The movie that no one can miss | Culture


A good general knows the battlefield perfectly. And the terrain, in this case, seemed most treacherous. For some time now, there have hardly been any films capable of conquering cinemas. However, Napoleon He is emerging victorious where many lost. And he has invaded the seats with an army willing to protect him even in the face of attacks from critics and historians. Ridley Scott’s feature film raised the flag as the best premiere of two weeks ago, both in Spain and globally. Due to the renown of its director and its protagonist, Joaquin Phoenix, without a doubt. But also because there has been a lot of discussion about it. It is known that it is on the billboard, that it has generated division, that the public is going to see it. At the same time as the rooms, Bonaparte has managed to dominate another key contest: conversation.

A few months ago, Taylor Swift had achieved it. The projection of her musical performances on the big screen, The Eras Tour, It swept the US and, in Spain, the same music played: it was the box office leader in its first weekend, with 1.1 million collected. A deafening success, which makes even more noise compared to the silence of other months: attendance at cinemas remains weak since covid-19, but Swift managed to get her dancing. Like Barbieby Greta Gerwig, and Oppenheimer, by Christopher Nolan, this summer. EITHER Super Mario Bros. The Movie, in spring. A feminist satire; a real drama about the atomic bomb or another inspired by a famous commander; a diva’s concert; and the adventures of a video game plumber. Five different films. United by notable budgets. But also for another aspect: they filled cinemas and talks. Many would have decided to go see them. Others became interested precisely because they were talked about. They were already an event, and no one wanted to miss it.

“One of the great challenges for a distributor today is that they face 13 others who release a film on the same weekend. It is impossible for the potential audience to receive all the information. And more difficult than ever to be noticed. There are releases that everyone knows about and films that arrive very green on the billboard. If we asked 100 citizens what debuts each week, with certain titles we wouldn’t even get to five,” reflects Fernando Lobo García, head of programming and communication at Madrid’s Embajadores cinemas. Which is reflected in the data: last year 56.2% of tickets sold were for 20 films. That is, 0.8% of all the films that were exhibited ate more than half of the pie, in calculations based on the SGAE Yearbook. A few weeks ago, the premiere of Five Nights at Freddy’s It took one out of every two viewers, also confirming the mastery of horror cinema in creating the sensation of an event. Which barely leaves crumbs for the other hundreds of competitors at the box office. And it highlights the importance of, at the very least, reaching the saturated ears of the public.

In reality, it happened a decade ago, but in 2014 the top 20 at the box office it obtained 43.7% of the tickets. The percentage, therefore, has risen even more. At the same time, attendance and collection have lost, since the pandemic, 40%, comparing 2022 with 2019. “Before covid-19, we were experiencing growth in spectators. It meant a sudden stop,” says Luis Gil, general director of Fece, the federation that brings together almost all of the theaters in Spain. And a wound that has not completely healed: he anticipates that the 2023 figures will be closer to the pre-covid era, but in the graphics of the consulting firm ComScore, most weeks the box office remains well below those years.

Followers of Taylor Swift take a photo in front of the poster for the movie 'The Eras Tour', in a cinema in Lynchburg (USA) on October 13.
Followers of Taylor Swift take a photo in front of the poster for the movie ‘The Eras Tour’, in a cinema in Lynchburg (USA) on October 13.Paige Dingler (AP)

“Society evolves: the industry is the one that has to adapt, not the other way around. In the past, people went to the movies and that’s it. If fewer come, we will have to do something,” adds Lobo García. “Attendance will almost certainly never recover pre-Covid levels,” prophesies Philip Kemp, professor of film criticism at the universities of Leicester and Middlesex and author of Cinema. the whole story (Blume). The scholar points out that the rooms in the United Kingdom suffer from problems similar to those in Spain. And he adds: “People were already getting more and more used to movies in streaming and confinement accelerated it. From now on, distributors will have to work hard and spend heavily to convince the public to return. And low-budget films may have difficulties being released in theaters or, if they do, to recover the investment.”

Because furthermore, while the audience decreased, the films shown, far from being reduced, have multiplied in Spain. Specifically, up to the highest figure since 1989, with 2,543 lengths in 2022, according to SGAE data. “And more premieres than in France,” highlights Lobo García. Who knows how many passed through the rooms without pain or glory. Or even news that they existed. A fate often identical to that of its creators: 47% of the directors who released a film in 2015 were not active in the sector again between 2016 and 2020, according to a recent calculation by the European Audiovisual Observatory.

On the opposite spectrum, the highest-grossing lengths share some traits. The most obvious: a large budget. But also an average duration of 141 minutes – considering the top 3 global of the last five years, according to the website Box Office Mojo— and constantly increasing in the 2000s, up to 20 minutes higher than in 1983 or 1993; a crushing promotional campaign in the previous weeks; or the insistence on the urgency of the pre-sale, lest the tickets fly away. In short, the offer of an essential experience: go to the room, see what everyone is saying, and have a good time there. Disguised, if you will. Along with other enthusiastic proselytes, perhaps. And even better, by the way, if eating popcorn or dining at a luxury cinema. Although Professor Kemp is not so sure that the length helps: “Understandably, some viewers are reluctant to sit through a film like The assassins of the moon, by Martin Scorsese, 206 minutes and they say: ‘I’ll wait for it to come out on television.’ There are theaters that have proposed an intermission, an idea angrily rejected by the directors. Such long works also reduce income for cinemas, which can only schedule two sessions per day instead of three or four.”

In any case, the living room experience has not yet equaled that of the living room. And around that barricade the seats shore up their resistance. “Taylor Swift’s result shows that like in the cinema you don’t see things anywhere. Not all films can have that capacity for investment and reach, but it is also about working to address the audience that interests each work,” Gil reflects. With the public address provided by checks, leading the conversation seems easier. Although an event is not made only of stars and millions of euros.

“Among exhibitors we say a lot that, for small films to work, we have to get people to go to the cinema, and that is achieved with the blockbusters. But neither, as a theater, can I place the responsibility for the communication of a film only on the distributors,” says Lobo García. Hence, Embajadores focuses on other options: closer and more original advertising, through social networks and a newsletter with 2,000 registered; personal reflections from the communication manager himself about what the film has generated in him instead of more traditional promotional messages; add to the projection of Tar a performance by a string quartet; or join the viewing of One Love with a discussion with Isabel Coixet, which is also screened in the other theaters hosting the film.

The pre-sale of tickets for the latter sold out in no time, shares Lobo García. And he recognizes that that of a blockbuster like The Marvels, on the other hand, languished, in a very neighborhood cinema and loyal audience like his. Although he believes that advance sales always bring some good news, whether it is visibility, the effective purchase of tickets or, in the best of cases, its absolute success. And even more: a pre-sale that rocks always leaves someone wanting. Maybe I’ll tell someone else. And to another. It may spark a conversation. And hopefully, one day, a full theater.

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