Date uncertain but puzzle guaranteed. The cinema is already preparing for post-confinement and its high-risk reunion with the public, between an avalanche of films and health constraints.
The 2,000 French cinemas, a unique park in the world, have been closed for five months. But this week, glow at the bottom of the tunnel: Wednesday’s presidential address raised hopes of a reopening in mid-May “Of certain places of culture”. The dark rooms, where a strict protocol had been put in place after the first confinement, will they be part of it? The operators hope so, even if “We know that the date will depend on the health evolution”, underlines the general delegate of the Federation of cinemas (FNCF), Marc-Olivier Sebbag.
The cinemas are already phosphorous for the “D” day, counting on a reopening in “Three phases separated by one month each”, with gauges of one-third of attendance, two-thirds, then a return to normal. Without certainty on the possibility of scheduling evening sessions, if the curfew continues.
In the immediate future, the seventh art is also worried about a huge traffic jam of films, lying fallow since the closing of theaters, and which will want to be released in the months following the reopening. Sign of this feverishness, many have not yet announced a date, when others have changed several times. On the side of big French productions alone, the first part of Kaamelott stalled on July 21, the new OSS 117 , ready for months, wants to be released on August 4th, Aline by Valérie Lemercier inspired by the life of Céline Dion table on November, and The Tuche 4 was reserved on December 8, one year after its initial date …
In total, more than 400 films stampede and, every week, more are added … “The sooner we reopen, the sooner the problem will be solved”, press Mr. Sebbag. This is because, faced with this avalanche, everyone is the loser: large productions, for lack of space to make their investments profitable, such as small arthouse films, which will go unnoticed, decrypts Hélène Herschel, of the National Federation of film publishers (FNEF), which pleads to also tackle piracy.
“The pressure will be very strong when it reopens”, although the expected influx of films is only an increase of around 20% compared to the second half of 2019, the last year “Normal” in the cinema, she relativizes. To lower the pressure a little, the authorities have exceptionally allowed, since Thursday, films to be released first on the small screen or on a platform, while retaining the aid received during their production.
“It would be detrimental both for the public and for our creators if, due to too many films available, large productions, especially American ones, deprive more diverse works of exposure. It is essential that each work can meet its audience ”, justified the president of the National Cinema Center (CNC), Dominique Boutonnat, by presenting this temporary departure from the sacrosanct chronology of the media.
Since the start of the health crisis, few films have left the room. This is the case of Madame Claude , biopic of the “Madam of the Republic”, released Friday on Netflix, or the blockbuster Wonder Woman 1984 , available online … Will it also be necessary to adjust the competition rules, which prohibit distributors from consulting each other on release dates? Seizure, the Competition Authority told AFP to examine “In extreme urgency” a request on a possible concerted timetable for the takeover. Its advisory opinion is expected in early April.
Successful reopening is all the more important since, until now, massive and targeted aid has made it possible to limit the breakage: film production has fallen “only” by 20% in France in 2020. But investors are very cautious and, if this dynamic breaks, the directors will no longer be able to launch new projects, fears Ms. Herschel. Irony of fate: the overflow at the opening could follow months of scarcity, for lack of new curly films.