Penny Mills from the Audience Agency opened the session with findings from their BFI (British Film Institute) and BIFA (British Independent Film Awards) funded study into Under-30s and film. What the study revealed is that young people have a complex relationship with film and digital content. While they love film, they also see it as something to “commit to”, a more demanding past time than box-set TV viewing, for example. What they are looking for is authenticity and a dialogue but what they don’t want is to be told what to watch and how to think. What’s more is that it’s important for our sector to consider that what we think of as the role of the collective big screen experience is not necessarily something a younger audience is interested in – especially among those who favour the multiplex experience.
Whether it’s at the multiplex or on a digital platform, young audiences also consider both modes of viewing as social experiences. “A lot of taste development goes on in the home now,” Mills said, further explaining that peer rather than so-called expert opinion is what matters, with only 5% of those surveyed thinking that critics are important. Jaëla Arian from LA RIOT in the Netherlands reiterated the point by explaining how their young people – aged 18-25 – wrote and published their own reviews of the films to engage their peers.
A youth platform for arthouse and world cinema, LA RIOT engages young audiences from interdisciplinary studies with a shared passion for film. “The goal is to make those films more accessible,” Arian explained. Funded by Rialto cinema, the initiative is only financially able to cover the screening costs, meaning the team of young people working on the project are all volunteers and that there is no budget for marketing or other adjunct activity – a common problem facing exhibitors across the sector.
Meanwhile, in Belgium, Quai10 are engaging audiences through both film and gaming, drawing connections between the two and opening up a new space for cross media engagement. “I had thought that games were something you play alone in the basement away from others but it can be a media for socialisation, to bring people together,” Matthieu Bakolas said. Again, the emphasis was on creating environments to attract audiences in the first instance.
Another key route to engagement, as addressed by Daniel Sibbers from Yorck Kinogruppe, lies in the development of rewarding loyalty schemes and affordable pricing that then encourages new audiences to view more widely. Yorck’s Kinoabo card offers subscribers the opportunity to take risks in their viewing habits without further financial outlay. It can be used at any of the group’s cinemas and the demographics reveal that uptake is highest among young audiences, under 30. Investing in the initiative in a meaningful way, Yorck have plans to rename the card, develop a new app and website – which will enable direct booking and an earlier sign up process – as well as offering additional perks to students.
Sibbers admits that, in the beginning, they had to argue with distributors to lift restrictions on the use of the card, especially with regards to using it at premium times such as Saturday nights. The battle was worth it, though, as the subscriber numbers grow and the attendance for smaller arthouse films increase. Initiatives like this are crucial at a time when, in Germany, only 30% of the population even go to the cinema – down from 50% from ten years ago.
Again, despite the challenges facing the sector, there were plenty of positive take-aways. Trying to find mechanisms to introduce younger audiences to the kind of content we supply means focusing on environment, price and choice. It also means being open to understanding the changing way in which younger audiences think about their relationship with cinema, content in general and subscriber culture.
Photographs courtesy of Joana Linda.