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INDUSTRY / MARKET Europe

Moving Docs releases its report on documentary audiences in Europe

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- Key findings reveal a need for more documentaries on topics that interest young people, and for the increased availability of this content in cinemas outside urban centres

Moving Docs releases its report on documentary audiences in Europe
Jean-Marc Barr taking part in a Q&A for the documentary Dolphin Man

Moving Docs, a screening partnership that enables a selection of the best European documentaries to cross borders and reach new audiences, has published the findings of its survey entitled “Understanding Documentary Film Audiences in Europe" (see the news). Written by Dr Huw D Jones (read our interview), the survey aimed to find out who watches documentaries and where, what kind of impact they have, and how we can encourage people to watch more docs.

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As the survey was carried out by Doc Lounge Sweden, Spain’s Docs Barcelona, IceDocs, Rise and Shine Cinema Berlin, CineDoc Greece, the Thessaloniki Film Festival, Europa Cinemas and Panteion University, a high proportion of the 1,500 respondents lived in Spain, Greece and Iceland. Most of them (63%) were women, aged 25-54, graduates, employed, earning over €20,000 per year, urban dwellers, and media professionals or education, social services or healthcare workers.

The results indicate that the survey predominantly reached people already interested in this particular form: almost three-quarters said they watched six or more documentaries per year, which is three times more than the average EU citizen.

34- to 54-year-olds were the most likely to watch documentaries regularly, while 16- to 24-year-olds were the least likely, but this latter age group was also the one that was most often affected by watching a documentary, particularly in terms of encouraging them to change their lifestyle or behaviour, or take action.

It turns out that the most impactful films were the ones on extraordinary individuals (eg, The Salt of the Earth [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), the problems of modern society (eg, The Swedish Theory of Love), the exploitation of animals (eg, Earthlings), the legacy of war or genocide (eg, The Act of Killing [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), strong women (eg, In Search… [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), or artists or musicians (eg, Searching for Sugar Man [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
).

The vast majority of respondents cited the doc's subject matter as the main factor in deciding whether or not to watch it, followed by the director, its relevance to them personally, and the film’s reviews, which were particularly key for young people. Still, certain other factors can make a difference for a particular title: awards, the trailer/poster and the film’s look/sound were key to the appeal of Honeyland [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara K…
interview: Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir S…
film profile
]
, for instance.

When it comes to where audiences watch this kind of content, VoD is the most popular, followed by TV. About half of the respondents often stream or download six documentaries or more per year. Just under one-third often watch documentaries at film festivals, and one-fifth often do so in cinemas.

One of the main goals of the survey was to find out what would encourage more theatrical documentary viewing, and almost half of the respondents would watch more documentaries in cinemas if there were more of them on topics that interested them. Having more documentaries available in local cinemas and more information about the latest releases were also key factors.

The report concludes that young people, non-graduates and non-urban dwellers are less likely to watch documentaries, even though they have the most to gain from this viewing experience, and that therefore it is important to ensure there are more films on topics that interest these groups and that there are more documentaries available in cinemas outside urban centres.

The full report can be found here.

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