Day 2, Session 3 Workshop 1: Roadmap to recovery and renewal – Collaborate to Innovate

Collaborate to Innovate is Europa Cinema’s new funding initiative set up to support collaborative work across the network and bring innovation to cinemas and communities all across Europe. The first speaker was Frédéric Cornet from Cinéma Galeries, who brought the Cineville project from the Netherlands to Belgium. Cineville is a monthly unlimited pass (starting from 18 euros) and Cornet’s task was to adapt the idea for a new geographical area. 

In March 2021, many cinemas were asking “how can we survive?” The goal for Cinéma Galeries was to increase admissions for art house films and attract a younger audience. Cornet hoped for a new sense of community in Bruxelles and found willing participants. After some initial road bumps concerning sponsors, many cinemas joined the project, and they now share a website. 

Michael Gubbins, who moderated the panel, rightly pointed out that Cineville in Belgium is “a project you know you need, something that has be done”. This case study underlines ways to adapt a project that already exist and transport it to new locales. The next steps for the project are to expand across the country (as it is currently only available in Bruxelles), and to consider, perhaps, a European card that could be used across countries. Though the logistics may be complex, its potential to connect audiences with diverse European films and experiences are limitless.

Pien Houthoff, Managing and Artistic Director, LUX Nijmegen, Netherlands

Pien Houthoff, Managing and Artistic Director at LUX Nijmegen in the Netherlands started their project during the pandemic, at a time when reaching audiences despite repeated lockdowns was needed. What Houthoff created was a unique and common technical system that focused on the importance of a familiar surrounding where the public can feel at home. A true example of how to extend the social space of cinema, and with it, the conversation.

Houthoff presented an event in memory of Jean-Luc Godard, which started out free. After switching to a paid service, LUX then lost participants. Even though they lost attendance, the attempt offered a valuable learning curve. Financially, the biggest cost was technical, and long term profit for the project is limited with the current cost of content. For Houthoff, however, the most interesting element is quality over quantity. 

Elise Mignot, Director of Café des Images in France began a pilot project podcast titled “Cinemas sur Écoute” that links cinemas and music/sound. Its focus is rethinking the cinema space. For the project, they set up a sound laboratory in the cinema space as an auditorium is not only for films, and the project aims to make European cinemas heard. The ultimate goal is to educate people about cinema sound and to offer a sensorial experience of the cinema space. 

As one of the first participants of the Collaborate to Innovate scheme, Mignot suggests paying close attention to the guidelines, reading eligibility criteria carefully and having a clear sense of which costs are covered, and which are not. The next step for this project is to involve other French or European cinemas.

Bárbara Fernández Vilarino, Director of Golem Madrid in Spain, used the scheme to respond to a deficit in young audience attendance. During the pandemic, Fernández Vilarino believed she could reach young audiences even at home. Owing to their existing relationships with other cinemas in Spain, Golem Madrid launched a campaign for a film programme for young people. The programme consisted of films that Fernández Vilarino and her team thought the younger generations must see, hoping the public would trust the cinema. Their thinking was that exhibitors should create a programme, not according to the audience’s expectations, but by surprising them with something new.

Michael Gubbins (Sampo Media)

Gubbins chimed in, “Understanding the psychology of young people, and taking them to different spaces they don’t usually go to.” When someone in the audience asked if it was too complicated to coordinate different cities and cinemas under Covid restrictions, Fernández Vilarino explained that due to previous Europa Cinemas’ meetings in Seville and Venice, she was already in touch with many other exhibitors – networking is very important in this field. Fernández Vilarino suggests setting up a link, rethinking relationships with young audiences and working with Europa Cinemas network members from all across Europe. 

Also focusing on partnerships with other exhibitors was Ieva Sipola, Director at Splendid Palace in Latvia. During the pandemic, she emailed other cinemas, reestablishing contacts. For her, it was indispensable to get to know the partners, their habits and approaches to work in order to effectively divide up responsibilities. Sipola offered five key areas of learning:

  1. Networking, because you never know where a simple conversation can take you.
  2. Keep key performance indicators (KPIs), in order to increase young audience attendance
  3. Do not forget to celebrate success 
  4. Learn from mistakes! 
  5. Check guidelines for project funds

Gubbins agreed that it was a good reminder for all the entrepreneurs in the room. Finally, Sipola would like to link Splendid Palace to young people’s education, offering young audiences digital material and content. Having already tried to engage through digital games and activities before and after screenings, Sipola concludes that innovation is now a necessity.

Photographs © Francesco Clerici