Michael Gubbins opened the session with the hope of dispelling myths, “A lot of lazy assumptions need to be challenged about what “young people” might be,” he said, “The assumption that there is something clear about behavioural patterns is also something that needs to be challenged.” What followed were four presentations that never made assumptions and, instead, took engagement as their lesson, presenting their findings with passion and enthusiasm.
Mathias Fournier from Cinéma de Contis began by outlining their experience with VR. Owing to the format’s “immersive” nature, Fournier sees VR as a tool for engaging younger audiences; a welcome change from other short-term attention grabbing experiences and platforms. Furthermore, Fournier said, VR is a shared social experience and that, as such, cinemas do have a role to play in its development. The aim is not to enclose people in a practice that is just Virtual Reality, rather, it’s a way to get them into the cinema where they will hopefully then watch and engage with other content.
Stefana Dragan from MUBI talked about the platform’s UK theatrical partnership program, MUBI Go, where subscribers to the platform receive a weekly voucher to see a film at a participating cinema (if they have programmed the selected film). Much like Yorck Kinogruppe and Cineville who had presented their subscription models earlier in the conference, MUBI’s initiative shows an increase in cinema attendance among subscribers – seven times the national average, in fact. Furthermore, that more than 50% of the take up are young audiences and that 80% are under age 44.
Dispelling lazy myths with aplomb, Michael Gubbins also suggested, “There’s a feeling that a young generation want to watch fifty screens all the time but no matter what age, you want recommendations – film is seen as something you give time to.” Dragan agreed and said that MUBI’s findings were that the barriers aren’t the films but pricing and accessibility which is why they’ve put resources into making the model affordable and the app easy to use.
Removing barriers to entry was a common theme. Greta Akcijonaite, Coordinator for the European Film Challenge, where participants watch ten European films in ten weeks in the hope of winning a ticket to a major film festival such as Cannes or Berlinale, said that participation and community building are absolutely key in fighting piracy & creating new cinema-going habits. Rewarding young audiences who share their initiatives with incentives like the European Film Challenge creates buzz and requires genuine engagement of its participants.
Also targeting young audiences, Kinodvor presented the findings of their Kinotrip programme, a year-round project that is created “by the youth for the youth”. The participants manage the project in its entirety; from curation to communications and including the hosting of events and Q&As and introducing films. “They are,” Metka Dariš said, “the best communicators and ambassadors as they can reach their demographic in a way that we simply can’t.”
For Kinodvor it was both incredibly challenging and extremely rewarding,
It is very unpredictable, time and resource heavy, and a real challenge is that you have to lose control. Our environment is very structured and organised but you have to trust them and hope it works. Continuity is essential, and we have significant results after just three years.
But the results speak volumes. The programme offers a way for the cinema to foster lifelong filmgoing values and, in addition to this, skills development. With an eye on the future, Kinodvor know that cultivating skills in passionate audience members can also become an industry pathway. Always on the lookout for future cinema operators, Kinodvor very much see the programme as a talent and skills development programme for its own future – especially with their current plans to build a miniplex in the city where that they can extend their already diverse programme offer. The key to success in this area, Dariš says, is that “They have to have the feeling that the cinema is theirs.”
Photographs courtesy of Joana Linda.