The Deauville gathering, which is the biggest annual convention for French cinema operators, took place from 19 to 22 September in Normandy. Representatives from the French film sector took part in a week of internal and public discussions on the future of the national cinema industry and how best to answer current opportunities and challenges faced by the sector. In addition to exhibitors of all sizes and locations from across the country, the event also brought together French distributors, producers, manufacturers, service providers as well as representatives from national cinema authorities and the French Ministry of Culture.
The first day of the convention involved a series of internal debates specific to the different French cinema exhibition categories, with small/medium/large cinema companies meeting together to discuss their specific concerns. Representatives from each working group presented key outtakes from these meetings, which tended to be in line with each other and mostly focused on challenges related to the ongoing energy crisis, media chronology debates in France, film programming, returning audiences and the lack of successful, quality titles between August and November. Another topic mentioned by all was related to film education, which cinema operators felt should be further supported at national level, as it remains logistically challenging for exhibitors and educators alike to bring students to the cinema across the country.
This was followed by a series of quickfire sessions, the first one of which focused on the Pass Culture, a national initiative from the French Government allowing all citizens aged between 15 and 18 to benefit from a yearly amount that can be spent on cultural activities, including cinema-going. During the first 8 months of 2022 alone, over 2.5 million cinema tickets were sold via the app, with cinema-going being the most sought-after activity by users after books. Following presentations lookedinto the topic of energy prices and sustainability, accessibility for cinema-goers and staff members, and ensuring the attractivity of the cinema industry on the job market.
On energy, the French cinema federation (FNCF) presented a “sobriety chart”, providing cinema operators with a practical list of key actions enabling them to reduce they energy bill in the coming months and ensure that they respect the national objective of reducing consumptions by 10% towards the end of the year. We learned about the difficult energy contract negotiations that most exhibitors were currently facing, with huge increases expected in the coming weeks– as high as €25k per month for a 4-screen cinema. Speakers insisted that investment in new, sustainable technologies and solutions should not be put aside. French authorities announced in the following days a range of measures aimed at answering these various concerns from the sector, with additional schemes expected in the near future.
The following day included a wide-ranging panel on “solutions to reconquer audiences”, moderated by UNIC CEO Laura Houlgatte. While cinema-goers have returned in France, with great box office results in late Spring and early Summer in particular, bolstered by global hits such as Top Gun: Maverick, they have slowed down more recently. Aurélien Bosc (Les Cinémas Pathé Gaumont), Marie-Christine Desandré (Loft Cinémas and Cinea Cinémas), Stéphane Libs (Cinémas Star), David Scantamburlo (CGR Cinémas), Christophe Courtois (SND), Olivier Snanoudj (Warner Bros.) and Julien Marcel (The BoxOffice Company and AlloCiné) shared their views and engaged with the on how to return to pre-pandemic admission levels. The conversation focused mostly on the need for high-quality local content, better film promotion, efficient use of digital marketing tools such as Tik Tok and Instagram, a broad rethinking of programming strategies and the need to act on cinema ticket price perception. The panel was intersected by a series of short presentations and interventions, including from UNIC President and UK Cinema Association CEO Phil Clapp, who gave an overview of audience engagement initiatives from around Europe.
The afternoon session was dedicated to national film policies and support mechanisms, with the French cinema centre CNC engaging with cinema operators in the room on a broad range of topics including but not limited to the energy crisis, film education, investment in new technology, media chronology and programming requirements. This open conversation was introduced by an intervention from the French Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, who shared her belief in the theatrical experience and the economic, social and cultural value of cinema-going.
The conference was capped by a beautiful homage to the world famous and incredibly successful French directors Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache – mostly known for their French, European and global blockbuster Intouchables.
The final day of the Congress, the traditional distributors’ day, allowed French cinema operators to watch over 360 film trailers, showcasing most of the upcoming film titles that will amaze audiences for the months to come.