This is a problem that we have seen coming and on which many professional unions have been warning for years, with the appearance of platforms, the price of tickets, the loss of habit of the young generation to go to the cinema because they have other hobbies and a need for immediacy. The average cinema audience is an urban audience, rather old, for whom going to the cinema is a habit and a social act, like going to a bookstore or a bistro. Since the covid, this fringe of the public has lost the link with the room. We have to see why now. The big event films will always exist, there will be no worries about them. What may have been lost is curiosity. It no longer necessarily happens in the cinema but on Netflix, YouTube.
You are talking about ticket prices. Do you think they are too expensive today?
Yes, the price is too high. Not here, in Douarnenez, because the exhibitors are making an effort and we manage to access films for a regular and reasonable price, but when we reach 14 or even 15 € in the big cities, it’s expensive, especially since the curiosity of the youngest can be satisfied elsewhere today. And when you go there with friends or family, the bill can be steep… There may be something to invent. For example, in bookstores, the book is at a single price, whether in a large brand or at an independent bookseller. Why not the cinema square?
Films produced by Tita Productionswhich you manage, are they also affected by this crisis?
Necessarily. “The Witches of Akelarre” made 60,000 admissions in France, it’s an honorable score. We’re doing well because we’ve tried to direct communication towards the youngest where we might have thought it would work more for an arts-and-test-oriented audience. And it worked, they came more numerous than on a traditional film. On Netflix, it was a hit, it was also bought by Canal +. For us, it’s good. But we say to ourselves that, in another context, it could have made 100,000 admissions or even more and there, it became a success. In our work as a producer, it has comforted us, it has shown us that our films, which are rather original and singular, can find their audience. We are producers first of all out of passion for a project, to highlight the perspective of a filmmaker, an artist. Making the most calibrated film so that it works in the cinema is not my core business. And I think that by highlighting the view of the artists, we value all the more what is the essence of cinema: a political art.
We also have to remember what the cinema can bring that is extraordinary. If that disappears, we will only have series, that’s very good but, in five or ten years, the spectators won’t be able to.
Can the current context encourage you to turn more to platforms?
We do our job so we look to different places to finance our films. But we must remain collectively aware of the fact that, if in a mass movement, we all turn towards them, there is a great chance that the cinema will become even more impoverished. Netflix or Amazon have no reason to want people to go to theaters, they are not philanthropists! In France, if the sector hasn’t fallen out of favor, it’s because there has been a strong public desire to make cinema a preserved sector, which is why many French filmmakers exist, certain to obtain a Palme d’or or an Oscar. Producing a lot of films also means allowing young filmmakers to emerge, to practice their skills. It takes time for a talent to blossom. It’s an expensive art and the profitability is uncertain, but you have to add the cultural value that it represents. We also have to remember what the cinema can bring that is extraordinary. If that disappears, we will only have series, that’s very good but, in five or ten years, the spectators won’t be able to.
Do you fear that the public authorities will end up turning off the tap in the years to come?
What worries professionals is that we don’t see very clearly. The signals sent are not good, such as the abolition of the audiovisual license fee for example. We feel a desire to destabilize an already weakened sector. We see that the CNC (National Center for Cinema and Animated Image, editor’s note), the unions and the ministries have convinced the platforms to come to the authorities and invest in the cinema, for fairly minor sums with regard to their turnover. The wolf is in the fold. We also hear that the CNC, which finances cinema, audiovisual and video games, is considering merging cinema and audiovisual in the years to come. Thus, making a film for TV or the cinema would amount to the same thing. The cinema would therefore no longer be to be preserved at all costs and this is what worries the profession, and particularly the exhibitors who are losing 30% of attendance. And we do not have the impression that our Minister of Culture is really moved by it. Our society must ask itself questions. Do we stop this unique French cultural exception in the world? Do you only want to watch works alone, behind your smartphone or your computer? It’s a collective decision to make but the trend scares me. Because a society without culture is a dying society. In many countries, movie theaters have disappeared and these countries envy our cultural exception.
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Douarnenez – “The book is at a single price, why not the cinema ticket? “: the point of view of a Douarnenist producer on the cinema crisis