Storified by cineuropa.org · Tue, Sep 25 2012 14:32:32
An arthouse exhibitor has to know the audience
11/09/2012 – The secret of success of a thriving arthouse cinema is that the exhitor has to know what kind films, events, marketing and service the audience wants. During the International Venice Film Festival the CICAE (Confédération internationale des cinémas d‘art et d‘essai) invited upcoming art cinemas directors and programmers to the 9th European summer academy on the campus-island of San Servolo.
The audience development was one of the key issues which was put on the agenda for the young professionals. „As an arthouse exhibitor you have to force yourself to think five years ahead“, stresses Raymond Walravens, director of he Rialto Cinema in Amsterdam. „The biggest fault is standstill. If I do an investment I have to know where I wanna be in five years.“ To achieve these goals it is important to do research with the audience. An analysis can help to find out what kind of programme and communication tools the cinemagoers prefer. Only the audience can answer if there is still a need for posters or not. „The older generation 50+ loves little booklets with the programme information.“ For the younger film fans it might be essential to create a new website in which Facebook and Twitter are integrated.
„Ask your audience what it likes“, underlines Walravens who has been able to build up a continuously relationship to the visitors of the Rialto Cinema. As a reward for filling out the research questionnaire, the cinemagoers get a complimentary coffee. If they send back the online form, they even receive a ticket for free. The analysis canl also bare the average age of the audience. „Since the 1980‘s the arthouse audience is growning older“, outlines the exhibitor. To attract the younger audience, the Rialto Cinema started to organize a film screening that is followed by a party with a DJ.
An exhibitor also has to know the potential audience. In the multi-cultural city Amsterdam with 180 various nationalities, the Rialto Cinema launched a World Cinema festival that takes place open-air at the weekend. The special focus with certain country programmes attracts the respective communities. For the marketing and communication with these target groups the exhibitor asks people from these groups for their advice. Little changes as adding the colors of Brazil to the poster that promotes the Brazilian cinema can sometimes have a tremendous effect.
One of the biggest coups of the Dutch arthouse cinema is the introduction of the cinephile card that was launched to keep up with the strong competition of Pathé in the Dutch arthouse sector. For a subscription fee of 18 Euro per month the cinemaniacs can see as many films as they want in 13 cinemas in Amsterdam. „Meanwhile we have about 6.000 cinephile cardholders in Amsterdam“, concludes Walravens. This „All you can see“-concept pays off. „The average attendance amounts to 3 to 4 visits per month.“
„You have to know the audience for every film you start“, emphasizes Catherine des Forges, director of the Independent Cinema Office (ICO), the national organization for the development and support of independent film exhibition in the UK. Since ICO was founded in 2003, the institution has trained over 1.000 professionals from 635 organizations. For upcoming exhibitors the ICO has developed the guide „How to start a local cinema“ which covers all of the aspects that need to be considered from suitable buildings to technical considerations, to costs, programming, marketing, staffing and finding an audience.
From August 27 to September 2, the “Art Cinema = Action + Management” training provided the next generation of art cinemas directors with a comprehensive inside look in the fields of exhibition, distribution, digitization, technologies and new economical models. A total of 40 film and cinema experts were taken on to impart their expertise to 15 executives and 35 juniors from 26 countries.