineplex Entertainment to create the 50-50 joint venture Yelmo Cineplex, which controlled 108 screens at 13 sites.

The combo jumpstarted Yelmo’s expansion. “It was the main impulse for growth,” Evole says.

Since then, the chain has grown spectacularly. Yelmo Cineplex owns 329 screens and 29 theaters and is a key driver in the modernization of Spain’s exhibition sector. It’s opening multiplexes, ramping up concession revenues, programming original version screenings for both arthouse pics and blockbusters, incorporating Imax projection systems for commercial titles in conventional theaters and launching HD-quality d-cinema.

Yelmo also nurtures young talent via the short film fest Curt Fictions.

“Yelmo Cineplex breathes cinema, all of us like films and that aids decision-taking,” says Ricardo’s son, Fernando Evole, Yelmo’s deputy director general.

Prexy of exhib lobby group FECE since mid-2004, Ricardo Evole is also a producer and distributor as well as a mountain sports enthusiast: He named Yelmo after an imposing granite tower in Madrid’s Guadarrama sierra.

Looking to the future, Fernando faces a mature exhibition sector suffering stagnating admissions, rampant piracy and shrinking release windows.

“But we have to be optimistic. The sector can be reinvented,” he says.

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