Opinion: Mark Sarfaty

17 August, 2010 by IF

Mark Sarfaty is the CEO of the Independent Cinemas Association of Australia (ICAA) and co-chair of the Australian Cinema Exhibitors Coalition (ACEC). He considers the role of the Australian International Movie Convention.

Once again, it’s August and the Australian International Movie Convention – like Christmas and birthdays – has snuck up on us unexpectedly and – like Christmas and birthdays – we’re once again sharing dinner and drinks and conversation with (1000 of) our closest friends.


The annual AIMC is of course the premier event for the exhibition and distribution side of the film industry and each year the sprawling presentation, networking and talk fest grows bigger and becomes more important as both a business event and the public face of an industry worth billions of dollars to the Australian economy and employing tens of thousands of people.

Since starting as a minor shindig for Queensland cinema operators 65 years ago the Motion Picture Exhibitors Association of Queensland has developed the convention to its current major event status and as a destination for international film executives and film makers.

With luminaries like producer Jon Landau presenting pre-release Avatar footage and the consistent and continued presence of key Hollywood decision makers, AIMC now stakes a claim to being the most important regional forum for discussion of global issues in exhibition and distribution.

However the pace of change in the global film business is moving at lightning speed and with it the future challenges for Movie Convention are moving into sharper focus.

Unsurprisingly, when based on a 100-year-old business model, the theatrical business has found change difficult.

Yet, in the tidal wave of developments in the past decade; from DVD to social media and from game consoles to YouTube, we have had change thrust upon us and we are now, finally, starting to embrace it – Disney sells tickets on Facebook, Event Cinemas have developed an iPhone app and 3D rugby streams live into our theatres.

Similarly, for the Movie Convention to continue to develop as the headline event for presenting new content, products, concepts and strategies in the film content business it also needs to embrace change – to become more inclusive for stakeholders in both planning and execution.

Just as we have started to change old models of distribution and exhibition we also need to consider and test new models for the convention.
The last three years have seen some welcome developments in operations with the appointment of former MGM exec Ian Sutherland to head up management of the event.

Last year saw the switch to a new venue which can now accommodate all delegates under one roof and contains a purpose built digital cinema but these are just first steps and making change needs to become easier.

As an exhibition representative wanting to look at new ways of engaging audiences, new content, new marketing, new cinema construction and other issues affecting exhibitors I look to the Movie Convention to give me access and insight to all these things.

I want to know that there will be the latest in film and alternative content presentations. I want to be dazzled by innovation in the trade shows. I want the best in business development sessions and leadership debate on business threats and opportunities and I want sessions on industry wide issues like cinema access as well as technology and content delivery.

With members in New Zealand I also want to know that there is a New Zealand focus (apart from a box office award or two) and speaking of other countries, isn’t it time to look at how we make the AIMC more relevant to the rest of the Asia Pacific?

For anyone associated with the film business in Australia and New Zealand, attending the Movie Convention continues to be the foundation of one of our greatest strengths as a regional industry – an open forum to see the latest in content, develop new relationships, consider new ideas and show our best and brightest face to the public.

The challenge for the industry is making sure it stays that way into the next decade.

This article appears in the August issue of INSIDEFILM.

Disclaimer – The views expressed in this column are Mark Sarfaty’s personal views only and do not reflect the views, position or policy of ICAA ACEC or any other entity that he is affiliated with.