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Activities - 15/11/2010


Focus on Young Audiences


1 - Watershed Media Centre, Bristol 2 Ian Christie 3 - Centre Barbican, London

On the occasion of the Network Conference, we have put online a set of interviews with organisers of activities aimed at young spectators. Introduction by Ian Christie.


Cinema is arguably changing in more ways at the end of 2010 than at any time since the Talkies arrived in the late 1920s. The attraction of 3D is the most visible sign of change, closely allied to the rapid spread of digital exhibition, which in turn is making possible ‘alternative content’ events. Add to these DVD rental by post, more films to stream and download, and the impact of social media, and it’s clear that cinema owners can hardly afford to be complacent, especially about their continued appeal to young people.

What’s less clear is how traditional cinemas should be navigating this sea of change, which is why Europa Cinemas runs an annual workshop for exhibitors at the Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, focusing on the challenge of attracting young audiences. During this, we look at the identity of cinemas, their ‘brand’, and how they communicate with customers. We also discuss programming: how to market ‘difficult’ films, and what influences spectators to decide where they’ll spend their time and money – now that there’s so much competition.

We invite guest speakers, from the archives and rights holders that support Bologna as a showcase for their restorations; from print journalism and from the blogosphere that increasingly shapes film taste. This year, we took a first step towards trying to discover what cognitive science could tells us about the perception of film, and how it might be affected by all the changes under way. Professor Tom Troscianko, an experimental psychologist from Bristol University in the UK, took us on a stimulating tour of what’s known about the factors that affect our attention to screen imagery – literally what ‘makes an impression’, which was the 2010 workshop theme. Tom will be back to address the Paris Conference, along with other experts in economics and media innovation, because we believe it’s vital that Network members have access to research and new thinking that could help them adapt in a fast-changing world.

Incentivising member cinemas to make a real effort in presenting programmes for young audiences has always been a core part of Europa Cinemas’ policy. It’s one of the most important reasons why we are trusted, and funded, by the MEDIA Programme. But a significant proportion of members feel unable to engage in this work. We want to encourage more Network members to deliver, in terms of strategies aimed at the youth audience, especially in countries where there is no tradition of formal links between schools, college and cinemas.

And this could be the basis for future funding of Europa Cinemas from other sources, if members show they have the skills and imagination to devise new ways of engaging with the audiences of the future. Many Network cinemas know that their audience is ageing – which offers its own opportunities, as we discovered in last year’s Bologna workshop on ‘the challenge of generations’. It’s about much more than just putting your programme on the website, as our Bologna guests have argued. It’s really about reinventing the image of the cinema, to attract young people who certainly don’t automatically regard their local arthouse as ‘cool’, or good value.
We discover each year in Bologna that many members already do impressive work with young audiences, and we try to ‘share good practice’. Styles of work and resources differ greatly between countries: what some take for granted as normal would be a dream come true elsewhere. But what everyone faces is the certainty of increased competition for audience attention, and the challenge of working in ‘new media’ to keep the cinema experience alive. If you haven’t been part of this conversation before, tell us what you think.