Increasingly, cinemas are key players in creating a sense of community, giving the public a place they believe they can belong to. This, instead of eventisation, acts as the motivation for diversification of activity in venues.
For Joanna Zak of the New Horizons Cinema in Poland, board game rental (and sales), a bookshop, flash mobs and amateur performances, dance and yoga classes and concerts are not cynically added to the bill. “People are passionate about making their city a better place to live,” Zak enthused, which means that allowing them to use the space in more than just one, traditional way is important. Sincerity and enjoyment is also at the heart of it, “We try to have fun in our cinema,” she said.
Russ Collins of the Michigan Theatre and Founder and Head of Arthouse Convergence in the USA talked about the impact a cinema can have on a community. Economically, cinemas have impact on communities through ticket sales but also through visits to other businesses including restaurants and cafes in their local areas. Cinemas fulfill that “primal campfire desire” to experience stories by a flickering light, and the human need to experience stories as a community.
Curators have an increasingly difficult job to do, in lieu of the democratisation of the medium, meaning that there are hoards of terrible films being made that curators must wade through. Still, “We can do a better job,” Collins believes, to reach out to our audiences about European and other international films. He says we need to be “relentlessly creative”, “become a major player in your own town and neighbourhood” and to “agressively seek funding.” Political engagement is paramount and inserting your business into the social fabric of your community is integral in making your cinema relevant.
Alexandra Boghiu explained how TIFF Caravan brings cinema to geographically disparate audiences. Over three months every year, July – September, they hold screenings in fifteen to twenty cities in Romania, increasing cultural choice and cultural diversity across the country. The scheme is limited, though they might like to expand the programme, dependent upon funding and sponsorship. This makes executing the project in perpetuity precarious, despite eagerness from audiences.
An important point in the discussion came from Nina Peče of Kinodvor, “Public access doesn’t mean everything is always for free.” Within a diverse audience, not everybody is equal & that extends to economic impact, meaning that some events are free, and others cover costs across the film value chain.
Jaki McDougall, Chief Executive for Glasgow Film in the UK continued the discussion by impressing on the room the responsibilities we, as cultural organisations, have to our local communities. In her words, it’s about “fairness”, to better serve geographic and otherwise diverse communities. “The choices we make demonstrate our values and the values of our partners; the choices about which sorts of innovation we want to invest in,” McDougall said.
“We need to think harder about how we can give again,” she stated, and to “think about the people who aren’t included.” Perhaps the greatest challenge is for us to relinquish and share the power we have, the power we have all fought for and won, to move out of our comfort zones, because, “We can’t afford to have fatigue about democracy at this stage.”
Photographs courtesy of Ionut Dobre.