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Cannes 2022

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

Arthouse cinema in search of an audience

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CANNES 2022: The challenge of bringing audiences back after an unprecedented pandemic, which concerns the entire independent industry chain, was the focus of the debate organised by the CNC

Arthouse cinema in search of an audience
(l-r) Nicolas Brigaud-Robert (Playtime), Daniela Elstner (Unifrance), Joana Vicente (Sundance Institute), Eve Gabereau (Modern Films), Park Ki-Yong (Korean Film Council KOFIC) and Gianluca Guzzo (MyMovies)

On the CNC beach at the 75th Cannes Film Festival, on the morning of Thursday 19 May, independent cinema professionals worried about the preservation of creative diversity in the face of current distribution problems.

Cinema attendance has recovered in 2021 worldwide, but obviously not to the extent of the 2019 figures. Some countries, such as South Korea, are still down more than 60%, as Park Ki-Yong, president of the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), explained. According to Unifrance, while French comedies and family films are once again doing well in foreign cinemas, arthouse and festival films are struggling to find their audience, especially among older viewers. Sellers have returned to the markets, but the amounts negotiated are far from having returned to their pre-crisis level. And sales to platforms do not compensate for the drop in their turnover. "Our business is riskier, our revenues are falling, and inflation is going to be an additional problem," summarises Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, CEO of Playtime, whose company nevertheless had a good 2021.

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According to Daniela Esner, CEO of Unifrance, adapting to this new situation also involves theatres: "For the first time, I hear managers of multiplexes, such as Odéon Cinéma, talking about the importance of cinema diversity for their programming. Going to the cinema can once again become a simple and rewarding experience.” In the UK, the BFI offers £3 tickets for under-26s, and the monthly passes that are so successful in France could be developed in many countries.

As far as webcasting is concerned, the development of mini platforms specialising in art house cinema such as Modern Films in England or MyMovies in Italy is also an opportunity. Eve Gabereau, founder of Modern Films, builds on the online audience acquired during the confinements, through marketing operations, interviews with directors, and the editorialization of its content. Gianluca Guzzo, of the Italian platform MyMovies, has the same point of view: "We need to build loyalty among our audience while also offering them the chance to go out and see films in the cinema. We have some 500,000 daily visits to our site: convincing only 1% of them to go to the cinema is already an achievement." Partnerships with auteur film festivals around the world, taking care to limit the number of spectators online, is another diversification experimented with at MyMovies.

For Joana Vicente of the Sundance Institute, this new landscape remains an opportunity: "The forced migration of the Sundance Film Festival to digital over the last two years of crisis has allowed us to restart in person by using part of our online offer: this opens us up to a more diverse and younger audience."

The preservation of creative diversity (i.e. a large quantity of films produced for theatres) is a short-term issue for independent producers: the drop in financing from international sellers and national distributors is weakening film producers. But we will only see the consequences in a few years.

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(Translated from French)

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