Interview with Ida Thorén
Fyrisbiografen, Uppsala, Sweden
In a series of interviews with the exhibitors on its Validation Committee, Europa Cinemas takes stock of the situation facing independent exhibitors across Europe during this time of crisis.
1. First of all, how are you?
I am doing fine, although this is a strange, uncertain and challenging period we are experiencing right now.
2. How do you deal with this particular situation from a professional point of view?
Our, quite small, arthouse cinema is still open and running although the audience number has strongly decreased. In Sweden, as you might have heard, we have received recommendations and guidelines from the infection control authority, rather than a strict order to lockdown.
Since our organization can operate within these guidelines through a series of actions being done, and since our screenings are mostly run by volunteers, we still can offer to our audience (for those without symptoms) a reality escape into the world of film. This might seem odd to others, but we believe that we play an important role for the few visitors that still go to our cinema during this crisis.
3. Is there any project you find interesting in order to keep up some activity and which ones were you able to set up? Do these actions modify the core of your activity in any way?
We have received so much love from our audience and many questions about how they can support us through this crisis. It is amazing! I see peoples' great will to help and the innovation of activities adapting to the current situation initiated from different cinemas in Sweden.
One great initiative comes from a quality film streaming service in Sweden called Draken Film, which we love. When they noticed a strong increase of signups early in this crisis, they decided to let us, the arthouse cinemas, receive a part of this increase. This means that we propose our audience to sign up to the VOD service in our name, watch many great films at home and we get half of the revenue as a support from Draken Film.
Our cinema has had about 340 sign ups in our name, which means a lot for us right now. Thanks to this collaboration, we invite our audience to deepen their cinematic interest at the same time! We have also launched a private Facebook group, as a sort of connected film club to this streaming service, where both we, as a cinema, and the subscribers can share film tips with each other. I think this is a new way of acting for all of us. Rather than competing with the streaming services, we cooperate to create a deeper film interest for our audience.
We and many other Swedish cinemas, have copied a new concept invented by another small, local Swedish cinema, called Scala. This concept, named Jukebox Cinema, proposes to arrange a private screening for your own chosen group of favorite persons. You also get the chance to choose what film to watch. And this is also a great initiative that adapts to the actual circumstances. Yesterday we had a birthday celebration-date watching BAIT (Mark Jenkin, 2019, GB). We can see that people really appreciate this opportunity of picking a film and watching it alone in our movie theater.
4. Do you think that these new activities could continue after the pandemic period?
I hope that we all see the positive aspects that come with this crisis and that we will continue to have this great connection to our audience, in a generous and innovative way even further on.
5. What are the initiatives of the State and regional/local public institutions to help movie theatres in this period of crisis? Do financial supports exist or are they being explored?
In Sweden we have support from the government covering payrolls. And the government has decided to give the culture an extra 500 million SEK (46 million €). But this is not yet set and presented. The Swedish Film Institute is handling support to help out much faster and until the other plan is set.
I feel optimistic that with this crisis we will have mobilized our audience support and have made the arthouse cinemas role visible to the society. In moments like these when we can take nothing for granted, I believe that organizations and audiences strengthen their relationship. Keep up the good fight and take care out there!
Lisa Püscher, Antoine Bernard
Pictures : Olle Agebro