Valladolid, Day 3 – innovation and collaboration

Collaboration, what we can learn, share and assist each other with, has already been a recurring theme of the Lab but Day 3 focused directly on collaboration and innovation.

First up was a panel looking to our closest partners, distributors, and we were joined by Ramiro Ledo (Atalante, Spain), Eduardo Escudero (A Contracorriente Films, Spain) and Thomas Ordonneau (Shellac Films, France). All of the panellists are not only distributors but also exhibitors, with Ioana Dragomirescu who moderated the panel, noting that the classic roles of distribution, exhibition and sales have become blurred. Although working with different models and types of films, each panellist spoke passionately about seeking to defend and support their films through their lifespan in close partnership with exhibitors. Just how universal challenges exhibitors are facing was again a theme with the distributors also highlighting how the pandemic accelerated different models of getting films to audiences.

Eventisation was another recurring topic, as a response to and development following the pandemic. Eduardo highlighted ‘Senior Tuesdays’ in Spain where senior audiences can get €2 cinema tickets and says this is a model of putting cinema attendance back on people’s agendas. He also pointed out that although it may be at home via streaming platforms, people are experiencing more films now and this is a positive, if people are discovering cinema in this space they have the potential to become cinema audiences. Thomas highlighted that the diversity of films available in theatrical distribution within France is deeply important, ‘the more we offer the more we create audiences’. All panellsits agree that this goes alongside the reality of the continuously growing use of at-home viewing. Ioana summarised by saying that although viewing habits may have changed distributors and exhibitors are ready to meet these changes together.

After a short coffee break we were back with Mathias Holtz to hear about Collaborate to Innovate. Mathias talked us through some of the key points of the CTI guidelines, highlighting the objectives of the initiative: Innovation, Collaboration and Sustainability. Collaborate to Innovate aims to boost innovation by facilitating and funding collaboration among cinemas across Europe, you can read the full guidelines here. The next deadline is at the end of February.

To put into context what a CTI project can look like, and some of the highlights and challenges they can produce, we heard four presentations. Camille Lopato, from Diversion Cinema via Zoom, presented on VR Project Nu:Reality which brought together Diversion Cinema with three partner cinemas in the Netherlands to present cinematic experiences on VR headsets within cinema venues. The project explored the storytelling potential of VR within traditional cinema settings, pairing a national marketing campaign with local campaigns for each cinema, aiming to create audiences to allow VR cinema to be sustainable.

Boban Stefanovic, from The Cultural Center Gornji Milanovac, spoke about Euro Fest For Kids. Their project consists of young people ages 9 to 15 years old creating animated films and selecting young people going on to work with professional actors to dub an animated feature film, which will then screen across 46 cinemas in the the Serbian Cinemas Network, with a total of 160 screenings taking place.

Andres Kauts, Tartu Elektriteater in Estonia, began his presentation by saying that ‘cinemas like to do more cinema things and less admin’ so Kinola Software looks to address this. Kinola simplifies processes of cinemas, including importing film information to cinema websites, booking systems and distribution reports. Already six cinemas use the software, with 8000 screenings processed and 200,000 tickets sold!

And last but definitely not least, Laura Koepf presented on The Nonstop Cinema Subscription. Nonstop is a subscription service for unlimited cinema visits, with 22 arthouse cinemas in Austria already participating. The subscription is €22 for under 26 year olds and €24 for over 26 year olds, with a minimum commitment of 4 months. Nonstop also developed a bold visual identity for the project which has attracted 3,800 members in the first six months.

During the Q&A session, Boban, Andres and Laura offered some tips on how to approach a CTI project. Being prepared and planning how to balance lots of necessary elements, from partners, technical delivery and participants/audiences is key. Although there might be challenges, these challenges are often things that can drive us and inspire new ways of tackling issues.

After a well earned lunch the exhibitors returned to take part in the Collaborate To Innovate workshop where they worked in groups to come up with ideas that might work as a CTI project. The groups then presented their ideas to the Lab, with everything from a TikTok film festival, young ambassadors programme and QR codes for live audio translation were suggested as possible ideas to develop. The group with ideas which best considered the CTI aims and parameters went home with a prize!

And to round off the day which had us thinking deeply on partnerships we heard from Víctor González Puente from Cines Casablanca, which we visited yesterday. Victor presented on Cines Casablanca’s collaboration with local organisations and emerging artists. Cines Casablanca has invited local musicians to accompany and compliment film screenings, including Nosferatu with live piano score. Victor also mentioned that when collaborating with national artists, having directors or talent attending the cinema, audiences love these events to connect directly with the films. The cinema also welcomes local NGOs into their space, expanding their audience whilst also amplifying the NGOs work.

Bérénice Née, Plaza Arthouse Cinema, Belgium, presented on ‘Cinema Screenings & Theatrical Improvisation, which addressed the issue of smaller audiences during the summer and made use of their inner courtyard. Plaza worked with a local improv group, with Bérénice herself having knowledge and experience of improv, and allowed the cinema to reach new audiences who were attracted by the improv element.

Finally to end the day we had a surgery slot, Mattias Sommar from Röda Kvarn, Sweden, posed the interesting question, ‘is it possible for a local cinema to have supporters and sponsors like a sports club?’. Building on his experiences within sports clubs, Mattias explained the process which Röda Kvarn went through to get operational. To boost income and support Röda Kvarn contacted companies to support the cinema by buying tickets from the cinema for their staff and sponsors the cinema with their logo appearing on screen. Ioana Dragomirescu and Mathias Holtz joined Mattias to discuss how the practical processes of sponsorship can work and how this approach ties in with recurring themes in the Lab including connecting with local stakeholders and expanding who is aware of your cinema.