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Highlights - 28/09/2009

 

Tous en salles - Stage 5: Japan!

 

At a time when the future of cinema is under discussion in Europe, we have decided to form the association “Tous en salles!” (Everyone into the film theatres) with our initial objective being to examine the situation beyond our borders and reveal the diversity among cinemas throughout the world. This journey will be our opportunity to meet new exhibitors in the Europa Cinemas network in South America and in Asia at a time when Europa Cinemas is extending its activities on these continents within the framework of MEDIA International, in particular. You will be receiving our postcards here as these meetings take place! We started our journey in Brazil on 15 March and we will end up in India in December 2009.
Wanda & Elsa
http://tousensalles.com/
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28 September - Stage 5: Japan!
New continent, new setting: we begin our tour of Asian cinemas in Japan. In Tokyo we were impressed by the architectural originality of the cinemas, but it was in Kyoto where we came across our favourite: the Kyoto Cinema. This 3-screen complex, tucked away on the upper floor of a large modern building, amidst refined restaurants and interior design stores, has been expertly run by Kamiya Masako since it opened in December 2004.
Although nothing would lead passers-by to suspect that the Cocon Karasuma building is home to a cinema, Kamiya has managed to make a name for her theatre thanks to its eclectic programming and the numerous events that it organises. In fact, although Japanese films have had the wind in their sails in recent years, Kamiya has no hesitation in programming twice as many foreign films, in order to offer audiences films that they would not otherwise see. She also gives them a chance to get involved in the programming, allowing them to vote for their top 10 films of the year. The three films that receive the most votes are then shown again at a special price. To attract more and more people to the cinema, she has implemented an attractive (if rather complex!) pricing policy, offering additional reductions, for example, to young people who come in threes, or to couples (in the broad sense) if one of them is over 50…
For us, however, it is primarily the diversity of its events that is this cinema’s real strength. Several times a year audiences have an opportunity to attend concerts, or themed evenings based around the release of a particular film. Last year, as part of an English evening organised for the release of This is England, the public were given the chance to get their hair cut by professional hairdressers! For her next major event, Kamiya wants to promote Japanese culture and is working with a Kyoto University on the creation of a work that mixes cinema with Kyogen (a traditional form of dance that is more than a thousand years old).
With her endeavours to make her cinema such a dynamic venue, Kamiya’s main goal is to get the message out more effectively to young people – a group that is hardly ever seen in Japanese arthouse cinemas. For children, she organises 2-day courses every summer to explain how a cinema works. The real focus of her efforts, however, are students, for whom she organises a different kind of course. Every year, as part of the PIA Festival (organised by the magazine PIA within Kyoto Cinema), 15 young people are chosen to take part in a 6-month programme. They start by spending two weeks at the cinema’s reception to find out how it works and then have five months to come up with a strategy that will attract young people to the next festival.
She also regularly invites university lecturers to sessions at which genre films are “deciphered”. Having seen Kamiya’s passion for raising awareness of cinema amongst young people, it did not come as a huge surprise to us to learn that she was herself a lecturer at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. A lecturer who only regrets one thing: that cinema is not better integrated into the Japanese education system.  

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21 July - Stage 3: Bolivia!
During the last Europa Cinemas Conference, held in Paris, we met a Bolivian exhibitor, Daniel Rico. He kindly invited us to call in and see his cinema when we arrived in La Paz. So we did! Here, then, is our third postcard, direct from the Cine Teatro Municipal 6 de Agosto.
As you walk down Avenue 6 de Agosto from the centre of La Paz, it’s difficult to miss the building’s imposing “art deco” façade… It’s also difficult to identify it as a cinema! There’s not a poster in sight and the name is displayed discreetly. It’s almost as if this place, with its rich history, no longer needs to announce itself to the people of La Paz.
In fact, the first thing that Daniel tells us about his cinema is its history and the important role it has played in the city since it opened at the beginning of the 1950s. In 2000, therefore, when the cinema almost had to close its doors, the city council of La Paz decided to buy it in order to keep this symbolic venue running. Following major restoration work, the Cine Municipal 6 de Agosto (re)opened its doors in 2008. The overhaul focused both on the cinema’s appearance and its approach: it underwent a change of constitution, a change of programming and a change of decor! Boosted by this new backdrop for its activities, the task now facing the Cine 6 de Agosto is to convey its new identity. 
Erika Joffre, Daniel’s young and dynamic colleague, is working towards this goal through an approach that has been made possible thanks to the public financing of the cinema. With programming that gives pride of place to South American and, in particular, Bolivian films (60% of films shown), the Cine 6 de Agosto is establishing itself as a committed cinema, in a city where even the Film Archive gives commercial films a 40% share in its programming. And the cinema’s cultural offering does not stop there: it organises chocolate tastings for Mother’s Day, film-directing workshops, themed evenings based around film cycles, and even a theatre season. The Cine 6 de Agosto sees itself as a genuine alternative cultural centre. In addition to its varied programme of events, the cinema offers a large number of free screenings (60%) and has developed special links with the city’s schools and clubs. In fact, its principal mission continues to be to educate the public in the area of film and to reawaken people’s desire to go to the cinema in the face of the significant problem of piracy in Bolivia.
The need for the Cine 6 de Agosto to have a strong identity is all the greater as it is located in a district with no shortage of cinemas: the Bolivian Film Archive is just a stone’s throw away and, in a few months’ time, a new 18-screen multiplex will be opening its doors at the bottom of the road! A sign that Bolivians are finding their way back to the cinema?
One thing is sure: the Cine 6 de Agosto is giving them every reason to do so! The students taking part in the film-directing workshop, who swarmed into the cinema’s café on the day of our visit, would certainly agree… 
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18 June - Stage 2: Argentina!
If you ask a porteño (inhabitant of Buenos Aires) where to go and see a good European film, you are sure to get the following response: the Arteplex! The cinema to be honoured in this second postcard really has made its mark and we took advantage of our time in Buenos Aires to meet Nathalia Duch and Karina Pirillo, schedulers for the Arteplex cinemas.
The Arteplex came about in 2001 following what was a disastrous decade for arthouse cinemas in Argentina. Alberto Kipnis and Marcelo Morales, two leading figures of the arthouse cinema scene in Argentina, came together to give a boost to this kind of film theatre and to offer Argentine audiences an alternative to the multiplexes. Their idea: to remind the audience that, as well as being entertainment, cinema is an art form that makes people think. They have managed to implement this idea through the opening of their three complexes: the Arteplex Caballito (2 theatres, 360 seats in total), on the site of a former Alberto Kipnis cinema, the Ciné Lyon, in March 2001; followed in April 2005 by the Arteplex Belgrano (4 theatres, 1,400 seats in total); then the Arteplex Centro (3 theatres, 450 seats in total) in January 2007. These cinemas stand out from the competition thanks to their quality - and at times risqué - programming, the presence of a themed bar, acting as a call to debate between members of the audience before or after the films, and, what is more of a rarity, a DVD store to expand the range of films made available to the public.
In order to guide the public, every week each of these three complexes publishes a very full programme, comprising film synopses, reviews, words from the director (where possible), all introduced by a certain catch phrase, to which the editorial team pays particular attention. Thanks to the commitment and motivation of the exhibitors at the Arteplex, these 3 cinemas currently form Argentina’s number 1 network of arthouse cinemas.
Paradoxically (or not!), Argentina’s number 1 network of arthouse cinemas is 85% European! Moreover, the schedulers at the Arteplex have admitted to us that this figure would easily reach 100% if it were just down to them. But the INCAA (Instituto Nacional de Cine et Artes Audiovisuales) monitors and imposes quotas for national films in all cinemas across the country. It goes without saying that in the Arteplex, film screenings are in the original version, but what is rather more unusual, the majority are played on DVD. However, the audiences do not seem to mind. Very loyal and enthusiastic, they regard European cinema as an “otro tipo de cine” and the Arteplex as a cinema apart.
Another basic characteristic of the audiences at the Arteplex: they are exclusively porteño. Indeed, Argentina’s number 1 network of arthouse cinemas has yet to extend beyond the frontiers of the capital. This tends to point to the fact that access to quality cinema is still largely concentrated in Argentina. This is also the reason why the INCAA has been developing its own cinema network since 2002, the Espacios INCAA, to promote cinema access in the provinces.
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15 May - Stage 1: Brazil!
So, here we are then in Rio de Janeiro, at the Estação Botafogo, in the company of Ilda Santiago, director of the Estação Cinema group. Ilda, very much a Francophile, told us the history of her film theatres (in French, please!).
A brief look back:
1985, the cineclubs in Brazil are more active than ever and realise the need to develop better projection conditions.
1985, at the exit of the Botafogo metro station, a small genre cinema (not to say porno), squeezed into the back of a narrow shopping arcade between alteration studios and shoe shiners, falls into a state of neglect.
The ideal opportunity for Ilda and her friends from the Bichiga cineclub to realise their projects!
This is how the Estação Botafogo (literally “station Botafogo”) was born which gave its name to the group.
Today, the Estação group has eleven cinemas in Brazil, including nine in Rio, and among these nine cinemas, the largest in Rio, the Odeon with 780 comfy seats. The group is also involved in the distribution and organises the Rio Film Festival.
But let us return to the cinema we are visiting today, the Estação Botafogo. Since 1985, it has expanded and it now has three film theatres, all equipped with digital and 35mm, a café and a video rental store. Opposite, the group has opened another complex, the Espaço Botafogo, also comprising three film theatres, a bookstore and a vibrant social scene centred around the bar. Ilda told us she was the first to have developed this, now commonplace, concept of the vibrant social scene in Brazilian street cinemas (cinemas de rua).
The Estação screens films d’auteur and Ilda attaches great importance to European cinema. Moreover, it is a French film Jonah Who Will Be 25 In The Year 2000 directed by Alain Tanner, which was shown to celebrate the inauguration of the cinema. During our visit, half the films on the bill were European (Katyn, The Class, Rumba, Happy go Lucky, Waltz with Bashir).
Ilda regards the audiences in her cinemas as loyal but ageing. This is why for the past ten years she has been focusing her efforts on younger people, notably working with the schools in Rio and the favelas, in the context of her own cinemas and the Rio Festival. Beyond the future of her own theatres, it is the future of the cinema as such which preoccupies Ilda and which motivates her. In fact, she wonders if “the respect for cinema will endure and what is to become of the collective experience.”
Nevertheless, in Brazil, we have been able to see initiatives, which restore the appetite for going out to the movies, and interesting responses to the development of new technologies. In this regard, we wish to talk about the Moviemobz, concept created by Rain, supplier of digital equipment to Brazilian arthouse cinemas. Moviemobz is a new way of going out to the movies: cinema on demand. The public choose the films they want to see at the cinema on the Internet at a time that suits. The selection is via a large catalogue based on content (recent films, retrospectives, as well as alternative contents such as Operas) and specific venue. The film theatres in the Estação group have been taking part in Moviemobz for the past eight months now and are very pleased with the results so far.
Moreover, Ilda kindly invited us to see the Opera The Sleepwalker by Bellini in cinema number 1 of the Estação Botafogo. An experience, which we can wholeheartedly recommend!

Wanda & Elsa

http://tousensalles.com/
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