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How can France entice its audiences back to the movie theatres?


- CANNES 2022: The fall in attendance levels in France is no foregone conclusion, as the digitalisation of marketing and making ticket sales paper-free are just some of the directions suggested

How can France entice its audiences back to the movie theatres?
Magali Valente (head of Cinema at the CNC), Aurélien Bosc (managing director of Pathé Gaumont Cinemas), Philippe Martin (producer, Les Films Pelléas), François Clerc (distributor, Apollo Films), Julien Marcel (managing director, Allociné), Christine Beauchemin-Flot (co-president, Federation of Arthouse and Repertory Cinemas (SCARE) (© Eric Bonté/CNC)

The participants in the CNC round-table at the Cannes Film Festival on 23 May analysed the freshly published results of the CNC study on “the French people who go to the cinema the least”, presented the same morning (read news). No one wants to throw in the towel in the face of falling attendance levels, which are not simply down to the increased competition from platforms’ offerings.

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According to Julien Marcel, managing director of AlloCiné, “The CNC-Vertigo study presented this morning still shows that more than half of the viewers have flocked back to the cinemas at a level matching pre-pandemic ones, which is a very encouraging sign. In addition, a recent study by the AFCAE [French Association of Arthouse Cinemas] showed that subscribers to content on platforms are even bigger consumers of cinema in theatres than non-subscribers. That’s also good news.”

Philippe Martin, a producer of arthouse films with his company Pelléas, who staged the most recent films by Pierre Salvadori and Mia Hansen-Løve, for example, remarked: “I brought out my first film in 1992, during the arrival en masse of private TV channels and cinema chains. But today, the wave of competition from platforms is even bigger. Unlike other producers, I haven’t founded a series department; I’ve opted to regenerate value within arthouse cinema. We have to change our ways of working on the release of films, putting the exhibitor at the heart of the release: we have to think differently about visiting smaller towns and organising activities in the theatres.”

Trailers remain the main source of information for viewers, whether they are seen in the movie theatres or online. However, as François Clerc, a distributor at Apollo Films, puts it, “People’s awareness levels of films the week before their release have been decreasing for the last three years: for the same level of investment, a distributor now sees less awareness of his or her film. As for tours around the provinces with a director, I’ve always organised them – in fact, I’ve done hundreds of them recently with Jean-Pierre Améris and Louis-Julien Petit. They’re essential. The movie Retirement Home [+see also:
film profile
by Thomas Gilou sold an extra 80,000 tickets when we were touring smaller towns."

“There is one area in which France is lagging far behind, and that’s the digitalisation of marketing and online ticketing,” underlined Julien Marcel. “Only the Pathé Gaumont network is ahead in this field, with 70%-80% of its ticket sales happening online, whereas the rest of the theatres languish at around 15%. The US or German chains are at about 50%. I often joke that the big event of late is that my mum is now on Skype and that buying a ticket online has become very easy for her.”

Aurélien Bosc, managing director of Pathé Gaumont Cinemas, discussed the chain’s experience in this regard: “We are working on tailored communication: our viewers create their account, and we can set up personalised communication, with push notifications on their phone and suggestions for films that will be in line with their tastes. This new way of communicating with the customer forges a different link with the distributor and allows an increase in ticket sales of 7%-10% per client that we reach via a digital channel.”

Independent cinemas have also been pre-empting this digitalisation of the box office and communication. Therefore, two years ago, producer Philippe Martin developed Ariane, a platform for distributors that analyses audience data and behaviour in order to increase the visibility and the allure of films in digital formats. “We can test trailers, adapt a digital marketing campaign in accordance with what works or what doesn’t work, and gain a better knowledge of the audiences present online, and therefore young audiences. As a producer of arthouse films, I can’t afford to suffer a 30% drop in attendance levels for my films and just sit there and do nothing!”

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(Translated from French)

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