EURO EXHIBS GO DUTCH

International exhibition finds its voice and bestows its honors when Cinema Expo Intl. shifts to Amsterdam to stage its fourth annual convention at the Amsterdam RAI Intl. Exhibition & Congress Center June 26-29.

The event comes at a time when international exhibition strategies are the topic of intense debate in a European market that is increasingly dominated by widely popular American product. Hans Joachim Flebbe, a past winner of the Cinema Expo exhibitor of the year award, sees the event as “essential to exchange ideas and information crossing national borders.”

According to Jimmy Sunshine, the co-managing director of Cinema Expo (with his brother Robert), the convention, which is expected to attract over 1,000 exhibitors, will keep moving in the years to come, with Barcelona being considered as a possible destination next year.

The Amsterdam convention coincides with the 100th anniversary of the first showing of motion pictures by France’s Lumiere brothers – Louis and Auguste – though some argue that honor really belongs to Thomas Edison.

In any case, Cinema Expo, conscious of the occasion, will screen a special video which, according to Sunshine, traces the development of movie houses. There will also be a special seminar to mark the birth of exhibition.

Volker Riech, chairman of UFA-Theater AG, Europe’s largest cinema circuit, has been named exhibitor of the year and will be honored at a banquet at the Congress Center on June 29. The event will be sponsored by Coca-Cola Intl. The UFA circuit, headquartered in Dusseldorf, comprises 500 screens and employs over 2,000 people.

Unusual for Europe, UFA began modernizing its facilities to make them multimedia “experience centers” five years ago. It now runs four multiplexes in Hamburg, Erfurt, Frankfurt and Cologne, has another four under construction and hopes to complete 15 more by the year 2000.

Other Cinema Expo honors this year go to J. Edward Shugrue, president of Columbia TriStar Film Distributors Intl., as distributor of the year, and to Sir Richard Attenborough, who receives Cinema Expo’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Seven features, a number of them European premieres, will be screened during this Cinema Expo edition. Among them are “Pocahontas,” “Crimson Tide,” “Johnny Mnemonic,” “Nine Months,” “Apollo 13,” “Congo” and “Species,” as well as “Batman Forever.”

According to Sunshine, a European feature may be added.

Cinema Expo will be a useful meeting place for Europeans, and particularly should benefit Eastern Europeans, who are showing up in large numbers for the first time.

Russian exhibs will come to Amsterdam, and some 40 are due from Hungary. “There aren’t going to be all that many Americans making the trip to Holland,” says Sunshine, though a number of U.S. circuit executives are attending, particularly from chains that are expanding to the U.S.

“The Europeans will be talking to one another, and exchanging experiences, be it in the marketing area or otherwise; and, of course, they will be seeing a bunch of really major movies and giving the new equipment the once over. The new technologies intrigue all of them,” says Sunshine.

In conjunction with Entertainment Data Inc., a company which tracks box office results worldwide, Cinema Expo is giving out the EDI Intl. Reel Awards, covering pictures that have grossed over $100 million internationally.

Among those receiving such awards in Amsterdam will be “The Lion King,” “Forrest Gump,” “Schindler’s List,” “The Flintstones,” “The Mask,” “Speed,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “True Lies,” “Stargate” and others.

Jimmy and Robert Sunshine, in announcing Cinema Expo’s association with the awards, put the emphasis on marketing. According to Jimmy, they say they see the awards as “a way of singling out the great effort of these companies for so successfully marketing their films.”

Americans, countering European arguments for quotas and other restrictions designed to favor European films, frequently mention the European distribs’ lack of coordinated release campaigns as a reason for the often lackluster performance of European pics that travel beyond their national borders.

Europeans themselves, via the European Union, have mulled the notion of a continent-wide European distribution network to boost the circulation of European productions. But ultimately, at least under prevailing conditions, it’s still American exports that make the box office tingle and that, more often than not, produce the major grosses.

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