“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.
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