"In these times of crisis, our system allows exhibitors to maintain social ties with their audience"
Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
Pierre-Emmanuel Le Goff • Founding partner, La Vingt-Cinquième Heure
We met up with Pierre-Emmanuel Le Goff, founding partner of La Vingt-Cinquième Heure, which has launched an innovative tool to keep movie theatres in business despite the pandemic
In the midst of the lockdown, La Vingt-Cinquième Heure has announced it is “reopening” cinemas in France. This company (whose activities range from documentary production to VR, as well as more classic distribution) has just added yet another string to its bow: e-cinema. It has started up a service for online film circulation that differs from VoD in that it offers a model that has been adapted specifically for independent movie theatres and arthouse works. We met up with founding partner Pierre-Emmanuel Le Goff to explore the subject in more depth.
Cineuropa: Tell us about what you offer.
Pierre-Emmanuel Le Goff: It’s not a platform for the circulation of works, like Netflix or Amazon. Unlike video on demand, what we offer is not a glut of content. With us, the films come out in theatres just like they did before. We talk directly to the exhibitors that are working on programming targeted at their regular clients, with specific screening schedules. We recreate a virtual movie theatre, a kind of reincarnation of the existing venue, tied to a specific location: only people located in a 5-50 km perimeter around the venue can gain access to it. Our catalogue includes recent works whose release plans were disrupted or jeopardised by the crisis.
What feedback have you been getting from the audience and from professionals?
I receive hundreds of emails asking to squeeze in screenings and to negotiate the perimeters for the geo-blocking. Partnerships are considered according to local conditions. And the enthusiastic feedback from the audience is just piling up. In this period of self-isolation, people are delighted about the reopening of the movie theatres that they used to frequent. After each showing, they can ask the directors questions, live, just like they did before. Our films move people to action – all the more so because they broach a range of social issues: Spain’s Podemos movement in En política [+see also:
film profile] by Penda Houzangbe and Jean-Gabriel Tregoat, and participatory democracy in the case of Les Grands Voisins [+see also:
film profile] by Bastien Simon. Our model can really help out independent cinemas. To those who may be wondering whether they will have to postpone the releases of films slated to come out this spring, we would say that’s not a solution: the priority is still to give the viewers what they want.
What are the profiles and the expectations of the distributors making use of your services?
The majority of them are members of the Union of Independent Distributors. For the time being, 22 companies are collaborating with us. Their films require some in-depth work – for instance, screenings followed by debates, organised with community partners. We are also working with Eurozoom, or even bigger players like StudioCanal, which holds the rights to SamSam [+see also:
film profile] by Tanguy de Kermel. This animated film managed to get a few days on release in February before being interrupted by COVID-19. It therefore obtained a special dispensation from the CNC to come out on VoD. But alongside this, StudioCanal wanted to try out our hybrid formula.
What are the expectations of the exhibitors you are collaborating with?
Economically speaking, the equation can prove to be profitable. The sharing of revenues between the distributor and the exhibitor continues to apply. The Arvor cinema in Rennes organised a screening followed by an online debate: 269 paid tickets were sold at €6 apiece, whereas its physical theatre has a capacity of 250 people. When you sell more electronic admissions than you do physical ones, that means there is a viable business model to work with. Those people who don’t normally have access to cinemas can now buy tickets: the barriers have been torn down. In these times of crisis, our system allows exhibitors to maintain social ties with their audience, to offer them moments of sharing and discussion. No VoD platform really provides this minor miracle of interaction and intellectual construction around a particular subject.
How has the CNC reacted to your proposition?
Since the widespread closure, I’ve got in touch with the CNC, but they haven’t yet replied. Three weeks later, now that I have some results to back me up, I think I’ll be able to demonstrate that the system is credible. In total, 150 theatres are accompanying us on this journey, and we have a line-up of 50 films at our disposal, so there’s a lot of potential. This could enable the sector to avoid being "on a drip" or dependent on the goodwill of government support, which is not a magic bullet. We have to be proactive: our proposition is not that of a movie theatre, strictly speaking, but it is done hand in hand with the theatres. La Vingt-Cinquième Heure calls upon the direct knowledge that the exhibitor has of its audience and of the local media. This made-to-measure approach reflects the reality of arthouse cinema. I think that VoD today is, for a large proportion of the market, a "mare’s nest". It’s true that the platforms are really taking off, but we have to analyse the figures in minute detail: the gulf between arthouse films and the big, mainstream productions is getting even bigger. Those independents that give in to temptation may end up regretting it.
(Translated from French)
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