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 Switzerland.
SWITZERLAND: BUSINESS OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
by Elisabetta Brunella
Inevitable that a young, all-round cinema buff, who has left a "Zalonian"* steady job to become an exhibitor (amongst other things), is likely to be showered with interviews. And interesting to note that to the question "Have you ever been sold out?" he replies: "Almost, thanks to art-films, in particular the one on Monet!" The words of Joel Fioroni, 28, from Ticino, with a diploma in film-making from the CISA in Lugano, who has been manager of the Lux Art-house of Massagno since January 2018, are an eloquent expression of the role that added content can play for a cinema that chooses to focus on quality, in order to compete with the market leaders. In this case the giant is the Cinestar of Lugano, which offers cutting-edge technology on its six screens, 3D and 4DX included, (i.e. high quality equipment which, thanks to the movement of the seats, creates sensorial effects synchronized with the action on the big screen).
The programming, however, is principally mainstream and Fioroni comments: "For us this is an advantage: we no longer have competitors in the field of art-house cinema. This is a genre with a sense of its own, one it will always have, and what's more we are decidedly open to events that allow us to make ourselves known to a wider public." And so, with regard to broadening its horizons, alongside the usual offer of live opera and ballet, the Lux recently launched the initiative "Art in the Cinema", based on unpublished documentaries from the world of art - exclusive to Ticino. Shortly, "Hermitage - the power of art" will be arriving from Nexo Digital with "Frida - Viva la vida", which by virtue of a new agreement with the Arena Group will also be presented at the Palacinema and at the Muralto in Locarno. In fact this season the Lux "will be working for three" and taking its programme of added content to audiences in the city of the Golden Leopard, too.
The event formula still holds good: two appointments in the same week, one on Wednesday at 8.30 p.m, the other on Sunday at 6 p.m, mainly for a senior audience. The "arthouse" and "added content off the beaten track" formulas also work well in Basel. Here, the Kult.kino, a five-screen complex in the city centre, together with the two screens of the Kino.camera, offers a selection of the top productions of classical opera by prestigious theatres, screened - in their recorded versions naturally - on Sunday mornings.
"This formula," says Romy Gysin - the heart and soul of this authentic institution in quality cinema - has proved better suited to our spectators than the screening of live performances in the evening." From October onwards, audiences in Basel who are fans of "highbrow" music, can see "Carmen" by the Zurich Opera, "Norma" by the Royal Theatre of Wallonia, the Teatro Real of Madrid's "Flying Dutchman" with Fura dels Baus and Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" by the Vienna State Opera.
But here, too, there is no lack of offer regarding the figurative arts. Centre stage will be occupied by the Exhibition on Screen productions, starting with "Young Picasso" and continuing with "Van Gogh & Japan", "Rembrandt" and "Degas: Passion for Perfection". Even more focused and decidedly less commonplace, is the "programme" combining cinema and the theatre, with a series of documentaries selected in collaboration with the Basel Theatre, also presented as "events" on Sunday mornings.
The title chosen to open the events is "A Trail on the Water", dedicated to Abbado, Nono and Pollini. There is no lack of a "screening event" on weekdays, either, thanks to "Midday at the Cinema", centring on the cult content of the moment i.e. biopics.
As part of this, last October "Pavarotti", Ron Howard's moving documentary, has been screened, which, following its release in the United States in June, has started out on an authentic world tour. From the first week of October onwards Howard's third work devoted the super stars of music has been distributed in Switzerland by Pathé Films AG, whilst for years now Pathé Live has been bringing the most popular added content to the Swiss market, for example live opera from the MET and live ballet from the Moscow Bolshoi. These productions are mainly hosted by the Pathé network, which comprises 79 screens in 8 complexes in 7 towns or cities - but also in other cinemas, such as the Arthouse Piccadilly in Zurich.
The Kitag group, in Basel, Berne, Lucerne, San Gallo and Zurich - still using the live formula - instead offers productions from London, such as opera by the Royal Opera House and performances by the Royal Ballet. A wealth of culture but business, too.
It is no coincidence that the market in Switzerland records the highest average price in Europe for added content (almost 24 euros in 2018, compared to the average price calculated for all performances on offer in movie theatres, which comes to around 13.50 euros). And to quote Fioroni once again, "Added content can represent a safety net for the economic balance of a small theatre fighting to keep cinema alive on the big screen."
* A reference to Checco Zalone, a well-known Italian comedian, whose humour revolves around topical stereotypes.
This article was published in Cinema & Video Int'l, issue no. 12/2019
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