News / The Network


The Network - 28/05/2014


Interview with Xavier Pattaroni, exhibitor at Cinemotion, Switzerland.


At the end of the Cannes Festival, a jury made up of 4 network exhibitors has awarded the Europa Cinemas Label to LES COMBATTANTS by Thomas Cailley presented during Directors’ Fortnight. Xavier Pattaroni was part of this jury.

1. Can you tell me about your role as programmer at Cinemotion, and the various ways you have been involved in the world of cinema?

I fell into the ‘cinematographic melting pot’ when I was a student at the University of Fribourg. Before then, I used to go to the cinema occasionally but I wasn’t a film enthusiast. At university, I got involved in the film club and that’s how I met Marc Salafa, who owned film theatres in Fribourg. We got on very well and he offered me a job when I finished my studies. After that, I took up programming… and that was 17 years ago!

My main area of activity is programming and everything related to it (communication, promotion, special screenings, etc.). Our management team comprises three skillful people who constantly exchange ideas. 

I am also involved in various cinematographic organisations, both regionally (ACR, the Association of French-speaking Film Theatres) and nationally (ACS, the Swiss Cinematographic Association, FOCAL, etc.).

And I am actively involved in another organisation, CinéBrunch Regards d’Ailleurs, a film club. For 17 years this club has offered people from the Fribourg region screenings with 'high added value' one Sunday a month. The film is followed by a free brunch!

2. How do you select the films you screen in the different film theatres? Does the fact that Fribourg is a bilingual city have an impact on programming?

All of our film theatres are members of the Europa Cinemas network but the programmes at Fribourg film theatres differ from those at Bulle and Payerne, where the films shown have broader appeal.

For many years, Cinemotion was the only exhibitor in Fribourg. We never took advantage of this comfortable situation, trying instead to please everyone with our programme. That strategy did prove profitable, however, yielding a firm base of film lovers. Following the arrival of a competitor in the form of a 10-screen multiplex in October 2007, we took the gamble of concentrating on auteur films and original version screenings. We strive to be more than just a forum for films: we want to be the conveyor of emotions. This wasn’t easy to achieve. We have had to close screens as the arthouse potential of a city like Fribourg is limited. Today, with our three screens at the Rex, we have less freedom in terms of film programming, but experience has taught us that you need to do more than just increase the number of screens to attract audiences…

The fact that Fribourg is bilingual certainly presents an opportunity as the German speakers are more receptive to original version screenings (although less so in recent years) than the French-speaking population. Our programme is thus attractive to French- and German-speaking Swiss film enthusiasts and to impatient German speakers. Release dates in Switzerland vary according to language zones. This may be an advantage (BLUE JASMINE, for example, was released much earlier in Fribourg than in Bern, which meant I was able to entice several impatient filmgoers), but the opposite is also true…

I also try to get hold of French films with German subtitles but this isn’t always feasible from a technical point of view if the translation is not ready when the film is released in my film theatres. On this topic, I sometimes have to fight with distributors for original version films subtitled in two languages (French and German). During the 35 mm era, subtitles were proposed in two languages, for technical reasons. Now, in the digital era, distributors are not always ready in time, thus delivering DCP files with subtitles in just one language. This isn’t ideal in a bilingual city… In this case, we give priority to French subtitles – the (minority) German speakers handle French better than the French speakers do German.

3. Have you been a jury member before? What did you think about your role as juror for the Europa Cinemas Label?

It was a new experience… and a very good one. It was interesting to evaluate the films, with each member having a different opinion and expectations influenced by their own perception of film and their local market. The discussions we had together provided an opportunity to find out more about our day-to-day realities and to establish that we all had the same wish to champion films, giving them the best support possible when they are released in film theatres.

4. What do you think about Switzerland not rejoining the MEDIA programme this year?

Direct democracy in Switzerland does have its drawbacks and it was clear that the vote on 9 February, and the message it sent to Europe, would cause a reaction. However, I do feel that political factors (‘punishing’ Switzerland) should not relegate reciprocal cultural interests to the back seat.

While the immediate repercussions are insignificant for me, as an exhibitor (reduced financial support but continuation of the network via the Eurimages programme), there is a greater danger in terms of production and distribution. Co-productions will be more complicated with Switzerland being a lesser partner and Swiss filmmakers may find it harder to create cross-border productions. In this way, we will lose shared experiences and networks, etc.

For distributors, there will be less financial assistance for distribution of European films in Switzerland and, as a result, certainly less risk-taking. Eventually, the visibility of European films in Swiss film theatres could be reduced. Which comes back to what I said before: we should not relegate cultural interests to the back seat.

We can certainly try to alleviate Switzerland’s exclusion from Creative Europe (MEDIA) with increased negotiations and bilateral agreements. However, it would be even better to find a global agreement soon!

by Flora Anavi