Getting an audience to film screenings

Adam Aron, CEO of AMC recently made a generation of cinema non-goers angry with him when he said that he would allow texting to take place during projects. My generation, previous generations and the generations of the future complained on social media. Getting an audience to film screenings requires an understanding of what they prefer to do instead.

In the “Golden Age” of my cinema going life I would go to the cinema up to three times a week. I went this frequently because I lived close to the cinema, because we had two GBP Tuesdays and because it was something to do when other people were not available. Over a period of months I went to see more than 90 films. A consequence of this habit was over-familiarity with the codes and conventions of mainstream cinema. Since that “golden age” I have seldom been back to the cinema. When you know everything that will happen in a film within the first 15 minutes you get bored.

I know AMC through its television Series of which the Walking Dead is one. This is a series that I did binge watch when it was fresh and again when it was made available via netflix. Television series have better writers and better storylines than films. They also don’t overdo it with super hero rubbish and special effects. As these productions have storylines we care enough to watch one episode after another. Films fail to engage us in this manner.

When I was in London I went to a few screenings. The screenings I usually went to in London were at the Front Line Club. You would watch a documentary about current affairs and there would be a panel to discussion to discuss what you had just seen. In Geneva I found that the graduate Institute has started to do the same thing. I regularly go to such events because I like to complement what I already know by watching interesting productions and then listening to questions and answers sessions and learning something new.

Montagne en Scène is an example of what AMC should think of doing. They need to find and fund the production of films for niche markets. Montagne en Scène is an event where four mountain related films are projected to a specialist audience of mountain and sports enthusiasts. This niche usually relies on youtube and vimeo to find and share footage of their passions. By organising a special day these enthusiasts are encouraged to come to film screenings.

AMC is competing against mobile phones, televisions, Virtual reality goggles, tablets and Video on Demand via the World Wide Web. what they need to do is lower the price and make it more convenient for people in contemporary culture. Having panel discussions at the end of a screening is one way of attracting people. Lowering the ticket price would be another way. If they stopped making CGI films with no story then I would start going to the cinema again. This complain extends to the crappy films currently available, at least in Switzerland on Netflix. If Netflix did not have television series I would have stopped paying for their service months ago. If you treat your customers/viewers like mature adults then there is a good chance that you will attract them to film screenings on a more regular basis.

On Film and Television

I like that I can watch days of television series and that I can’t spend 90 minutes watching films. Television series are about people, places and situations and the characters are realistic. In contrast films are superficial, shallow and too full of special effects for a story to be told. The cinema loses out because it is too superficial, too pretentious without offering something contrast at the end of the donated time.

We do donate time to the media we appreciate and gain from.

The 50 Years of the City Club cinema in Pully

I was in Pully this weekend for the fifty year celebrations of the City Club Cinema celebrating half a century of existence. There were a number of special events, from a silent film being screened with a live orchestra to a number of documentaries being screened as well.

I particularly enjoyed the documentary screenings because the documentary producers and some of those interviewed in those documentaries came to the screenings and presented their films before the film and answered some questions at the end.

The documentary the I enjoyed, or at least found most interesting was “La Citadelle Humanitaire”, a documentary by Frédéric Gonseth and Catherine Azad. It explored the work done by André Rochat when he worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen in the 1960s. The documentary explored the interesting work carried out by these humanitarian workers and the challenges they faced. It was told as much by André rochat as those that worked with him.

It showed some of the challenges they faced, from where to situate the hospital to having more mobility, facilitating prisoner exchanges up to the point of hostage releases being negotiated successfully. It’s a great piece of documentary making and within the next few days a few of the Q&A questions should appear on this blog as well as my own.

A second documentary that I watched, but that did not appeal to me quite as much was La Reina del Condòn by Silvana Czeschi and Reto Stamm. It confused me. I couldn’t see why an East German would come to Cuba to speak about Sexual liberation in a machist country. I couldn’t see any of her motivations in carrying out such a project. If I had produced the documentary that’s what i would have concentrated on. I would have interviewed her more extensively, spent more time exploring the personality and the motivations behind what she did.
What we had instead was an exploration of three or four people’s views which did not make the documentary uninteresting so much as that famous “So what?” question that an English teacher used to always ask me to elaborate on. It’s the same with this film. I simply think the exposition could have been more researched.

Umare Te Wa Mita Keredo (Les Gosses de Tokyo) by Jasujiro Ozu is a 1930s film from Japan looking at two children at this specific moment in time. It’s a silent movie where the two main characters are Children and a few days out of their lives. What made this screening special was the live four piece orchestra playing live at the front of the Room.

Finally Lars and the Real Girl was also screened. It was a strange topic to be explored but it made me think of the Film Parle Avec Elle to some extent, the role of online and offline relationships as well as dealing with people with certain characteristics. It’s a comedy and as a result you’ll spen some time laughing but at the same time it’s a reflective film into how we behave. I found the film to be quite interesting but another individual said that it was a little too slow so it’s hard to say whether you’d enjoy it.

Overall I enjoyed being at the City Club for their fiftieth anniversary, having interesting people to meet and good documentaries to watch.

Gael Métroz and Dziga Vertov

For three weeks he had no battery and was unable to record anything but the rest of the time he was collecting 150hrs worth of video for his documentary Nomad’s land. We’re speaking of Gael Métroz of course, a swiss born traveler who wanted to retrace the steps of Nicholas Bouvier. He would travel from Switzerland to Sri Lanka.

I want to see the documentary but so far I’ve had no opportunity. I’m more interested in what he talked about in between seesmics. He told us that he would meet with the people and let them use his camera. At first what they filmed would not be so good and he would show them how to get some better results. In effect the people would participate in the making of the documentary.

It’s interesting because that’s what Dziga Vertov was trying to do with the Agit trains in Russia in the early 1900s, the idea that the camera would be used to document the everyday lives of groups of people in a country as vast as Russia in Vertov’s case and as big as half the globe in relation to Métroz’ case.

That’s the trip you want to do, one where you travel for a year meeting people, experiencing their culture and really having the time to talk. He would bring up that he wishes he had this amount of time in the Western world to get to know people, without having to worry about everything else. It was interesting.

That’s what would make an interesting travel documentary, far more in depth than the entertaining Lonely Planets we have watched on numerous occasions.

It was also a taste of why I enjoyed going to the Frontline club in London. You get a short introduction about the subject, watch the documentary and then listen as people discuss the issues that are raised by the documentaries. It’s an academic exercise rather than entertainment. It’s a shame there aren’t more opportunities like this that i know of around Switzerland.