Conclusions of the conference began with what the network is all about: collaboration. “What’s really important, Michael Gubbins began, “is the power of networking and sharing and collaborating, and it’s what Europa Cinemas does.”
He continued by outlining how dedicated everyone was in fighting for culture, even when sometimes it seems like an uphill battle, “You fight for relevance,” he said, and we have to make cinemas palces that people want to go, social spaces that are important to the fabric of our communities. Fighting what he called the homogeneity that is encroaching upon Europe across retail and other customer facing activity, cinema has a responsibility and an opportunity to offer something meaningful.
Jon Barrenechea, who hosted Day 2’s workshops (not yet detailed on the blog) said things are not really as bad as they might seem: from gaming to a new cinema launching in Berlin, and with the engaged work of a group of cinemas in Sweden, there is innovation and new activity to be excited about. The major question around diverse content innovation, however, was, “Do audiences from other art forms come across to cinema? If they play games or watch opera in your cinema, do they come back for film?” According to the discussion, the jury is out, and there is more work to be done in that area. On the other hand, one thing Barrenechea thinks we can take away with surety is, “We all need to muscle up on our data and use of technology, in a big way, if we’re going to survive.” The key lesson was that it’s all about, “Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.”
Gubbins also surmised that there was some scepticism in the room around the ethics in giving money to social media platforms like Facebook to capitalise on online advertising campaigns. The question, however, he thinks, would be better directed at asking which tools are right for your venue. There is an abundance of choice besides Facebook and, when it comes to social and online tools, it’s really a matter of working out what’s the best fit for your business.
Other key learning included rethinking what it means to be a community venue – to actually devolve some of your power, to say to your audience, “This is your space, it belongs to you… I want to be responsive to your needs.” Gubbins also talked about the notion of becoming an “Urban Pioneer”. It stands to reason that if we believe in what we do, we must go out and talk to audiences about what we do and why and make ourselves relevant.
“Social cohesion is so important in all of our communities right now,” he emphasised. Which, as we’d heard from Nina Peče earlier in the conference, means understanding that there is a diverse audience with diverse needs. This means really thinking about how the things we see as “issues”, such as pricing, and the range of activity we engage in, might relate to different audiences, and not just one type of viewer.
We also need to communicate better with other parts of the film value chain; production and distribution won’t necessarily want to compromise, but having the conversation, even if it is largely philosophical, will enrich every element. This is something we should think about starting.
“Everyone in this room remembers what it’s like when the lights went out, and when the light went on inside you,” Gubbins concluded. The reason we do this is, of course, because of a passion so strong it simply must be shared with others.
Nico Simon and Claude-Eric Poiroux then took the stage to give thanks to everyone for another productive conference. From the team at Europa Cinemas to the panellists and hosts, not forgetting the interpreters, photographer, blogger, and hotel staff who were all incredibly welcoming, the conference itself showed that collectively we can make things happen.
Photographs courtesy of Ionut Dobre.