Where Does Cinema Fit Into a Changed Eco-System?

The final session on Day 2 brought together ideas and answers offered up in the morning’s split sessions. Enthusiastic and entirely convinced that, “We should all be ready to change the world after this session!”, Michael Gubbins lead the panel, asking; where do we fit in this changed environment and how can we change what we’re doing to keep up with the evolving landscape?

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From workshop 1 the overall feeling was that cinemas need to establish new means of communication, build new partnerships and renew existing relationships with audiences. There was also a strong argument for developing cinema as a brand so that exhibitors can capitalise on that one thing cinema does that no other platform can: offer a collective experience. Catherine Des Forges emphasised the uniqueness of the emotional charge that we get when watching a film in a cinema with other people. Also emerging from those presentations was a focus on working with and anticipating the demands of local communities – in both online and physical spaces.

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After workshop 2 we are starting to see a picture of where we stand in relation to the On Demand universe. It’s true that the relationship with audiences can be built upon and extended online, but it’s not without a shadow of a doubt. Questions around how cinemas might be more open to audience engagement and involvement were raised; how you can give options to audiences to get involved in programming? Won’t expanding into the online universe cannibalise cinema-going? Or should we forge forward because we have already built trust and have an opportunity?

If we are to move forward we need to be realistic and know that it’s hard, and that it requires resources – sometimes more than we currently have in place.

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What we need, then, is to optimise enthusiasm and to remember that cinemas are not operating in a social vacuum. Cinemas are as much in conversation with cities and communities as they are film culture.

And so, the next logical step is to develop and offer the services to facilitate cinemas as social spaces.

One model involved crowdfunding as a loan; built entirely out of the desire of the community to have a cinema- as a physical space. Surely, we heard today, cinemas are social and cultural investments.

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Nina Pece Grilc from Kinodvor, Slovenia, furthered that point by reminding us that cinema isn’t just about operators providing something – everyone has to chip in. That is to say that there needs to be a consensus in society that we need to develop spaces and audiences to receive the entertainment. Pop-up and outdoor cinema experiences are, in a way, the city offering something to cinema. Krien Meerburg from LantarenVenster in The Netherlands reiterated Pece Grilc’s view of the importance of cinema as a beacon for cultural diversity and, therefore, as a social demand for investment in the city itself.

Photos courtesy of Eva Kořínková.

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