CINEMA: Eldorado finds an economic balance thanks to unifying art house films

The director of the Eldorado in Dijon returned, this Monday, September 19, to the challenges of cinema such as the abandonment of the Supernova project at the Cité de la Gastronomie and the reaction to the establishment of the multiplex. “The government must impose low prices on cinemas,” claimed Matthias Chouquer.

1663929699 979 CINEMA Eldorado finds an economic balance thanks to unifying artThe only arthouse cinema in Dijon since the closure of Devosge, the Eldorado is an emblematic cultural venue in the city. Its influence radiates beyond its mere frequentation, in particular through the debates that are organized and its support for the various social struggles that cross the agglomeration.

Historically a suburban cinema, the place is gradually being integrated into an expanded city center due to the urban densification operations that are appearing between Place Wilson, Place du Trente-Octobre and Boulevard Voltaire.

A club of 250 members

Matthias Chouquer has been a manager and director of independent cinema for fifteen years. The company has five employees and achieves an annual turnover of around 500,000 euros in normal times.

Cinema activity is supported by an association, Collectif Eldo (formerly Les Amis de l’Eldo), claiming 250 members. The Eldorado is part of the French Association of Art and Essay Cinemas and adheres to the Union of Art, Repertoire and Essay Cinemas.

The last renovation dates from 2012, the work represented a budget of one million euros to digitize the projection, change the seats and install an elevator for accessibility for people with reduced mobility. The next intervention could take place “within two to three years”.

Post-Covid, the return of the public to cultural places is still erratic. The Eldorado thus experienced a 30% drop in attendance in 2021 compared to 2019; an indicator in line with the national trend.

In the context of the development of digital platforms broadcasting cultural content and the installation of a new cinema in Dijon, Matthias Chouquer answered questions fromDijon Info this Monday, September 19, 2022.

Only cinema to be its own programmer

The neighborhood changes with many housing constructions: do the new inhabitants come to Eldorado?

“One part, the usual part of the population that frequents us. (…) There are buildings which are finished and which are beginning to be inhabited. Most of it is still under construction. (…) There are places left in the cinemas! [sourire]»

What does the arrival of a new multiplex in Dijon change for the Eldorado?

“We see the first four months that nothing has changed because the multiplex has almost zero entries. We have the numbers. There is no impact at this time.”

On the other hand, it is rather what that will create in terms of programming of the rooms and access to the copies of films. It could be quite bloody in Dijon. In particular, the hyper-city center cinemas – that is to say the Olympia and the Darcy – will be impacted. We think the Darcy will change its programming to survive. Because an additional competitor, even if it is bad, still upsets the relationship, especially when cinema attendance is no longer what it used to be. In hyper-center, they are three to share the crumbs on the same slot.

“We, our economy, we find it thanks to arthouse titles that we call ‘carriers’. There are fifteen in the year. It’s films like ‘Revoir Paris’ for example. Films by unifying authors, which go beyond the strictly arthouse audience. Without these films, we can no longer broadcast all the others that lose money.

“For the moment, all the rooms in the agglomeration, except ours, are programmed by Pathé Gaumont. (…) We are the only room in Dijon to program ourselves. The independent rooms program themselves. (…) It is at the end of the year that we will really feel the effects on the programming.

“Cinema attendance is due to geography but also due to who is programming and what is the strength of access to films. Pathé is overpowering.”

“In six months, it will be complicated for us to access a copy or so, the problem that we will have is the multiplication of this type of film in Dijon. Instead of having two copies, we will have three so, inevitably, the entries are diluted. So we’re going to lose.”

“Pathé Gaumont or UGC are sawing off the branch on which we are all sitting”

Have Eldorado prices changed or will they change?

“We have a low price policy that has been the same for a very long time. It is estimated – moreover the news gives us reason – that cinema will remain the first art frequented by the French on the condition that it is accessible to all budgets.

“We cannot, at this point, raise prices in a few years. Pathé Gaumont or UGC are sawing off the branch on which we are all sitting. Pathé Gaumont bears a colossal responsibility in the defection of spectators from cinemas because they have created the image of an expensive cinema from which we, independent cinemas, suffer. People think that the cinema has become expensive, including at home.

“When we see the dividends paid by Pathé Gaumont to its shareholders, they can lower the price of tickets.”

[NDLR : Pathé envisage une introduction du groupe en bourse en 2024. La filiale des cinémas Pathé Gaumont a été déficitaire en 2021.]

This phenomenon is already twenty years old. In the Paris region in particular, everyone – first UGC then Pathé, then Gaumont and MK2 – launched their own unlimited card and increased the full price.

“We cannot treat the Dijon market like the Parisian market. The difference is such between the prices practiced by all the rooms and today that it is catastrophic.

“Why don’t people go there? Because they are not fooled. It’s too expensive.”

“The full price at the Eldorado is 8 euros. The reduced rate for students, the precarious and the over 65s is 6.50 euros. The price for those under 26 is 4.50 euros. The first two sessions around noon and 2 p.m., including the weekend, is 4.50 euros.

“The last increase dates from 2015. We are not going to increase our rates. We have to show that cinema remains accessible.”

Reinventing practices to attract 15-25 year olds

Are digital content distribution platforms your main competitors?

“It’s obvious that it’s a competition even though we don’t offer the same thing or the same films. (…). When we have priced a subscription or two subscriptions, we go less to the cinema or we no longer go there.

“There is still a media chronology that Netflix has not yet succeeded in destroying in France. Disney tries again but she continues to exist. Apart from platform productions, the films are first released in theaters before being on the platforms. The exclusivity window is important. She still matters to many of our viewers.”

“Going out is a brake, especially for the younger generations. (…) We take care to produce outings and activities for 15-25 year olds. (…) The CNC has drawn up a support plan for events that could be created for this audience. We are one of the cinemas that are trying to reinvent practices vis-à-vis this audience.

“I do not believe in the pessimistic speeches of the end of cinemas. We still need cinemas. It is an art which is young and which will continue to live. I am convinced of this, especially in our type of exhibition, independent, where the link between the spectators, the films, our guests is essential. Our proposal is so different from platforms, for example, that I believe in it.”

“I can’t imagine disappearing in the cities that places like ours are disappearing. They seem so important, not only what the films of authors bring culturally but it is also in the moments of debates, discussions, links that this creates.

An investor disappears and Supernova goes out

What about the arthouse cinema project at the Cité de la Gastronomie?

“Current employees and former employees, we created a separate company, The Thousand and One Nights. We deployed quite quickly a project that should have been called Supernova.”

“We obtained all the authorizations, public funding from the CNC, from the town hall of Dijon. We finished, we did the studies, we had the companies, we were ready to start the work.

“What happened is crazy. We were naive. We had an investor, Thomas Ghitti, he is a local independent promoter and he has a foothold in cinema. He studied cinema and created a cinema magazine a few years ago, cinema teaser, which still exists. We worked on this project for two and a half years.

“[Thomas Ghitti] disappeared just before the start of the work, when signing the loan, without giving us any news. We found ourselves dazed.”

“The project cost 4 million euros, we had to borrow 2 million euros and he had to bring a sum large enough to raise the loan and reassure the banks. (…) We had a very low contribution, we had no starting capital.

“The government must impose low prices on cinemas”

So the stopping of the Supernova project is not linked to the Eiffage group?

“No way. Neither to the City, nor to the Eiffage group. (…) Eiffage says ‘yes’ to us based on the business plan. We were going to hold both places. (…) We asked for the City’s guarantee for the loan, but we had no problem obtaining it. We had noted the fact that the City was going to guarantee 50%.”

“Our mistake was not to have continued to look for other investors.”

“What is unbearable is that we, a poor cultural structure, need to beg from the rich for investments that are part of the public service mission. Arthouse rooms are like libraries. This is part of the cultural life of a city and the social bond in a city. (…) We have to invent public investment funds.”

“The CNC aid was in the fund until December last year, it is lost. (…) [Thomas Ghitti] crashes us when we no longer have time to find other investors and behind it, it’s over.

“Supernova is abandoned. It took us a while to recover from this thing. (…) We are thinking about an alternative project. (…) Couldn’t we do something a little good?

What is the future for Eldorado?

“It is a dynamic reaction to the drop in overall attendance and also militant acts. (..) The government must impose low prices on cinemas. This would be one of the ways to get out of the drop in attendance fairly quickly.

Preview of the Palme d’Or on Sunday, September 25

Currently showing, “Chronicle of a passing affair” by Emmanuel Mouret is enjoying a good reception from the public. Just like Alice Winocour’s “Revoir Paris” yet inspired by the terrorist attacks of November 2015.

“Without Filter” by Swedish director Ruben Östlund, Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, will mark the start of the school year with an official release on September 28 and a preview at the Eldorado on Sunday September 25.

The cinema team is predicting a few surprises with “The Innocent” by Louis Garrel, released on October 12, “RMN” by Cristian Mungiu and “EO” by Jerzy Skolimowski, released on October 19.

On the same date, young audiences and fans of Michel Ocelot are watching for the release of the animated film “The Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess”.

Upcoming debates will animate the news with a debate on September 27 on “Mulholland Drive” by David Lynch, a debate on September 26 on “L’Ombre de Goya”, directed by José Luis Lopez Linares, written by Jean-Claude Carrière , around Francisco Goya and Luis Buñuel. Without forgetting on October 7, a screening-debate of “Media crash”, a documentary by Valentine Oberti and Luc Hermann on the media industry.

Further back in time, the festival will take place in January Telerama which is the busiest week of the Eldorado.

Interview by Jean-Christophe Tardivon

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CINEMA: Eldorado finds an economic balance thanks to unifying art house films