Pint of Popcorn Pale Ale anyone? Sustainability at CineEurope 2024

June 25, 2024

The Hollywood actors and writers strikes have severely hampered the supply of films to cinemas this year, ultimately affecting their box office takings. However, "Inside Out 2"'s Joy has certainly lifted spirits of cinema operators with its global box office success, now joining the $1bn club. Consequently, the cinema industry was therefore in a buoyant mood last month at Cine Europe '24 - a  conference where distributors presented their latest films and event slates to European cinema operators, interspersed with seminars, panel discussions, a trade show and cervezas and tapas by the beach (or popcorn pale ale > read on) .

Last year's conference featured a strong focus on sustainability, with Coca-Cola leading the way, and there were various seminars and panel sessions covering this topic. In 2023, the industry was still suffering from high energy costs due to the war in Ukraine and the COVID pandemic. These costs were the highest on the bottom line of cinema operators and were much discussed at the show. Energy costs have since subsided a little, and generally, this year, sustainability hardly featured at all on the official programme. However, scratching under the surface, there was plenty to see and talk about. Let's dive in.


Jimmy's, a Netherlands-based-family-run popcorn manufacturer supplying a variety of cinemas across Europe, had a exhibition stand at the show and presenting a commitment to be an 'energy neutral company' by 2025 and 'CO2e neutral' by 2030.

Jimmy's currently has two factories and are building a new one in the Netherlands to BREEAM standards. BREEAM is a global science-based suite of validation and certification systems for the sustainable built environment. The new factory will feature solar-covered car parks, biogas heating and renewable electricity. Extra energy produced will go towards charging their inner city distribution trucks. All other trucks in their fleet will move to biofuel.

When it comes to growing the corn, Jimmy's sales rep highlighted that they are using the covered crop farming methodology, growing corn between the main crop seasons with the dual benefit of reducing water pollution risks and removing CO2 from the atmosphere while keeping good nutrients in the field.

An innovative product of the leftover corn is Jimmy's very own Pale Ale produced from popcorn remnants. A bottle of which was in the goody bag from the show (along with a vegan nacho dip - which, sadly, didn't live up to expectations).

Jimmy's CineEurope Stand

I liked where Jimmy's were going and have heard of similar efforts from other suppliers such as PCO, who have also installed solar at their factory and started to move to electric vehicles for deliveries. One thing I will point out and that is Jimmy's need to be careful with their messaging - CO2e neutral can be deceptive. CO2e neutral means that any carbon emissions you generate are 'offset' by purchasing carbon credits (i.e. buying into schemes that reduce carbon emissions - such as tree planting or investing in a solar farm somewhere). It's a little different from 'net zero', which is reducing your CO2e emissions to a minimum with a small percentage of offsetting. In my view, targeting net zero versus CO2e neutral sets the mindset to reduce as much as possible your own emissions before investing in offsetting projects.


Cinema operators are focussing their investment on initiatives that tangibly improve their customers' experience. Seating is a very visible way of doing this. It was no surprise then that seating vendors' stands dominated the trade show floor.

A number of vendors are bringing more sustainable seats to the market.

Figueras, a Spanish HQ'd seating manufacturer, have developed a new foam moulding system. Traditional seating foam systems are integral to the frame of the seat making it very difficult to split apart at end of life and to then recycle. Their new system makes it easier to separate out the parts, recycle them and to comply with EU fire regulations.

Taken from Figueras's 'Lumière' product brochure

Infinity, a UK based seating manufacturer, had a trade show stand that was literally a mini stadium seating rake. Infinity, known for supplying seats to boutique cinema chains such as Everyman in the UK and Filmpalast in Germany, is investing heavily in new technology initiatives. Their 'recycled plastic' battens made under the 'EKOply' brand apparently help reduce landfills, last a lot longer than wood equivalents and are fully recyclable. 'Origin' is a foam produced using polyols from plants such as sunflowers, soy, and castor oil. 'Quallofill' is a polyester fibre for sustainable sofa cushions. The filling fibre is made using 50% recycled plastic from Plastic Bank, globally recognised as one of the leading solutions to stop ocean plastic. Infinity state on their website that they are working with suppliers who are Cradle to Cradle certified https://c2ccertified.org/the-standard.

The challenge for cinema operators and vendors alike are that these offerings are more of a niche in the seating vendor product ranges and are a little more expensive than the standard offer. However, there is grant funding available in some markets that could put some of these seat offers in reach of cinema operators.



Premium format cinema auditoria, with the very best sound, vision, seating and lighting, are providing a reason for us to get off our sofas and get to the cinema so are performing well for cinema operators. Thus, this year, it was not unexpected to see a focus on the 'high end' picture and sound solutions from the technology vendors.

At the show we saw a demonstration of Christie's software technology 'Variable Dynamic Range' (VDR):

Traditional light delivery for projection is all or nothing, i.e. lamps or lasers working at the same percentage power throughout the show - resulting in a loss of light when the pixels go dark and potentially producing too dark or washed out pictures. Christie's VDR software analyses every frame to deliver the optimal brightness only where it is required. This means been able to deliver higher brightness and darker darks where needed, as the cinematographer intended. Ultimately delivering a better visual experience. The technology is due to be available for sale later this year.

So where does sustainability come into this? Christie claim that enabling VDR ensures that only the laser light that is needed is actually used, resulting, for a standard cinema presentation, in a 30% reduced laser power consumption and a 70% increase in laser life time. For a higher dynamic range presentation, power consumption and laser life time would be similar to today, so the message is: deliver an enhanced experience without higher electricity bills with reduced wear on your projectors.

Elsewhere Barco were proud to talk about their EcoVardis Gold medal and their CDP Supplier Engagement leader title - two top end standards for best practice sustainability which Trigage have helped clients achieve. As well as a full range of Laser-only projectors, Barco's laser retrofit programme which re uses existing projector chassis and a cleaned light engine, still has a place in the market and go towards the three Rs: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.

And NEC this year launched two new laser light projectors which now give them a full range using this more efficient technology. I was reminded that NEC's RB laser product is less prone to speckle than RGB lasers, so it can be used in conjunction with higher gain screens. This effectively means you can run the projector at a reduced power. NEC also has a refurbishment programme for older lamp-based projectors, cleaning the light engines and wrapping in a new 5-year warranty. They will introduce a similar programme for lasers next year.


We also caught up with a couple of the big screen LED vendors. We started with Timewaying, a Shenzhen, China based manufacturer of LED cinema screens and 3D equipment. Their sales person effectively said 'as we source our LED's from the same places as the larger LED manufacturers we follow their lead in terms of sustainability'. That was it. So we then hunted down LG to ask them. I was shown into a meeting room and one of their reps booted up a 60 odd page powerpoint presentation detailing their Corporate ESG programme. Great to see, however, there was no mention of Cinema LED in the presentation, and I am still waiting for them to come back to me...


A number of hardware and software vendors were presenting their 'eco' wares. CinemaNext with their 'NextEcoBooth' which, in conjunction with Theatre Management Systems (TMS) automates the powering up and down of projection booth equipment. The TMS vendors OneCinema (who Trigage is affiliated to), Unique and Arts Alliance were all talking about their software based automation solutions, at various stages of development. Software that can automatically turn off projectors, sound and lighting in an auditorium if no tickets have been sold are now the new norm and if you are not doing this already, the question is why.

I met with a number of cinema operators who have also been doing their own development in this area. One was happy to talk about a piece of software they developed that links the POS cinema time schedule with their HVAC system, so they can control the heating and cooling in the cinema based on a number of parameters, effectively only using the energy when needed. Okay, this type of functionality is available in some of the aforementioned TMS vendors' feature sets, however, it was great to see operators taking the initiative.


I had side conversations with exhibitors about the use of renewable technology such as solar, batteries, heat pumps etc..

In the UK, where there seems to be an ROI is when the cinema operator owns the property, owns access to the roof or car parking, and is happy with a 10yr ROI. So it doesn't work so well if you are on a lease. Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), where someone else finances, say, a solar canopy over a car park, have the possibility to reduce your energy bills slightly; however, they commit you to buying in at that rate for up to 20 years. For those with leases, some landlords are default adding solar panels - so not all is lost.

In mainland Europe, with grants, carbon credit schemes and mandatory requirements (e.g in France there is a mandate to install solar panel canopies on open air car parks), there is more of an appetite for investing in renewables. Albeit the situation varies from country to country.

The political landscape is changing fast across Europe, which might have either a positive or negative impact on further investments and regulations.

Barcelona CCIB Convention Centre Main Entrance

Sustainability at the Show

As per last year, Coca Cola was again using reusable cups on their stand on the trade show floor, but there was still a lot of plastic bottles being used across the conference, and I couldn't easily find a water station. Also, the usual NDAs were yet again in paper - why can't these be distributed and signed digitally before the show? The lanyards looked like they were the same as last year - so good to see they continue to be recycled. There might have been other things the organisers were doing around sustainability, but they weren't that visible.

If anyone spotted anything else at the show with regards to Sustainability, please let me know. I am sure I have not captured everything in this blog!

Now it's time to try my Popcorn Pale Ale.