“We all have a good reason to go to the cinema.” That is the message of a new French advert that urges the country’s citizens to fall back in love with the “7th Art.” Cinema attendance has not recovered since the pandemic in France. While this makes it far from unique from a European perspective, this has led to existentialist angst and soul searching in the nation that prides itself as the inventors of cinema; where more than just commerce, “cinema” is seen as a way of life.
In the advert the current French minister of culture, Rima Abdul Malak, is seen in her office being “harassed” by the former French Minister of Culture Jack Lang. In text messages, letters and books she is harangued by the stalwart of French culture, who served as her predecessor between 1981 to 1986, and again from 1988 to 1993. He was later Minister of Education, thus a defender of all things French, short of baguettes, berets and onion soups. Ms. Malak finally decides she has had enough and goes to the cinema, “To escape Jack Lang’s messages,” as a sign on the door to the cinema auditorium informs us. But who ends up sitting next to her? Why, it’s Monsieur Lang himself! All is good and they end up enjoying the (presumably French) film together.
The humorous advert plays on previous campaigns to get people off “le couch” and back into the dark room by listing good reasons to get away to the cinema:
For emotions on a big scale
To keep the kids busy
To see all the films and then talk about them
To “hook up” (romantically)
To laugh and cry in the dark
Ms. Malak posted the video on her Twitter feed and it has been universally well received. Will it help to get the French to come back to the cinema? There have been fierce debates about whether it is high ticket prices and the cost-of-living crisis that is the main culprit for the persistent no-show of the French. What makes it more galling for the gaulles is that other nations that have a strong domestic film industry, notably Japan, Korea and India, have seen cinema audiences return close to pre-Covid levels in the last few months. But not France.
Equally distressing has been the French will-it / won’t-it saga about whether Disney and Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” would skip cinemas in France altogether and go straight to streaming in their country alone. France recently came up with a shorter mandatory release window, but it still means that “Black Panther 2” will not be able to appear on Disney+ until early of 2024, 15 months after it opened in French cinemas. Disney finally relented and agreed that the film will have a big screen outing in France, but also put the French authorities on notice that this will not automatically be the case for future Disney/Marvel titles. Nobody thinks that Netflix’s “Glass Onion: a Knives Out Mystery” will be sleuthing it in a CGR or Pathe cinema as part of its global 600-strong cinema release.
“Together, let’s support our cinemas, and experience the cinema on the big screen!” Ms. Malek wrote on her Twitter feed as she shared the video. A statement from the culture minister’s office to AFP said: “Rima Abdul Malak was keen to support the campaign by sharing her good reason for going to the cinema in a video, with a humorous wink and with the self-deprecating help of Jack Lang.” If French politicians who do not share political colours can unite – Mr. Lang served under the socialist President François Mitterrand while Ms. Malik reports to the centrist President Macron – we have to hope French politicians and Hollywood studios can also come together for the sake of cinema enjoyment. We’re not asking for a “hook up” – just a friendly sharing of popcorn will do.
The latest European countries to announce promotional days for cinemas are The Netherlands and Poland. The Dutch Cinemaniaaa! will be held over three days from Wednesday until Friday 2-4 November. In Poland the Cinema Festival (Swieto Kina) is taking place on Sunday 30 October. In addition there is European Cinema Night 5-9 December. With previously mainly France and Spain have held regular annual cinema festivals, it seems that most of Europe is now embracing the concept.
Cinemaniaaa! will see cinema tickets priced at EUR €6 for three days for all regular screenings, with many Dutch cinema chains also including their premium formats (IMAX, Dolby Cinema, 4DX, etc.). The promotion is supported with a marketing campaign developed by Stichting Nationale Bioscoopbon, with input from the Dutch cinema trade body NVBF. It includes both social media and three radio commercials.
“The action is a necessity,” said NVBF director Gulian Nolthenius. “Research has shown that some of the visitors from before COVID-19 have not yet found their way back to the cinema or movie theater. With the Cinemaniaaa! promotion we bring attention to a visit to a cinema or movie theater again at a friendly price. It’s a campaign that was in high demand from the industry.”
Poland’s Cinema Festival will see one day of tickets priced at PLZ 10 (USD $2.11). The country’s three big cinema chains, Multikino, Cinema City, Helios, are all participating, as are smaller chains and arthouse cinemas. It will be an occasion to see several major local releases. Like much of the rest of Europe, Poland has seen a slump in attendance since the pandemic and the hope is that the Cinema Festival will reignite the appetite.
Finally ‘European Cinema Night – Sharing stories we love’ will offer five days of free film screenings 6-10 December. The initiative by Creative Europe MEDIA – the EU programme supporting the European audiovisual sector – is the fourth year and “aims at bringing Europe closer to its citizens while celebrating together the richness of the European film culture.” It will have 80 participating venues within the Europa Cinema network across Europe, up from 34 in 2018, 54 in 2019 and 67 in 2020, with no event held last year due to the pandemic.
VOX Cinemas has become the world’s first cinema to be awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4.1 O+M (Operations + Maintenance) Existing Interiors in recognition of its outstanding efforts in the application of sustainability standards. Its 20-screen cinema at City Centre Mirdif earned a gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and is the only cinema in the MENA region to receive the coveted environmental achievement, which aligns with Majid Al Futtaim’s company-wide sustainability strategy “Dare Today, Change Tomorrow.”
LEED, developed by USGBC, is the most widely used green-building rating system in the world and is a globally recognised symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. Deepthy K.B., Regional Director of Market Development at GBCI Middle East, presented the LEED v4.1 O+M Existing Interiors certificate to Majid Al Futtaim Leisure, Entertainment & Cinemas and congratulated the group for its consistent commitment towards the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative.
IMAX Corporation and Saudi Cinema Company, operating as AMC Cinemas announced plans to further expand their longstanding partnership with an agreement for six new, state-of-the-art IMAX with Laser systems in key entertainment complexes throughout Saudi Arabia. IMAX and AMC Cinemas already have three locations in operation in the country, and the new deal will grow their partnership to a planned 18 screens in 12 cities across the country.
Saudi Arabia continues to drive strong box office growth and capture a greater share of the global market, growing to nearly $240 million in 2021. Saudi Arabia was a top ten global market for IMAX in terms of box office last year, with a per screen average of more than $1 million annually. The company grew its footprint of open theatres from two to seven since the beginning of 2020, and its Saudi network routinely captures more than 15% of opening box office on major Hollywood releases, despite accounting for less than 6% of overall screens in the market.
US cinema advertising major National CineMedia (NCM) has filed a lawsuit against Regal Cinemas, alleging that it is seeking to breach its exclusive deal under the guise of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganisation. Regal is accused of wanting to rewrite the agreement on more favourable terms, take the advertising operation in-house or use a competitor’s services. NCM was formed as a partnership between Regal and two other cinema chains. Since 2007 it has been paid around USD $1.3 billion in total, with payments averaging USD $58 million annually between 2015 and 2019.
National Cinemedia claims that Regal has “weaponized the bankruptcy process by opportunistically using it as a sword” to “breach long-standing exclusivity, non-competition, non-negotiation, and confidentiality rights.” It says that Regal’s proposed violation of the contract, if permitted by the bankruptcy court, will result in more than $1 billion in damages.
Under the ongoing bankruptcy process (explored in detail here, here and here), Cineworld Cinemas is seeking favourable terms of landlords, vendors and other creditors that it owes money to. NCM is different in that it is the one who pays money to Regal, but clearly not enough to the liking of Cineworld. According to the lawsuit, filed in Texas federal court:
“Mooky Greidinger, the CEO of Cineworld, reportedly made a presentation to prepetition lenders, in which he stated that the Debtors would pursue one of three options regarding screen advertising: (A) First, Regal could impose on NCM terms more favorable to Regal. (B) Second, Regal could switch to a competitor, Screenvision, or another third party. (C) Third, Regal could provide in-house at Regal some or all of the services NCM currently provides (as Regal does in the United Kingdom and “rest-of-world” regions).”
Cineworld in its turn has moved for permission to void its agreement with National CineMedia, arguing that changes in the industry landscape, such as the pandemic and rise of streaming, has forced it to “reimagine certain revenue streams.”
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