The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association (CEA) is launching its new website – – this month, the latest stage in recent moves to modernise the organisation.

Chief Executive Phil Clapp sees this development as a key strand in his drive to reinvigorate the way the CEA engages with other parts of the cinema industry, and with the wider cinema-going public. He says: “Since I arrived last October, I’ve been keen that we help put the exhibition sector back ‘on the front foot’ in tackling occasionally hostile media coverage and in reminding the wider public of the huge advances there have been in the cinema-going experience in recent times. I think that many now take those changes for granted — we need to remind them of the major investment which has been made, and which continues to be made, in improving every aspect of the theatrical environment.”

Whilst primarily aimed at the industry, the new site is also intended to engage the casual user, and will include a range of statistics and data about the exhibition sector.

“Any website is only as good as the material it contains, and the ease with which it is navigated,” he says. “I’m confident we’ve come up with something which is modern, straightforward and engaging.”

There will also be a discussion forum for members to debate key issues of the day, something the CEA chief executive sees as key. “I’ve been struck by the extent to which all operators — whether big or small — see themselves as members of an identifiable exhibitor community, he commented. “I’m hoping that we can use the forum to exchange ideas and experience, but also to secure collective agreement on how the sector might tackle the key issues which confront it.”

Phil identifies this notion of collective agreement on policy, and where necessary collective action, as a prerequisite if the CEA is to have a strong voice with other industry stakeholders and Government. “The ability of the production sector to speak with a single voice and identify its priorities for action has been a key factor in achieving influence, not least with government,” he says.

“While I’m not underestimating the challenges, I’m hoping we can achieve that same level of unanimity across exhibition.”

As part of that effort, the launch of the website coincides with a concerted recruitment drive for new members by the organisation.

“We currently represent the interests of well over 90 per cent of UK cinema operators by number and market share. That includes both single screen/owner managed-sites and the largest circuit and multiplex operators. But we’re aware of a significant number of operators who have let their membership lapse or made a conscious decision not to join in the first place,” Clapp said.

“I’m hoping we can convince them that joining the CEA means that their voice will be heard in tackling some of the key challenges facing the sector, and in pressing the case for government to acknowledge the needs of exhibition around legislative and regulatory issues.”

“To take just one example, I am convinced that if we make the arguments effectively, and with the appropriate evidence, we can convince government of the need to make camcording of films in a cinema a specific criminal offence. In not having such a law, we’re now increasingly out of step with the rest of Europe and the States, and increasingly seen as a ‘soft touch’ by the organised criminals behind this trade.”

“It may seem a small thing to some, but quite aside from the huge impact I think it would make on the trade in illegal DVDs, it would also be symbolic of government’s willingness to tackle the issues which confront the exhibition sector.”