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Highlights - 07/12/2016
Young Audience and Cinema: A Review of the Cinémas 93 Professional Days
Cinémas 93 held its 4th Journées Professionnelles forum at Ciné 104 in Pantin between November 16 and 18. Established as an association in 1996, Cinémas 93 is a federation of 23 cinemas (public and community-run) in Seine-Saint-Denis, a district on the north-eastern outskirts of Paris. The three days of meetings and discussion were organised in collaboration with Les Sœurs Lumière. The focus of the event was the challenges involved in disseminating films to young audiences and in film and moving images education.
The three-day programme covered cultural awareness in the early years, the role of educators and families, cinema initiatives aimed at teenagers and distributing classic films at the cinema in the Internet age. Europa Cinemas took part in the first two discussions which included contributions from two of the network's exhibitors who are particularly active on the Young Audience front: Florian Deleporte from Studio des Ursulines, Paris and Sylvain Chevreton from Cinéma Le Méliès, Saint-Etienne.
Three Cinema Initiatives for Teenagers
The most difficult challenge that film exhibitors face is getting teenage audiences to visit arthouse cinemas. Three initiatives targeting teenagers and schoolchildren were showcased at a round table. The first of these was the "Ambassadeurs Lycéens" [high school student ambassadors], an initiative set up by Cinéma le Méliès in Saint-Etienne. (Sylvain Chevreton).
In 2012, the Rhône-Alpes region launched a call for proposals to improve use of its Carte M’ra - a cultural pass for secondary school students and apprentices. Cinéma le Méliès came up with the idea of selecting two students per school at the beginning of the academic year (based on applications) and giving them one year's free admission to the cinema. In exchange, the students agreed to carry out activities to promote pre-selected films in their schools or colleges. Librarians in each establishment had an essential information role to play, being in contact with both pupils and teachers.
The students selected had carte blanche in how they encouraged classmates to use their M'ra passes at Le Méliès Cinema (1 euro/seat) during the year. Activities included broadcasting trailers on televisions in the school, designing flyers and posters, and web-radio events. Most recently, at a preview, the documentary Swagger was nominated favourite film for November. The students then organised and facilitated a session with the film's producer, at the cinema, in the week of its release in France.
The initiative is a success and has sparked similar action both in France and abroad as Sylvain Chevreton has travelled and showcased the project with exhibitor members of Europa Cinemas several times. There is always room for improvement and the challenge of reaching parents and raising their awareness still remains. However, the links formed with the students involved and an increased effort in the area of school screenings are two clear beneficial outcomes.
Next, Gihane Besse from the Théâtre et Cinéma du Garde-Chasse aux Lilas, in the Paris suburbs, gave a presentation on "Paroles d’Ados" [teenagers' words], a joint initiative with the local authority Youth Service and the Cultural Diversity Observatory.
Three times a year, two groups of teenagers (12/15 years) each choose a film from a selection, based on a trailer or simply the soundtrack of the trailer. The film The Finishers was chosen most recently. The Youth Service then screens the film at the cinema for classes from 3 or 4 towns and a professional facilitates a discussion afterwards.
The final presentation was from two "real teenagers" who talked about their involvement in the "Toutes les clés pour créer un ciné-club" [The Keys to Create a Film Club] initiative. Led by the Ile-de-France authorities, this initiative helped students set up film clubs in their schools or colleges and began with a five-day training programme at Forum des Images, in Paris, during the autumn holidays. The young people chosen received one year's free entry to the Forum.
As the two examples presented showed, the choice of film for the first screening was crucial (mainstream enough to attract an audience but powerful enough to make an impression). Other important factors were programming over the course of the year, turning screenings into an event (by providing food or a discussion suited to the students' educational level) and giving viewers the impression (!) that they, in some way, had a choice over future films. In both cases, the success of the approach was borne out by a constant increase in audience numbers.
Cultural Awareness in the Early Years: The Status and Role of the Adult
An earlier session discussed the role of digital media in family life and for early childhood educators. Three innovative cultural outreach projects were showcased, followed by a debate with the public facilitated by Xavier Grizon, head of educational initiatives at Cinemas 93.
Françoise Anger and Thierry Dilger from Mixage Fou gave a presentation on Ciné-Bulle, a shared interactive tool for children aged 3 to 6 years.
Mixage Fou is a not-for-profit organisation. Its primary focus is running educational workshops that promote interaction, creativity and the evocative and immersive power of the world of sound. Ciné-Bulle is a sound-based interactive workshop. Children watch a short film of about 10 minutes and are then stimulated to interact with the screen by handling a giant balloon that moves the film's protagonists around on the screen and creates sound effects.
Inside the transparent ball, there is a sensory device - a type of accelerometer - connected to an app. The device recognises when the ball moves or is tapped and progresses the story of the film on the cinema screen.
The aim is to encourage small children to interact with the screen and to add a playful dimension to screenings. The activity provides children with a shared experience with their friends in which a physical object enhances the visual and audio experience.
The project was launched at the Magic Cinema in Bobigny (suburb to the north-east of Paris) after six months of development and is being rolled out at other cinemas in the Paris district. Mixage Fou plans to develop events with the ball in cinemas further, offering enhanced audio interaction whereby the public can play an active role and create a sound montage.
Laura Cattabianchi and Élise Schweisguth, resource centre managers at the Gaîté Lyrique, showcased the Appli'quons-nous! [Let's Try] workshop for children aged 5 and above which is part of the cinema's "Capitaine Futur" programme for young audiences.
The workshop gives primary school children an opportunity to work with creative and educational apps specially designed for their age group. The children work in pairs, with a tablet, so they can use the apps with their friends. Activities with the tablets are guided by specialist teachers and children are never left alone in front of a screen.
The final speaker at Wednesday's session was Florian Deleporte, founding member of the Benshi site and manager of Studio des Ursulines in Paris (a member of Europa Cinemas), an independent single screen cinema with 122 seats, opened in 2003 and specialising in arthouse and young audience films. Florian called for parents to encourage their children to enjoy films and cinema-going by using the Benshi website.
Benshi is a quality film recommendation website for parents and children who want to discover age-appropriate films that suit their interests and are different from the typical blockbusters shown in multiplexes. Films are classified in age brackets between 2 and 11 years. The website does not distribute films but is a place to discuss and recommend films. Parents and children can use the site to find cinemas and distribution platforms (video and VOD).
Benshi is 100% independent, and has no financial link with beneficiaries or distributors. It receives joint funding from the City of Paris and Ile-de-France Region authorities.
Benshi is named after the Japanese artist who, in the age of silent film, would provide commentaries, read the titles and draw viewers' attention to specific details during a film. Benshi is also the site's mascot - a red panda who helps children choose films.
The site has a growing reputation, with 30 new accounts created each day (more than 3000 subscribers to date). Registration is free and simple with no personal data required other than an email address. By registering, children can create a profile and search for films based on age, film type, techniques used, producer and country. Films are sorted by theme and pathway. Users can make a note of films they have already seen on their profiles and receive notification as soon as a chosen film is released in a cinema nearby.
Benshi's primary outlets are of course cinemas, independents in particular, and film libraries. For this reason, films listed in the catalogue are mainly films that have been released in cinemas and are easy to locate.
The day ended with a programme of 6 shorts, mostly European, grouped under the title La petite musique des bruits, [The Little Music of Noise] put together for the Ciné Junior Festival for children aged 4 years and above.
The Cultural Habits of Teenagers Today
The forum also provided an opportunity to take an in-depth look at young people's relationship with the cinema, with a presentation from Tomas Legon, Doctor of Sociology, and author of a thesis that involved interviewing teenagers in the Rhônes-Alpes and Ile-de-France regions and in Amiens. This session challenged a few preconceived ideas and clarified the underlying trends arthouse cinemas and their Young Audience managers are trying to address whether they are aware of this or not.
Dr Legon concentrated specifically on the 15-19 age bracket, a particularly interesting group as this is the point at which young people move away from the influence of their families and develop independent cinema-going habits. Contrary to what one might think, this age group goes to the cinema more often than older audiences, even though the latter accounts for more admissions because of its proportion within the population. To put it another way, at all times, cinema-going is a young person's activity. The older you become, the less you go to the cinema.
In a similar vein, young people's preference for American films is not specific to our era and the older people become, the more attention they pay to national films, the turning point being at around the age of 44. As film lovers near their 50s, they prefer national films.
However, the social class and education level of parents does have a direct influence on a young person's preferences. A taste for American films is thus more pronounced if parents have a low level of education.
Expectations from a film also differ considerably according to gender. Boys prefer action films while girls are more discerning about the technical quality and aesthetic appeal of films. This difference is even more marked in the case of less-educated parents.
Two trends in the way films are judged can be identified. On the one hand, we have an audience that focuses on the aesthetics and look of a film. On the other, we have an audience interested in the functional aspect of a film (action and effectiveness). At the extremes of this spectrum, the gap is widest between the interests of girls whose mothers are educated beyond Baccalaureate level (aesthetic aspect) and boys whose mothers did not pass the Baccalaureate (functional aspect.)
Gender is also a powerful marker if we look at young people's perceptions of their own cultural habits. In other words, does a boy believe his tastes reflect the tastes of a real boy or, on the contrary, that a film fits with his idea of a "chick flick"? As far as boys are concerned, recommendations from girls can't be taken seriously. This is a case of "gendered socialisation", a trend which is less prominent in families with well educated parents as film-going habits in this group tend to be more gender neutral.
What about recommendations?
We might think that digital media and social networks have changed the way recommendations work, but in reality, more traditional methods prevail. The website Allociné is still an essential source of recommendations with trailers, summaries and practical information (in that order) being the most consulted sources.
Social networks (Facebook) have not become a source of recommendations (even though young people from lower classes place greater importance on them). Links on Facebook are "weak" links that do not inspire confidence between the person recommending the film and their followers.
Close friends and classmates are still the main source of recommendations and the higher the social class, the more confidence a person will place in a specific person (who could be a film critic).
In contrast, young people from lower social classes place more importance on the number of individuals who have given a film a score, regardless of the score awarded by a handful of critics. In this case, popular criteria overrules quality criteria.
The cinema as a source of recommendation?
Dr Legon carried out his research on this point in the city of Amiens and thanks to him we have a better understanding of young peoples' attitudes to cinemas.
Multiplex cinemas better meet the needs of young people who base their judgements on popular criteria, while recommendations from an arthouse cinema better meet the interests of audiences primarily interested in quality. Young people from lower classes will not even look at an arthouse cinema schedule, believing that it "isn't for people like them". Instead, they trust the multiplex cinema where the functional side of a film is guaranteed
Identification by gender and the influence of social class are two of the factors that film education initiatives try to address in some way, by aiming to inspire a taste for aesthetics and the cinema. This is something that the majority of young people do not spontaneously have.
Text: Sonia Ragone, Jean-Baptiste Selliez
Pictures: Emmanuel Gond
From top: Sylvain Chevreton, Cécile Nhoybouakong, William Le Nindre, Xavier Grizon, Florian Deleporte, Tomas Legon & SWAGGER
Les Soeurs Lumière: http://les-soeurs-lumiere.org/
Le Méliès: http://www.lemelies.com
Théâtre et Cinéma du Garde-Chasse: http://www.theatredugardechasse.fr/cinema
Mixage Fou: http://www.mixagefou.com/
Magic Cinéma: http://www.magic-cinema.fr/
La Gaité lyrique: https://gaite-lyrique.net/
Cinéma Public: https://www.cinemapublic.org/