Workshop 1 – Renewing Offer and Audiences

Catherine Des Forges kicked off this morning’s workshop 1 with a question about independent cinemas and audiences; is it the space or the event that’s important? How much of cinema-going about a sense of occasion and how much is it about seeing a good film in a shared environment?

Despite hearing that “cinema is dead” for more than twenty years, Des Forges believes that different models of art house cinema are very much alive – they’re just not the same as before.

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Laurent Dutoit spoke about the strong connections independent cinemas can build with both younger and ageing audiences. The issue in appealing to both demographics, however, is the division of screen space and scheduling. One suggested model was to devote evening screenings to younger audiences because ageing audiences are more interested in attending during the day.

But, Stephan De Potter of Cineart, Belgium, asked, are we not now attracting older audience who were already in the habit of going to the cinema? Who, then, do we prioritise – the new or the already loyal audience?

Again, the importance of building cinema as a brand came up. Creating loyalty and trust in audiences is imperative if the audience is to come back to the cinema after the event, and not just see the event.

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One issue in distribution, especially for single screen cinemas, is that many distributors still want all shows. But, the panel suggested, this is very much an American model that creates a ghetto for more creative and art house styles of cinema. The aim has to be to ensure that these films can reach an audience but that there are links to mainstream cinema at the same time. That is to say that audiences will go and see Spectre and Star Wars, but they need to have the opportunity to see European films also.

Online marketing and content to support the films is also key. People don’t visit the cinema blind anymore, they feel they have to check the listings first. This means more work for both distributors and exhibitors – working together. An emphasis on strong working relationships came out of this session – across all aspects of the industry, we want audiences to see a broader range of content and we want those films to succeed.

Though as an industry we all agree that the sense of collective community that cinemas offer cannot be replaced by a tablet, we need to understand the converse appeal. Because of the ‘all shows’ model and the paradox independent cinemas face with not having enough screen space to show as diverse a program as they might like to, there has to be some acceptance that we cannot offer everything to everyone at the same time.

Still, what we can offer, through building cinema as a brand and through commitment to quality content, is a trusted curatorial voice.

Photos courtesy of Eva Kořínková.

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