by Ernesto Leotta
- CANNES NEXT: The final event on the NEXT agenda at this year's Cannes Festival tackled the relationship between the big screen and cinemagoers
For its closing event, NEXT decided to carry on with the debate on the possibilities of video on demand, which had started the day before at the Palais des Festivals' "I" Hall. Before the curtain fell on this six-day journey into the future, the last session saw Michael Gubbins welcome and invite his guests to share their opinions about the possible new relationship between the big screen and cinemagoers.
“Everyone can have VoD at hand nowadays,” kicked off Marieke Jonker, “but it takes an extra effort to involve other people, sharing your tastes and deciding together what to watch. That is our mission at We Want Cinema.” Jonker's company is basically an online platform that lets people decide what to show in a movie theatre, enabling the viewer to handle the programming process. Anyone can create an event, buy the first ticket and invite their friends, or join an existing group or event. Either way, the event will take place when enough tickets have been sold.
Then, Gubbins moved on to introduce the second VoD expert on the panel: the founder and CEO of La Septième Salle, Tom Dercourt. Created in 2012, La Septième Salle is an internet platform that allows viewers in local communities to vote on what films they would like to see, becoming active in the programming of their local cinemas. “The model used by my company is not strictly cinema on demand,” said Dercourt. “We are pretty much focused on connections between the viewers, and from this point of view we share We Want Cinema's creed. We organise events where people are filmed while watching their movie in the theatre, and then this is broadcast to every other theatre participating in the initiative, so that the audience can interact during the screening and after, via Twitter or Facebook.”
But moderator Gubbins tried to avoid leading everyone to get too carried away with pipe dreams, reminding them that having a huge crowd engaging with your project is only theoretically attractive to exhibitors, as Monday and Tuesday nights are not significant in terms of revenues for a theatre.
“I think everyone should value the importance of social networks more highly,” responded Soleil Nathwani, of GATHR Films. “Their role is fundamental in defining who and where their community is.”
“In other words, I believe exhibitors should be braver,” stated Jonker. “Social media and events are the last hope to bring people back to the theatres, at a time when admissions are going downhill. Why not try? You've got nothing to lose!”