Bologna, Day 2 – Gen Zers, who are you ?

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Polyvalent and definitely stylish Laura Rothwell from Tyneside Cinema AND Crystallised, a marketing agency which works across cultural sectors in the UK, started the day with an outstanding introduction on the hyper connected Generation Z. She envisions her work as fueled with creativity and passion. She outlined some characteristics of a research she did but insisted beforehand that the best way to know youngsters’ tastes is still…talking with them.

She played an upbeat video to illustrate what’s behind the Generation Z. Some of the striking features are :

– These “Digital Natives” were born with computers so cinemas need necessarily to take into account all the online platforms in their practice.

– They are creators, so organizing curated programmes is essential to them.

– A company needs to prove its worth ! Things do not end when tickets are sold, you have to be consistent with them. For instance, mind your environmental position: plastic bottles could be shocking while you’re screening a documentary on the topic.

– They live with diversity as a standard so it should be represented at your venue.

– They want to be impressed, value personal style and things well thought-out. So you should wonder what makes your venue unique?

– They care about creating a relationship with brand, it should be a two-way street.

– They can have access to everything at anytime so they need to be really convinced to spend their time at your venue.

– They are principled, know what they stand for and say it.  Some issues they care for are transgender acceptance, animal cruelty, climate crisis, gender parity.

– Beware of things which take too much to load, Z’s attention span is apparently 8 seconds (Daniel would later point out rightly that it is our media saturated society which provokes this, since we are always overwhelmed with info).

– Being different and unique is essential as they don’t want to be marketed to.

Finally, they want to make a real difference in the world, want to build communities, movements, they are aware of the implications of their actions and expect you to be the same !



The conclusion of all this is that all approaches do not necessarily work as everyone might experience micro trends. What is certain is that one of the priorities is…building efficient and quick-loading websites !

Madeleine commented on the choice of WHOSE voice is used to talk to them as it might be a good solution to hook them through renowned influencers.

Daniel Sibbers’ example also shows that a well evaluated membership process which is more than just about films can work well !

In her part 2, Laura introduced the research X Culture Pilot which was done in the context of a 10 year strategy in Newcastle to entice inhabitants to go to cultural organisations. Once again, the method was going to young people and ask questions like “Where do you want to spend your leisure time” ? Then you should be able to programme something they care for, with their help for the promotion and organization.

Laura’s team had Conversation with 150 youngsters who were curious to know the ins and outs of the project! A new video showed that their interests are varied: art galleries, heritage buildings, the countryside, sports etc.!



Someone in the audience asked how not to be creepy when meeting the youngsters ? Laura advises to reach out to associations which work with them and it is crucial to create a relationship, go several times and spend time with them. Laura’s team went out with youth workers for instance. The Goal is not to change your venue but to connect it to them, and the youngsters are open to help and say how ! Daniel draws the attention to the fact that arthouse cinemas have anyway the qualities, engagement, values to be a good match for Gen Zers.

Are today’s volunteers the next leaders ? Madeleine wonders.


The stage was then taken by six young people who had the generosity to share their interest, opinions and sensibilities…on a sunday. Former 28 Times Cinema ambassador, Bianca refuted the idea of a WE and YOU. To her, each individual, young or older is different and there aren’t 2 teams. Esther urged the exhibitors to involve their young audience, and not to underestimate them. What arise from all the testimonies is that serious issues like the environmental or LGBTQ struggles is at the core of their existence and they expect cinema to be militant because it is the ideal and democratic means of expressing and sharing ideas. The notion of responsibility was at the center of the presentations. The conclusion is for Alice : “Let’s get in touch and dialogue because we want to make an impact”.



 Madeleine’s then admitted that olders generations are in an existential crisis trying not to see “youngsters can do it all without them”. (Laughs)

Esther wonders about the moment when, in their careers, the exhibitors in the room noticed a difference in the movie-going attitude and Madeleine remembers 2012 when there was a simultaneous digital and theater release for the Bob Marley’s documentary. The consequence was for the Watershed team to ADAPT, find new ways to connect ! Dylan Skolnick from Arts Centre in the US and Daniel Sibbers agreed that creativity have always mattered when you manage an art house theater, so that was just a new occasion to be stimulated !

Madeleine got reassuring (which she’s excellent at) by saying one should accept a limited return on investment and be happy when getting in touch with part of youth. Then one can only hope that there will be a “skimming stones on water” effect.


Hrvoje reasserted the importance of giving keys to youngsters. Three case Studies from the Netherlands, Croatia and Slovenia followed.

Veerle Snijders from the Rialto, Netherlands – LA RIOT resumed the exchanges after the coffee break by the great presentation of an independent project started with a group of youngsters who write reviews on their blog and organize film nights, doing the communication etc. It started with secondary schools connections. Pupils learnt with their teacher how to make short animated films and then at the cinema they were shown different steps to exhibition. The pupils then got used to visit the cinema and they were in demand of doing more…They have a lot of followers. Things evolved, it was important to reshape and be flexible.


Another illustration of what can be done to involve youngsters was Renato Buic’s case from Art‐Kino in Croatia about the successful Co‐creation of Festival Toboggan which takes place between June and July. These initiatives are stimulating for youngsters as they create events and receive recognition of their efforts. The Cinema Day during the year consists in providing some organizational skills, designing posters etc. and then there is a screening.


Over enthusiastic Živa Jurančič from Kinodvor in Slovenia told about Kinotrip a programme with youngsters designed with them from the very beginning. A film club was established, 4 generations of teams have already been involved and teachers and youth workers are good partners. With the youngsters, the cinema teams’ assumptions are challenged in the film choices but the only rule given is diversity. They reach out to their peers better than anyone at the cinema could. New associations and influencers must always be found ! A never-ending intense story….Ziva encourages everyone to try the experience no matter the scale.

After a reflection time on what is working or not in the projects of co-curation with young people and involving them in the life of the cinema (money issues whose solutions could be found in sponsoring probably for instance) and a delightful Buffet Lunch next to Sala Cervi, (which was apparently all nibbled away by the brits !!)



the afternoon resumed with Daniel Sibbers introducing the afternoon session by doing a recap on the basics of brand creation through the example of Yorck Group. Marketing is not advertising: it is about leading your company !


 Brand is the label you put on your identity. Doing it is in your very own interest = why one should choose you over the rest “the water bottle dilemma” as exemplified on the picture. People choose with the reptilian, instinctive part of the brain ! It’s a gut feeling.

Daniel advise to shape your brand to what customers want, to your preferences and reality. For instance, the strengths of York group is that it is locally run with a dedicated staff and curated programme and they found ways to make it known through striking logo, motto and claim. They invested on photographer, website and design, advertising in the subway, spot screened before trailers hence creating a link with the press!

Now with Gen-Zers, what happens? There was more humour in their Instagram Rocketman ads for instance. They screened more cross-over programmes, with super heroes for instance, more movies about subjects on how we want to live together (vegan programmes) about travelling, surf film night and so on. Yorck made sure their platform were as up to date and compatible as possible. A last tip would be to state loudly one’s values, recently the European elections was a proper occasion to do it. Unlimited scheme works really well too !

Jaroslaw Perduta’s experience on the rebranding of the cinema DCF in Wroclaw, Poland through Films festivals, production, film education and a region of cinema while changing name revealed that making a survey is a good means to discover assumptions around the venue. Their reflection can be translated into a series of “We are a place…” statements which enables to determine the ideals and multiple possibilities of the new venue


Lana Velimirovic Vukalovic from Kino Gaj, Croatia, an “old” venue which is on its way to become a “cool vintage” one provided yet another example of the necessity to know what people think and expect of your premises. All the strategies below have boosted the life of the cinema successfully (a 300% increase !!!).


The day ended with a stroll in the park and the participants reflected on the challenges in having the Gen Zers wanting to be associated to their brand and how to open to them without alienating the rest of the audience.


The brainstorming revealed worries about generations clashes but some participants are  more optimistic and think that if you remain true to your company identity there is nothing to worry about. Intergenerational topics are coming up over the next few days so the issue will be tackled again. According to Madeleine, if there is something to retain from today’s discussions it is that to be convincing to Gen Zers one has to “walk the talk” = do what you say.

That’s it for today !



Cheekiest caption