Overabundance of films: the puzzle of cinemas for the reopening


The four hundred films that have accumulated since the start of the pandemic will not all succeed. Faced with this surge, it will also take between fifteen and twenty releases per week.

Despite the reduced gauges and the curfew, dozens of films are rushing to be released in theaters from May 19. What to satisfy the spectators in need of cinema, at the risk that certain works do not walk on the feet.

At Méliès de Montreuil, in Seine-Saint-Denis, as in the 2000 cinemas in France, director Stéphane Goudet was spoiled for choice for his programming, juggling between theaters and screenings to try to give his chance to the maximum. of films. “A giant Tetris!”, summarizes the manager of this cinema located in one of the departments most affected by the Covid, crossing his fingers so that no epidemic rebound comes to compromise the reopening.

Like all exhibitors, he had to compose between the reshoots of films with a career stopped dead by the pandemic, such as DNA by Maïwenn or Drunk by Thomas Vinterberg, distinguished at the César and at the Oscars, “Which worked very well and that we would have been crazy not to put on the bill” and the novelties he wants to make room for, such as drama Falling by Viggo Mortensen… By showing different films in the same room depending on the schedule, one of the tools recommended by the authorities to cope with the avalanche of releases, it will be able to show a total of eighteen films in its six cinemas.

No overall schedule

But in the coming months, the four hundred films that have accumulated since the start of the pandemic will not all fare well. As of May 19, no less than forty-five of them, half unseen and the last other exit before the last confinement, are in the ranks, according to a count of the French movie. After this wave, it will still take between fifteen and twenty outings per week, including those who shone at the Oscars (The Father by Florian Zeller on May 26, then Nomadland by Chloé Zhao on June 9). Things could get tough with the scheduled lifting of the gauges in early July, the cohort of films presented at Cannes the same month, and the coming return of American blockbusters.

Faced with this surge, film professionals have not managed to agree on a concerted schedule of releases, even if the independent distributors will continue to discuss among themselves, explains Etienne Ollagnier, of the Syndicate of independent distributors. In the absence of a comprehensive agreement, the authorities have called for “A strong commitment to solidarity from the entire industry” to protect the most fragile films and cinemas and so that as many films as possible can be programmed across the country.

The game promises to be particularly tight for independent cinema, caught between the plans of the majors and the power of the large cinema networks, underlines Sophie Dulac, director of the production, distribution and distribution company that bears her name. “We are going to have to fight” so that independent cinemas have access to certain promising author films, she emphasizes.

“To make choices”

“These first three weeks will allow us to restart the machine”, for his part tempers the boss of the Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF), Richard Patry. More than the influx of films, theaters must manage the final details of the health protocol, the gauges at 35% at the start: “There is real happiness in finding our spectators, the films, and feeling useful again!”, he emphasizes.

Seen from Garat, in the suburbs of Angoulême, the profusion of films is especially good news for spectators, confirms Aurélie Delage, director of the Mégarama cinema: “We will be able to put together an offer for all audiences, with great diversity.” From the action movie 30 days max at the young audience chases of Tom and Jerry through absurd comedy Mandibles by Quentin Dupieux, there will be something for everyone … And, in the end, programmers have always had to “to make choices”, she confesses.

But in French cinemas, the traffic jam is not new. According to the National Cinema Center (CNC), in 2019, fourteen new releases were already released each week, and twenty during the busiest weeks. When each cinema has, on average, only … three rooms. What to relativize (a little).

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