The latest issue of the journal Posit if contains a solid dossier on the state of distribution and theatrical exploitation in our country. In this area, as in all other cultural industries, digital technology has brought about transformations and this is not over.
First of all, an observation: since the end of 2013, all cinemas in France have been digitized including small rural cinemas, generally supported by local authorities. It is a great success, to which the CNC has largely contributed with financial and technical assistance. It was, however, a sizeable challenge, as the necessary investments were heavy. We have, in fact, the beautiful park of cinemas and screens in Europe, with 2,000 cinemas for 5,600 screens (Germany has only 1,630 and the United Kingdom, 743). Of this total, the 191 multiplexes alone represent 60% of entries. Now watch free movies online and find the right solutions there.
Digital is obviously a factor of flexibility.
In the old distribution economy, each additional silver print of a film added to its production costs. Today, the printing costs are low. And the operator receives it in the form of files. Several advantages: while some exhibitors had to wait for their copy from another room, today loading is done in one click. The films in vo were distinct from films in vf It was, therefore, necessary two reels to the operator who wanted to present the two versions. Today, the operator has the choice of one or the other, depending on the expectations of the public.
But this flexibility has repercussions on the programming:
The films, shown each week, have much less time than before to find their audience. Indeed, the exhibitors, who often committed in the past to three-week programs, do not hesitate today to withdraw a film from the poster after one if the admissions are not at the expected level. And this accelerated rotation is forcing distributors who want to support their productions to increase promotion budgets. In return, digital makes it possible to exploit a film that has found a smaller audience for a longer period of time, in specific time slots, in addition to another film.
This system follows the behavior of the public, which consumes cinema, as it consumes music in a frantic way, one work chasing the other. In the 1960s, a film achieved ¾ of its admissions in three months; today is three weeks. As written in Positif, Frédéric Forest, we are in a flow logic (twelve new films on average per week) and no longer stock. And that does not promote cinephilia. The best proof is the concentration of success on a small number of films. If 500 new titles were offered to the public last year, only 20 of them won 40% of admissions. Half of the least viewed films made only 1% of tickets. As in music again, the flexibility of programming created by digital technology favors the concentration of the public on a few blockbusters. Success creates success.
Where is the diversity that we are trying to encourage?
In a recent study, the Génération Libre think tank shows that revenues from the online offer continue to increase. Suddenly, some are starting to wonder if theatrical release should remain the only outlet that all films should aim for. Some of them could directly access other media – DVDs or Video on Demand, be put online on distribution platforms. Some of these platforms are already showing American films that have never been released in theaters with us. But that risks raising the question of the chronology of the media. Other films, designed for television channels and financed by them could be spared theatrical releases which only clog the sector.
Are cinema audiences aging?
Do young people prefer home screens? It is sometimes said, but this is not the opinion of the president of the CNC. According to Frédérique Bredin, 20-24 year olds have found their way back to the theaters they frequent on average 6 times a year. More than the rest of the population. The unlimited access card formula has undoubtedly made it possible to retain a new generation of moviegoers who we can hope will remain faithful to the cinema for the rest of their lives.