RTL Today – Cinephiles: France’s love affair with cinema tested by the virus

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“I’m sick of Netflix. I’m sick of an algorithm that serves me the same old thing, ”said Anne-Sophie Duchamp, putting on her face mask to enter an arthouse cinema on the left bank of Paris.

“We stayed home for months” because of the lockdown, she added, buying her ticket to see British director Mike Leigh’s 1988 scathing comedy, “High Hopes.”

“Why should I stay home longer when in Paris you can find a whole century of masterpieces shown every day in small cinemas.”

While moviegoers around the world are reluctant to return to the dark, this is not the first time the French have been seen as an exception.

As one of the most film-loving countries in the world, filmmakers and cinema owners rely on the French love affair with the big screen to save their skins.

Duchamp, in his forties, insisted that going to a socially distant cinema was “no more dangerous than going to the supermarket”.

A poll late last month, just before theaters reopened after an eight-week lockdown, showed 18.7 million people – almost a third of the population – were planning to go see a movie in the month next.

– No-shows à Hollywood –

But the reality turned out to be a bit more disappointing for cinemas, which are only allowed to be half full, with one seat vacant on either side of each viewer.

With Hollywood delaying the release of blockbusters like Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun 2” and “Wonder Woman 1984” that would normally boost summer ticket sales, multiplexes in particular are suffering.

There was another blow on Thursday when Christopher Nolan’s spy drama “Tenet” was handed over for the third time by Warner Brothers through August 12.

“It’s much more difficult than we imagined,” said Aurelie Delage, manager of the six-screen Cinemascop Megarama in Garat in the west of France.

It’s so dark in fact that “I don’t look at the numbers,” she told AFP. “This cannot go on. ”

Only small arthouse theaters seemed to be going against the trend, although there had been some good news on Wednesday as weekly admissions crossed the million mark for the first time since the lockdown ended. out, helped by the success of the French comedy “Divorce Club”.

As encouraging as the 13% week-over-week increase is, it was still only a third of business theaters that made this period last year.

“People were stuck inside during the lockdown and now they want to be in the air, on a bar or restaurant terrace when the weather is nice,” Delage explained.

Still, the French were much more enthusiastic than their neighbors, with German cinema admissions falling to just 17% of normal levels and the situation in Spain even more dire at just 13%.

– Luck for small films –

Only the Dutch were so phlegmatic, according to a study by Comscore.

It gave hope to independent filmmakers who see a chance to take the plunge, insisting that audiences crave new films.

American director Michael Covino will release his cycling bromance “The Climb”, a big hit at the Cannes film festival last year, in France next week, after resisting the temptation to broadcast it on a streaming service.

“The best place to see a comedy is in a movie theater with other people,” he said.

The clear run also probably helped black comedian Jean-Pascal Zadi’s broad satire “Tout Simply Noir” (“Very Simply Black”) become a hit.

About half a million people flocked to see him take a hammer at racial stereotypes in a fortnight.

French actor and director Mathieu Kassovitz – who plays a role in the comedy – also goes ahead with the 25th anniversary reissue of his classic, “La Haine”, with racial and police violence in the spotlight once again .

Kassovitz is convinced that there is a pent-up demand to “go see movies”.

“That’s why there are a lot of reissues this summer to rekindle this desire,” he told AFP.

But what cinema owners across Europe really want, said Marc-Olivier Sebbag of the Fédération Française des Cinémas, is for major Hollywood studios to start releasing their new films in Europe without waiting for theaters to reopen. on the other side of the Altantic.

“I hope that we will be listened to,” he added.

Meanwhile Hugo Benamozig, co-director of the French adventure film “Terrible Jungle”, with Catherine Deneuve, is excited about its release next week.

If they waited until after the summer, “our film could be drowned” by the barrage of American blockbusters that have been held back by the coronavirus, he said.

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