European art houses brace for energy price shock

The lasting effects of the pandemic and soaring energy prices in Europe mean continued difficulties for art house cinemas in Europe, but some cinema chains are finding new ways to survive and thrive, by especially when movies work their magic.

This is what emerges from the discussion at the Zurich summit between Christian Bräuer, managing director of Berlin-based Yorck Kinogruppe; David Laub, head of acquisitions and distribution at A24, based in New York; Stephanie Candinas, co-manager of the Arthouse Commercio Movie AG in Zurich; and Kirsten Figeroid of Sierra/Affinity.

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“The short-term outlook is for gas prices – which threaten us the most,” Bräuer said. “In Europe, most theaters have survived [the pandemic] through public support. Without public support, many small theaters, art house theaters, would have had to close.

The energy crisis could pose a much bigger threat, however, as cinemas face gas prices that have increased fivefold, which many smaller operators will not be able to afford.

Bräuer nevertheless expressed his optimism. “A lot of people have worked very hard to preserve movie theaters and help them survive. And of course, we need their support right now. Without them, we have no chance. Or maybe some cinemas will have to close because they can’t afford their energy prices. »

The energy crisis has exacerbated an already delicate situation.

“Of course, the market has changed a lot. Two long confinements, collapsing windows, etc. – it is beyond anything we could have imagined before. But I believe that curation is the key, especially since there is more and more audiovisual content.

Art house cinemas in particular can benefit from an established brand, he added.

Despite the proliferation and consumption of internet offerings, even among the elderly, there remains “a need for analog space”, Bräuer pointed out. “That’s our unique selling point.”

Indeed, Bräuer argued that cinema appeals to a much more fundamental human instinct than one can have with other forms of digital entertainment.

“Society has changed, our market has completely changed. But what hasn’t changed is the cinematic experience itself. We always sell strangers in a dark space watching movies and flickering lights – that’s the desire for a campfire.

To meet the challenges of attracting young moviegoers, Bräuer said cinemas need to brand and communicate about movies with digital natives “in their own language”.

“There are a lot of changes, but you have to be careful: it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. … With an older audience, of course we have to work harder to bring them back. We won’t bring them all back, I’m sure. But I’m even more optimistic for the younger generation because it’s our future.

In addition to an extensive online presence, including a guest service that offers movie recommendations by phone or email, Yorck also offers a one-year subscription service that costs €19.90 (19. $28) per month, allowing customers to see as many movies as they want. , when they want, explained Bräuer.

Candinas noted that Arthouse Commercio offers similar services in an effort to build its brand and build community, in part by also bringing in filmmakers to discuss their films with audiences.

Laub offered an optimistic assessment, saying the success of big mainstream films bodes well for smaller films as well.

“As art house films are struggling and specialty distribution is in a different place than it was pre-pandemic, I think the general trend we’re seeing is people are going back to the cinema and the success of the biggest films and blockbusters is a good thing – it feels like a good thing for the cinema industry in general.

Laub added that people obviously still care about the cinematic experience, otherwise theaters wouldn’t have survived the COVID-19 crisis.

“The pandemic was the perfect excuse to get rid of movie theaters and the theater experience, and it didn’t happen. And people are delighted to be at the cinema.

Laub pointed to the extraordinary success of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s indie hit “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which brought young viewers in droves to art house cinemas, pointing out that while it’s This is a “more creative and different” film than the standard comic book films, it has a similar appeal while being an original and unique film.

Figeroid noted that the pandemic and the current political situation in this world has certainly impacted the films that Sierra/Affinity seeks to produce and fund.

“Two different things: either a feel-good experience or an absolute escape is what will work best right now. Trying to tell a depressing, dark, warlike story – we see that in the news all the time We don’t need more of it in our entertainment.

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