find the room before the last session

“An image seen large in the dark is like a real painting compared to its postcard! » Antoine is a cinephile and he remembers his “first shock” which was Thesilenceofthelambsreleased in theaters in 1991. “Especially that first scene in the forest with the sound of Jodie Foster breathing runningrecalls the 52-year-old Italian teacher.When I saw it again on television, I, in spite of myself, compared the distressing impact of this breath carried by the sound of a room and that of the small screen, infinitely less powerful. »

The specificity of the big screen, all amateurs, even occasional ones, talk about it. “This year, my favorite film was lost illusions »says in turn Hortense, a 23-year-old student. “The actors and the staging were great. Fortunately, I saw it on the big screen, so I was well aware of it. » However, to hear Cassandre, the cinema would have died last year, after three hundred days of closure. Is it really The last session, sung by Eddy Mitchell? If attendance has not returned to its pre-health crisis level (read the marks)spectators remain attached to the unique experience of the room.

Place of immersion and contemplation

A place where you watch a film in one go without being disturbed. “When I watch a movie on the small screenobserves Hortense, I am very quickly distracted, I go on my cell phone, I find out who the actors are… That’s also why I go to theatres: for two hours, I block all my attention on the film. » There, everything seems possible. Disbelief is more easily suspended, and skepticism set aside. “TV is very good, but I only half believe in it”believes Marianne, retired after a career in the audiovisual sector. “At the cinema, I am completely under the influence of the film. »

The cinema also remains a sanctuary conducive to immersion and even introspection, which the small screen does not allow. For Anthony, “This experience is more related to the contemplation of faces and listening to the voices of the actors. And, again, the big screen has an incomparable impact that allows you to capture a fleeting expression, a look, a sigh…”

Some do not hesitate to describe this shared moment as mystical, such as Luc Lagier, film lover in front of the eternal and creator of the excellent web-magazine “Blow Up” on Arte. “The room is religious”he wants to believe. “Born in 1972, I come from a generation that grew up with television. When I saw Vertigo (cold sweats) by Hitchcock, repeated at the Trianon cinema, the municipal hall of Sceaux, it was a shock, a bewitchment, something of the order of communion. »

“Since the 1960s, the attractiveness of the film has supplanted that of the cinema”

Because cinema is also a collective experience. “I don’t like to go there without friendsremarks Mariannebut this happened to me recently, with In Body, by Cédric Klapisch. I was no longer alone during the screening. We go to theaters separately but we live things together. In the cinema, something a little magical happens, like when people thought a train was going straight for them in the Lumière Brothers’ first film. »

The inventors of the 7th art were not content to design the cinematograph in 1895, they also invented the screen, the tickets, in short the room, recalls the historian Jean Ollé-Laprune. Until the 1960s, every city had at least one cinema, and movies had a very long shelf life. “Then, to respond to the drop in attendance due to the rise of television, multi-room complexes were created. Since then, the Saturday evening outing to see a film (without always knowing which one), always in the same room, in the middle of other attractions, is over. The attractiveness of the film has supplanted that of the cinema, especially since the number of screens has increased further with the arrival of video and Canal+. »

From now on, the room must be profitable, by increasing the number of sessions. And seems more and more empty. “In forty years, we have gone from 4 million to 8.5 million sessions and, at the same time, from an occupancy rate of 24% to 12%”explains François Aymé, president of the Association of arthouse cinemas and director of the Jean-Eustache cinema in Pessac (Gironde). “This drop harms the festive side of the rooms that 99% of spectators appreciate. »

“There is no one way to see films”

Another collateral effect is that viewers are more selective in their choice, opting more readily for blockbuster films. Top Gun, it was definitely worth going to see it on the big screen. But a romantic comedy is not the sameJudge Hortense : The story is mainly through the dialogues, so the screen size is not an issue. »

Small and large screen can also be complementary. According to a recent study (1), more than half of platform subscribers say they go to the cinema at the same frequency as before. “We can’t see everything in theaters, it would be a museum discourse, approves Luc Lagier. There is no one way to watch the movies. “During confinement, I discovered Emmanuel Mouret by watching his films on Arte, supports Hortenseso I went to see his latest feature film, Chronicle of a temporary liaison.»

Demanding spectators, inventive exhibitors

Faced with increasingly demanding spectators, tired, like Antoine, of “the endless advertising, the trailers, the public which is not always concentrated, sometimes very sad rooms”, exhibitors are increasingly looking to create events. Ciné-club, cine-concert, cine-taste: the room plays the card of conviviality and sociability. “Its agora function has developed, the debates are less cinephile than societal”points out François Aymé who organizes “Unipop”, simultaneous screening in several rooms, followed by a meeting with a filmmaker broadcast live.

At the Régency, a rural cinema installed in an old chapel in Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise (Pas-de-Calais), Laurent Coët, its director, offers surprise previews. “The spectators who trust us may be destabilized, but it arouses curiosity and creates discussionion”. In this place, “the city’s latest establishment open seven days a week, we bring more than just a projection: a human and social connection. »


A call for states general

Cinema personalities from all walks of life are to meet Thursday, October 6 in the afternoon at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris to request the holding of an assembly of cinema. Launched by a group of producers, directors and actors, including Olivier Assayas, Carole Bouquet, Catherine Corsini, Arnaud Desplechin and André Téchiné, this call has since been supported by numerous professional organisations.

Beyond the impact of the health crisis on cinema attendance, which is destabilizing the entire industry, this collective is questioning the strategy put in place by the public authorities and the CNC. “faced with the advent of American platforms” video-on-demand services. He worries about a gradual blurring of the boundary between cinema and television. The renegotiation, demanded in particular by Disney + and Netflix, of the agreement signed at the beginning of the year on the chronology of the media, which conditions the entire architecture of the financing of French cinema, is one of these subjects of concern.

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