July 4, 2022

Movie theaters are desperately looking for their cinephile audience

It is not yet the Titanic, but all the same, the indicators on the admissions to theaters have been sending worrying signals since the end of July. Every week, distributors and operators watch the numbers apprehensively. All recognize a certain powerlessness: they can no longer understand why such and such a film scores well in theaters, and why another collapses. Everything seems to have become unpredictable.

Where has the base of spectators rather cinephiles and of a certain age gone, on which one could count for the release of a mainstream auteur film? Would the habit taken during confinement of watching films on platforms have permanently changed practices? Taboo question that few professionals want to explore. For the moment, the drop in attendance has fluctuated between 20% and 30% since the reopening of theaters on May 19, if we compare with the figures for 2019, over the same period.

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Another persistent signal, since the start of the school year, only a few productions dominate the box office – Dune, BAC Nord, Black box, Kaamelott … -, accentuating the recurring concentration of the cinematographic market. Most Cannes films did not meet the expected audience, with a few exceptions such as Drive My Car by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. The last James Bond, To die can wait, with Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux, which comes out on October 6, will he revive attendance?

“Devastating health pass”

This disruption began with the implementation of the health pass, on July 21, in cinemas and cultural places bringing together more than fifty people, three weeks before its entry into force, on August 9, in other public places ( cafes, restaurants…). “The effect of the health pass has been devastating”, underlines Marc-Olivier Sebbag, general delegate of the National Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF), which brings together all the establishments (in total about 6,000 screens). He specifies :

“The first three weeks of July had been excellent, in the particular framework of the Cannes Film Festival which took place from July 6 to 17: we had the best Cinema Festival for five years, and attendance had returned to its 2019 level, when The Lion King filled the rooms. »

Since the end of August, he adds, “We alternate good weeks, like that of the release of Dune, and bad, with less than 20% of attendance. In short, we do not see clearly ”.

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“Every week we are in despair …”, sighs the co-president of the Syndicate of independent distributors (SDI), Etienne Ollagnier: “With the health pass, the movie theater has been identified as a potentially more dangerous place than the train. It was discriminating and the psychological impact was significant. Result: it put off the public of the 4070 years old who has less frequented theaters. We lost a lot on the way ”, notes the Jour2Fête distributor, who adds: ” I pulled out On boarding by Guillaume Brac on July 21, we hoped to make 50,000 admissions, we will not make 15,000. We were betting this year on 600,000 admissions for all the films released during the year, we will finally reach 160,000. does not allow us to amortize our costs. “

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