|Diversity of content: a key-word for the life of the cinemas
by Elisabetta Brunella
It is undeniable that diversity is an asset both in Nature and in culture, but the figures on cinema-going in this annus horribilis seem to confirm that the same goes for the cinema.
The figures already available on admissions and box-office in cinemas worldwide over the whole twelve-month period of a tormented 2020, confirm the crash we had already registered for the first nine months and communicated in DGT Online Informer 171. Indeed, they paint an even more negative picture, since the restrictive measures adopted almost everywhere in the last quarter have made it impossible to consolidate the slight recovery that began in the summer and to take advantage of the Christmas season.
Thus, after a record 2018 and a quite satisfactory 2019, the United States, the world's leading market, see their box office fall by 80%. Europe also sees highly negative results, though on the whole, less so. On the Old Continent, audiences dropped from 76% in the United Kingdom and Ireland to 57% in the Netherlands, taking in Spain's and Italy's 72% and Germany's and France's 69%. Performance in the exhibition sector has obviously been affected by the duration of the lockdown imposed on the theatres and the extent of limitations to the number of seats on sale, but also by the presence of productions that have made it possible to replace, at least partially, films from the Stars and Stripes, whose releases were halted on the big screen until better times, or even re-routed onto the digital platforms.
The productions that have come to the aid of programming almost completely deprived of blockbusters are mostly domestic ones. The case of Italy is emblematic, where domestic films, headed by Checco Zalone's "Tolo Tolo", as well as by "Odio l'estate" ("I hate Summer") by Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo, account for 56% of total box office. In France, too, the share of domestic films has risen considerably to 45%, or ten percentage points more than the previous year, compared to a drop of 15 points for U.S. films, falling from 56% to 41%. Amongst these French films emerges "30 jours max", the most widely viewed domestic title, chosen by over one million spectators. Outside Europe, the Japanese market, which has experienced a 61% squeeze, has held out thanks mainly to domestic products, first and foremost "Demon Slayer" the manga that performed so exceptionally well at the box office.
But another pleasant surprise comes from the field of added content. An overview offered by the ECA - the organisation bringing together professional players and companies in the sector of added content - shows that the impact of this sort of production on total box office experienced a considerable, widespread increase, in the more or less general re-opening of theatres from June to October.
If results in Brazil are particularly striking worldwide, and added content in the country has risen from 0.3% to 3.9%, in Europe, too, the increases are not negligible. In Germany the incidence of added content has risen from 1.3% to 1.8%, in Italy from 2.5% to 3.4%, in the United Kingdom - the European leader in this sector - from 4.0% to 4.2%. In September 2020, box office from added content far exceeded one million pounds in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Where, in terms of traditional films, the "guiding light" was "Tenet", in the sector of added content the real international success was "Break the Silence: The Movie", which in the United States came in twelfth place in terms of box office, out of all the titles released after the onset of the pandemic. But the BTS's fourth film also came in fifth place in Brazil and in the top 20 in Italy, the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as in its home country, South Korea.
To sum up, faced with a halt in releases of movie productions in a strict sense, added content has proved to be a resource for cinemas searching for products to enhance their programming. Not to speak of the fact that added content tends not to "go out of fashion": for music lovers - whether of pop, or classical, opera or ballet - the opportunity to see again on the big screen events or productions that have made their mark on the history of the genres is always of immense interest. Of the 45 titles distributed in October in the United Kingdom and Ireland, only 11 were new.
The fact that distributors of added content are ready to support the keenly desired recovery of cinema-going is demonstrated not only by what has happened over the past few months, but also by the wealth of products in the 2021 catalogues, challenging the uncertain perspective of this ambiguous period, which looks on the one hand towards a new surge in the pandemic and on the other towards the return to normality promised by the vaccines.
And so, Rising Alternative, the historical brand of added content, purchased by the Spanish A Contra Corriente, offers the Opéra de Paris, live, with "Faust" and "Notre-Dame de Paris", as well as prestigious recorded performances, including "A riveder le stelle", the show that replaced the First Night of the Scala in Milan.
Also "made in Spain" are the recorded versions of "La Traviata" and "Tosca" at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, as well as "Turandot" and "Billy Budd" from the Teatro Real in Madrid, distributed by Versión Digital, whose catalogue also includes a series of evergreens from the Arena in Verona, such as "Il Barbiere di Siviglia", "Aida", "Nabucco", "Turandot" and "Carmen", covering the 2010 - 2018 period.
But there is not just music: Versión Digital also presents the documentary "Almost Ghosts" by the director Ana Ramón Rubio, which won the award for best documentary at the Arizona International Film Festival in 2019.
In Central-Eastern Europe, Pannonia Entertainment also offers visual music, and more. Now backed by eight seasons of experience, this dynamic distribution company, launched in Hungary but operating on six markets, counts on once again being able to offer Royal Opera House opera and ballets in 2021.
Another traditional date is the one with André Rieu: "Andre Rieu Magical Maastricht: Together In Music", distributed in Hungary, as is the most recent concert by one of its soloists, Mirusia. This will also be seen in the Czech Republic and in the Slovak Republic, Romania and Poland as soon as cinemas re-open. Again music, but in the form of documentaries, with "Up from The Streets - New Orleans: City of Music" and "Ronnie Wood - Somebody Up-There Likes Me", on the Rolling Stones' guitarist.
Addressing a younger audience in Hungary and Romania comes a concert by the new, all-girl band, the Little Mix.
Alongside music, Pannonia Entertainment will continue to place ballet in the limelight, thanks to screenings of the Matthew Bourne Ballet in Poland and in the Slovak Republic, and to the documentary "Béjart Ballet for Life", which is shortly to be released in Hungary.
Pannonia Entertainment will not fail to continue celebrating the great art of all times and to pay homage to the cinema. Hungarian audiences will thus be offered films such as "Botticelli, Florence and the Medici"; "Pompeii - Sin City"; "Raphael"; "Munch - Love Phantoms and Lady-Vampires", as well as the documentary "Fellini of the Spirits", a tribute to the great master of Italian cinema, whilst in the Czech and in the Slovak Republics it plans to redistribute "Total Recall". Again in the field of art documentaries, in all six countries where Pannonia operates, the episode in the series on Dalì entitled "Salvador Dalí: The Youth Diaries" will be on offer.
The sources for domestic market trends in 2020 are Box Office Mojo and Comscore.
This text is based on an article published in the Berlinale issue of Cinema & Video Int'l, the MEDIA Salles media partner.
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