For some years now MEDIA Salles has been investigating a much discussed area but one whose demand for deeper knowledge remains unsatisfied: that of added content for the big screen. In other words, the role that cinemas can play in spreading the enjoyment of art, culture, sport and live entertainment and making them more popular. In addition to the collection of statistical data, the articles published in the various editions of DiGiTalk and the communications presented during cinema events Europewide, MEDIA Salles has recently launched a new column starting with a glimpse at the Russian market. In this issue the focus has moved to The Netherlands.
AMIDST THE OPERA ARTS AND SOCCER
It is a well-known fact (acknowledged as a positive development in a traditionally male context) that the 2019 women’s soccer World Cup aroused keen interest at all latitudes and that television channels obtained amazing audiences. Suffice it to remember that in Great Britain 6.1 million spectators watched the game between England and Scotland and as many as 11.7 million the semi-final between England and the USA. To get a better idea of all this, we can consider the fact that no programme in 2019 obtained such success on British TV.
It is less well known that in the Netherlands, ecstatic about the "Orange Lionesses" race to the final, soccer conquered the big screen. Take, for example, the Pathé Spuimarkt, a nine-screen complex at the heart of the Hague: Sunday 7 July, one hour before the key match, there wasn’t a single seat left for the game between Holland and the United States, whilst there were plenty for the films that were to be screened more or less at the same time.
The case of the Netherlands is decidedly interesting, as it is certainly not typical: in general, in the countries for which figures on added content are available, MEDIA Salles has found that sports events are not a widespread "genre" on the big screen. In fact, in some European countries, this sort of screening, which seemed so promising at the very beginning of cinema digitization, is practically non-existent. As regards a highly popular sport like football, what often discourages exhibitors is the high cost of purchasing screening rights, which are so expensive that they are not covered by ticket prices, also obliged to compete with free viewing on the small screen. This - according to some - is why a lot of beer should also be sold: but is this really the sort of viewing we want in cinemas? There is also the factor - pointed out by Italian exhibitors, for example - that the legal framework is out-dated and far from clear, making the organization of this type of screenings particularly complicated.
But returning to the Netherlands: whilst here, too, sport is certainly not the most popular of added content, the screening of the World Cup finals is not an isolated case. As we write, Pathé is offering the twentieth phase of the Tour de France at the cinema, something that doesn’t even happen in France.
This sort of screening is comprised in what Dutch exhibitors - from the big groups such as Pathé, Vue and Kinepolis, to independents like the Plaza Futura in Eindhoven or the Heerenstraat Theater in Wageningen - generally refer to as "specials" or "events". This is a very broad category, including added content in the strict sense (from sports to the arts to culture), but also gaming on the big screen or even films offered according to the event formula on the big screen, for one or two evenings only, or as part of a theme series.
The case of biographies is significant: currently, several cinemas are offering mini-series of biographical documentaries, including, for example, "Veearts Maaike", based on the figure of a young vet, and "Diego Maradona".
There are also special evenings, frequently addressing female audiences (Ladies’ Nights) or combining the screening of a film with dinner, as in the "Viva la Pizza" offer from the Gigant in Apeldoorn (where a screening of "A casa tutti bene" is programmed for the 26 July).
If, on the one hand, the variety of offer is proof of how dynamic the sector is in the Netherlands (where audiences have more than doubled since the ‘Nineties), on the other hand, those who, like us, like to record a clear account of the various phenomena marking cinema-going, can’t help noting some confusion here. So let’s get back to some of the more "traditional" added content, i.e. of a cultural nature, such as the visual arts, ballet, theatre, opera and music in the widest sense of the term. In this field, the Netherlands can boast a leading role: André Rieu, a musician beloved throughout the world, whose performances are broadcast on thousands of screens, attracting record audiences, is in fact Dutch. On Dutch territory alone (17 million inhabitants), the 2019 edition of his famous Maastricht concert from 26 to 27 July, was booked by 110 cinemas.
As regards ballet and opera, performances by the Metropolitan and the Bolshoi are brought to Dutch audiences thanks to Pathé Live, and those of the Royal Opera House thanks to ABC, until now. The latter company, founded in 2004 as a distributor of films, then added a sector devoted to added content, including performances by the Royal Opera House, production from Picturehouse, now Trafalgar, and a selection of the main "exhibition based art films". Alongside those from Exhibition on Screen, Italian productions by Nexo Digital enjoy pride of place, including, in the first ten months of 2019, "The Water Lilies by Monet", "Tintoretto. A Rebel in Venice", "Klimt & Schiele - Eros and Psyche", "The Prado Museum. A Collection of Wonders" and "Gauguin in Tahiti. Paradise Lost".
Lastly, Dutch screens may well be seeing more of Italy on their screens next winter: the latest news is that A Contracorriente Films has signed an agreement with RaiCom for the distribution in Holland of performances by La Scala, starting, of course, with "Tosca" which will be opening the season as tradition commands on 7 December.
This article was published in Cinema & Video Int'l, issue no. 8-9/2019
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Added content releases in The Netherlands
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