Dúplex, Ferrol, Spain
Europa Cinemas Awards
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR 2020 - The Dúplex Cinema in Ferrol was founded in 1996 by the Álvarez Rodríguez family in a working-class neighbourhood. The city had a population of around 83,000, considerably more than the 68,000 remaining in 2019, reflecting a steady population decline resulting from the dismantling of the naval sector since the 1990s.
In the spring of 2019, the cinema’s Proprietor and Managing Director notified me of its imminent closure and of an offer to transfer the premises. I shared this news with my associates at NUMAX but, after considering the different possibilities, the NUMAX cooperative decided not involve itself in taking over management of the former Dúplex Cinema.
From a personal point of view, I felt I had sufficient energy to give to this project, and the benefit of the experience I had gained in recent years from the conception, development, and construction of NUMAX in Santiago de Compostela. So, I decided to take on the refurbishment and reopening of the only cinema still operating in Ferrol on my own.
An independent cinema with a varied programme is a significant instrument for social cohesion and cultural stimulation and, for this very reason, I do not think it is something any medium-sized city can afford to lose. Cinema-going is still a major player in development and is a clear indicator of quality of life in local communities. In every city I have lived in or visited, going to an independent cinema has always been one of the first things I do, and it builds up my relationship with each place. How could I sit by and watch one of Galicia’s main cities, my community, lose its film theatre?
The NUMAX experience in Santiago de Compostela has been of primary importance in consolidating the cinema sector in Galicia, leading directly to the creation of a new cinema in Lugo (Codex Cinema, 2018) and, of course, the DUPLEX Cinema in Ferrol in 2019. Today, these three cities form a network where, five years ago, there was none. NUMAX has also contributed to raising the profile of independent and arthouse cinema, and subtitled original version films, throughout the region.
Based on an idea which I proposed to a group of close friends in 2013 – to combine our professional skills in cinema, bookselling, video and graphic design to build a cinema in Santiago de Compostela – three of us (Carlos Hidalgo, Irma Amado, and I) set up a non-profit organisation in February 2014. By the time we opened in 2015 there were five of us, and today our cooperative is comprised of ten working partners and three employees, all working in different areas. I recently stepped down from the project, in September of this year.
NUMAX, a non-profit workers’ cooperative in a newly constructed building, housing a 70-seat film theatre, a film distributor (until 2018), a bookstore, and a video, graphics and communication laboratory - which opened in the heart of a city of fewer than 100,000 people, at a time when all other the cinemas in the area had closed - is today a well-established project, known throughout Spain. It was the first cinema in Galicia to join Europa Cinemas, in 2016.
In 2019, the NUMAX Cinema logged its best ever annual attendance figures with a record 44,000 viewers, topped by an audience of 8,000 for Fire Will Come, which reached an overall audience of 100,000 people in Spain. Fire Will Come, directed by Oliver Laxe, which won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival, was distributed (under the NUMAX Distribution label) by the company Nocturama SL, which I set up in January 2019.
Over the last decade, attendance at the old Dúplex Cinema (two screens, seating 142 and 107 respectively) had consistently reached between 8,000 and 11,000 people annually, audience levels that were barely sustainable for the cinema.
After redesigning the interior cinema space, introducing new fittings, completely renovating the air conditioning, restoring the seats, and reducing capacity in order to guarantee a good view of the screen from all vantage points, updating the optics of the projectors, digitising the box office and reinventing ourselves with a new, updated corporate identity, we managed to more than double earlier audience numbers in our first five months of operation (before our imposed closure in March), thanks to the fantastic work of the team made led by Victor Paz and Eva Seoane.
80% of our programme is screened in original languages, which includes blockbuster film premieres, although the majority of our films are independent and local. We also show spotlights and retrospectives on leading filmmakers, films presented by their directors, films from the festival circuit on limited release, and films for younger audiences.
Throughout our pandemic-induced closure, our priority has been to keep in touch with our audience and to let them know how grateful we are for their excellent support. We have extended the duration of our loyalty scheme at no additional cost, offered members a free subscription to MUBI, and developed the DUPLEX at home initiative, with a new film each week to view at home. In this way, we have redirected our programming away from the big screen into the virtual world, maintaining our programme of new releases, catalogue films, films for younger audiences, festival films, all of which has kept us in contact with our audience.
At the most recent Seville Festival, a group of independent Spanish cinemas introduced “Promio, network of independent cinemas”, an association of which I have the privilege of being President, and whose main objective is to promote cinematic diversity. Today we number almost twenty cinemas across Spain, hoping to gain recognition and protection for independent and arthouse cinema, allowing us to continue to strive for excellence in our chosen model. Every day, we bring the best independent European and International cinema to our local audiences and show them in the best possible way: at the cinema.
Ramiro Ledo Cordeiro
President of Nocturama SL (DUPLEX Cinema & NUMAX Distribution)
Picture: Alicia Seoane