Day 2, Session 3 Workshop 4: Roadmap to recovery and renewal – how to stand out from the crowd

In today’s busy attention economy, standing out from the crowd is important. Frank Groot, from Kino Rotterdam, opened the fourth workshop panel concerned with recovery and renewal, saying, “It could be about standing out in the ways in which people spend their time and money, or standing out from your own history – finding a new way to prove to younger or older audiences why they should come or come back.” Looking at why our places, stories, and events are critical, six inspiring examples set the tone for another positive journey into cinema recovery.

Nathanaël Karmitz, CEO for mk2 Group, talked first about “making impossible things possible”. Working in partnership with other brands, he identified three major areas of innovation: 1) alternative programming – mk2 organise 200 events per year with slightly higher ticket prices (€10-15) that are aimed at attracting new audiences and offer “cinema as a way to encourage participation in public life”, 2) AVOD platform – launched during lockdown, to offer intelligent, free cinema to their audience, and 3) social hubs, which they achieve through pop-up cinema. In addition to these three things, mk2 have created the first Cinema Hotel, which they opened one and a half years ago, during the height of the pandemic – making it the only way you could, at that time, go see a movie. Renovating a 100 year old cinema building to house 37 luxury rooms equipped with every platform on the market, including the entire mk2 collection, there is a weekly guide to help viewers choose what to watch. “It’s a different experience,” Karmitz said, “designed for cinema fans.” Attracting both locals and tourists, the Cinema Hotel has helped them stand out with success.

Züleyha Azman, Marketing Director at Kino Rotterdam also talked about events spanning karaoke and concerts to pizza and club nights during IFFR. They’ve been hosting events for six years so have a smooth operation but it’s the in house marketing that truly distinguishes their offer. Kino Rotterdam curate classic programming and make their own trailers and posters to promote the seasons. It helps them stand out from the other cinemas in the city. “Build a brand,” Azman said, “and you build a brand you build a community.”

Jaume Ripoll, Co-founder and Head of content and development for Filmin streaming platform in Spain spoke about hybrid models and the crossover between their interests as a distributor and streamer working with festivals and cinemas. Their motto, he said, is “Cinema can change your life, without movie theatres, the movies wouldn’t be meaningful.” Filmin distributed nine films during the pandemic, and helped other Spanish distributors to boost cinema-going and film culture.

Mira Staleva, Managing Director at Dom Na Kinoto, Bulgaria talked about special events that extend the cinema offer further as a way of standing out and attracting new audiences. One event in particular that widened their offer was a screening of the documentary McQueen accompanied by a showcase of local student fashion collections, with champagne and music to create what Staleva calls “an emotional experience” keeping social connection at the heart of their offer. “You don’t come to just consume a film,” she said, “because film you can consume in your home. But you come for something different – an emotional experience and somewhere you can find friendship.”

Another way to stand out is to act on local and global issues through changes to the finer details of what we do. This is where Mieux Manger au Ciné enter the market, with their slogan “eating better at the cinema”. Based on the finding that food and drink at the cinema is too fatty and polluting, and given contemporary health and environmental concerns, they propose quieter, smell-less, no crumb foods without losing out on taste or quality. “Food brings people together”, Elliott Khayat, Producer at Haut et Court said. They focus on sustainability, local partnerships (with farms and producers), offer nutritional snacks for children to build healthy habits and alternatives to processed foods.

Finally, Stephanie Silverman, Executive Director at Belcourt Theater, Nashville, talked about their building renovations from 2016 which turned the building into a multi-purpose space that includes a classroom and an open aesthetic that enables the building to “be in conversation with the street”. They run repertory and first run films, with a lot of wrap around activity, including a 12-hour horror-thon called 12 Hours of Terror where they screen horror films from 10pm to 10am, one ticket price, without announcing the films. It’s become a huge success and an annual event that has established strong community ties as the group of loyal attendees stay in touch throughout the year.

Though one event, a Queer Classics, introduced by the trans activist poet Alok, attracted negative attention from a far right extremist online, garnering hate mail for the cinema, Belcourt stays true to its inclusive and ethical mission, once again standing out as it stands up for its community.

Photographs © Francesco Clerici