Montpellier: the cinema faces new upheavals, as it barely climbs the long post-covid slope

Between two years punctuated by uncertainties, a half-hearted comeback and an inconclusive start to summer, Montpellier cinemas are trying, somehow, to climb the slope.

It is a long and difficult recovery that is being played out for Montpellier cinemas. After successive closures and a particularly regulated post-covid, the start of the year is not as flamboyant as the establishments had hoped, both among independents and among large groups. “Usually, we get these results in the middle of July, not in June. We didn’t have the back to school we expected last year, and we still don’t have the expected period before the summer, which usually allows us to fill the two calmer months that are coming. It’s going to be ric-rac”, says Charlie Pereniguez, manager of the Diagonal cinema, in the city center. Same story for the Gaumont Comédie. “We feel that people prefer the beach to the rooms this year”says Joëlle Hainet, director.

30% losses in 2022

Twelve months of observation, for these cinemas which have not had a full year since 2019. “We don’t have a reference at the moment, it’s very complicateddeclares Sébastien Rodriguez, director of Gaumont Multiplexe, in Odysseum, and of the agglomeration of the cinemas of Montpellier. We are around a 30% drop in admissions compared to three years ago.”

An equal percentage, both among groups and among independents, and which Charlie Pereniguez explains by a fear of the virus, which is always present. “As far as my establishment is concerned, these losses are largely elderly people, who would like to come back, but who are no longer comfortable with the idea of ​​being in a closed room, with other people around who don’t wear the mask.”

However, one advantage, and not the least, has particularly benefited Gaumont cinemas in recent months: the release of highly anticipated blockbusters. “Spider-Man: No Way Home was a hit last winter, it allowed us to restart well. At the moment, we have Top Gun, Jurassic World 3 which are working very well, and The Minions which arrive on Wednesday”describes Joëlle Hainet.

A Film Festival, two different expectations

At Diagonal, where we rely on arthouse films, it is not the programming of large productions that has played in the return of Montpellier residents to the theaters. “We did not have the Maverick and Bond factories, we are counting on the loyalty of the spectators, who love the rooms, the atmosphere and the more cultural spirit that we inject into Diagonal, in its film programming and the events . ”

Two structures with very different expectations for this new Film Festival, from July 3 to 6, for its big comeback after the covid. “We expect a lot of familiessays Joëlle Hainet. All sessions go to 4 euros for everyone, it’s always a strong moment for the promotion of theaters after the Printemps du Cinéma in March.

For the Diagonal, it is above all an opportunity to make themselves known before moving on to the open-air Diago, at the Halle Tropisme, from July 6 to 10. “Our prices are usually around 5 euros, so the Film Festival is not the event that attracts the most people to us, says Charlie Pereniguez. But it will be a springboard for the upcoming festival. We have the Palme d’or of the Cannes Film Festival in preview, and beautiful works on display.”

And if the three directors and managers say to each other “optimistic and confident” for the future of cinema in general, everyone wonders about the new habits of consumers. “We saw a lot of advertisements, which boasted of bringing the cinema home, through video projectors or streaming platforms. And I have a few viewers who no longer come because they have adapted during the pandemic and they parties are held at their house”says the boss of the Diagonal. “We fought a lot against the reduction of the chronology of the mediaconcludes Joëlle Hainet. The cinema remains a place where we share emotions with strangers, from tears to giggles. That’s what makes it beautiful.”

Stand out to exist

After these years marked by the rebounds of the pandemic, a gap seems to be widening between the chains and the independents. At Gaumont, we rely on a cinema of entertainment and spectacle, which involves the development of new technologies. “The Imax and 4DX theaters are doing very well, even at the moment, says Sébastien Rodriguez. We realize that there is a real appetite for this spectacular cinema!”

Moving seats, wind, rain. In these rooms where the feelings are increased tenfold (and the price higher), it is much more than a film that the spectators come to seek. “It’s an experience, we make the outings eventful.” And in the continuity of this state of mind, the Gaumont Multiplexe recently set up the Mystery Session. A concept, which features the film broadcast, with the presentation and animation provided by the Montpellier Youtuber DrawerTV. “This event went well, the spectators were happy. We created a real exchange around different themes, that makes the film unique.”

On the contrary, in the smaller establishments, we are moving towards “more authenticity”, especially at the Diagonal, which exploits arthouse films. “We decided not to take the turn of 3D, to return to cinema of the 7th art”, describes Charlie Pereniguez. A vision “more cultural than spectacular”. “We have a role to play, in the development of reflection and imagination, especially with schoolchildren, from an early age. We organize meetings, debates.”

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Montpellier: the cinema faces new upheavals, as it barely climbs the long post-covid slope