To attract audiences, associative cinemas need to reinvent themselves

A year since the cinemas reopened after 300 days of forced closure in 2020 and 2021. Since mid-March, it is no longer necessary to occupy only one seat out of two, to wear a mask or even to present a passport vaccine to immerse yourself in the big one Canvas. However, the cinemas are far from full. “We would need 30 viewers per session to break even. However, on some days we only have five or six entries,” complains Marc Streit, President of the Ciné Breizh management association in Rostrenen (22).

“It’s incomprehensible,” confirms Françoise Martin from Family Cinema in Groix (56). “That our arthouse programming doesn’t convince everyone, be it. But how do you explain the low attractiveness of mainstream films like “Tenor”, “The Evil Ones”, “Notre-Dame is on Fire” or “Fantastic Beasts”? asks the President of Cinef’Îles.

Visit at half mast

Everywhere the story is more or less the same. Among the managers of associative cinemas that we have contacted, there is only Joël Rio at the head of the “Penthièvre” in Lamballe-Armor, who can boast as many box offices (8,000 per year) as before. “We suffer less in Châteaulin than elsewhere,” puts Stéphanie Delourme, head of the Rive Droite, Rive Gauche association of the Agora cinema, into perspective. Before the clarification: “The major investments are behind us and we only have one employee…”. Elsewhere, volunteers grimace in front of the entry numbers. Less 19% at the end of April in Moëlan-sur-Mer (29) compared to 2019. Number of visitors to the stand in Plestin-les-Grèves (22), despite the €900,000 investment in a second space. Half as many spectators as before the pandemic, in Groix…

Cheaper than multiplex, but…

There are several reasons for this disillusionment. Some, cyclic. “Some of the customers are still a bit afraid to go into an enclosed space. The good spring weather has also been good for us,” say Françoise Martin in Groix and Véronique L’Allain, Director of La Salamandre, in their brand new premises in Morlaix town centre. Despite far more attractive prices than multiplexes (approx. €20 for a family with two adults and two children), municipal cinemas have not been spared the decline in purchasing power. “In rural areas, you also have to consider fuel costs…”, recalls Marc Streit, in Rostrenen.

Tom Cruise as Savior

Other factors are more worrying. By 48% of French people who say they go to the cinema no more (or less) than before

, 26% (36% of 15-34 year olds) have chosen to watch films on other media. “Subscriptions to video-on-demand platforms (Netflix, Disney+, etc.) have disgruntled habits,” theater executives agree. At the same time, 23% of respondents did not find a poster they liked. The box that has been running since Top Gun: Maverick came out, with Tom Cruise, does give reason for hope, however. Assuming you don’t miss out on theatrical release, blockbusters can still make the counters explode!

originality and friendliness

In this context, cinemas that want to stand out perform best. “Showings followed by an event, debate or meetings with the director work very well,” notes Marie-Thérèse Le Pape of Douron. For his part, Michel Grossard, at the head of the 52 volunteers from Kerfany, in Moëlan-sur-Mer, has developed a skilfully dosed recipe: “Primo, a very comfortable space, a competitive sound and a 100% renewed air. Deuzio, original performance evenings: ballets live from the Opéra Garnier, where the audience arrives undermined as in the capital, a festival with a secret program devised by director Régis Wargnier, carte blanche for schoolchildren who are given the keys (cash, projection, organization of the debate) of cinema. Third, the socializing with the offered small glass during the highlights, which goes well with it.”

* According to a CNC study released May 25 at the Cannes Film Festival.
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