Sandra den Hamer, president of the Association of European Film Archives and Cinematheques (ACE) and director of the Netherlands’ Eye Filmmuseum, has called for a European framework to facilitate the sharing of European film heritage with the public.

In a lively online discussion between several representatives of European film institutes at the Lumière Film Festival’s International Classic Films Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, on Thursday, den Hamer pointed out that many small national cinematheques faced exorbitant charges from rights holders for simply screening a film that they themselves are keeping and preserving.

“In many occasions we have reasonable fees and agreements and collaborations, but in some cases not,” den Hamer explained. “I’m not talking about the Netherlands, but I know from some of our members, European cinematheques, quite small cinematheques, that have to pay high fees, like €2,000 [$2,346] for one screening of a film in a cinematheque where you can have 25 visitors. That’s not very reasonable.”

Den Hamer proposed the creation of a framework for all of European film cinematheques and archives that would make exceptions for cultural and educational screenings.

This framework would include free screenings on some occasions, particularly for students and scholars, and in other cases paid admission for the public.

Having to pay fees of €1,500 ($1,759) or €2,000 ($2,346) to rights holders for a screening is a very high amount for cinematheques, den Hamer stressed.

“And in those cases it’s even about films that are in the archives. So the films are being kept and preserved by the archives, but if you want to play them, you have to pay a fee. So it’s a matter of making a European framework [in order to] solve this.”

Den Hamer said rights holders should cooperate with film institutes, whose role it is to safeguard film heritage. “We need each other – we are not enemies. We should partner in this to make it possible to show European film heritage to everybody.”

To that end, ACE last year launched its Season of Classic Films initiative, supported by the Creative Europe program. As part of the international showcase, European film classics screened in some of Europe’s most iconic cultural heritage venues, free of charge, in both major cities and small towns.

More than 15,000 people attended the Season of Classic Films’ 16 screenings across 13 EU countries, where pics like Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (1927), Federico Fellini’s “La strada” (1954), Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso” (1988) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amelie” (2001) unspooled at such beloved sights as Helsinki’s Kansalaistori square, Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki and Kilkenny Castle in Ireland.

The second edition of Season of Classic Films is scheduled to take place between December 2020 and June 2021 across Europe to raise awareness of the work of European national and regional film archives, especially among young adults, according to ACE. Most of the films are new digital restorations and some will include new elements, such as experimental electronic music or augmented reality.

Among the 22 institutions participating in the initiative, which aims to support the reopening of European film archives following the COVID-19 crisis, are the Eye Filmmuseum, the Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum, the Greek Film Archive, the Yugoslav Film Archive, the Cinemateca Portuguesa and the Cinematheque Francaise.