4 November 1998
9,30 a.m. - Centro Congressi of the Province of Milan - Via Corridoni, 16 - Sala Truffaut
 
Seminar
The Commitment of European Cinemas to Films for Children and Young People:
Experiences and Developments
 
SPEECH BY PAOLA BENSI
Young people and the cinema:
Features and modes of cinema-going in Europe
 
 
Aims and structure of the research
The aim of the study is to discover the basic aspects of cinema-going amongst young people in Europe, comparing it to other leisure-time activities and concentrating on any differences that may emerge from country to country.
In particular the research intends to discover whether there is a profile of cinema-going that may be considered specific to young people and different from that of the adult, both in terms of the services demanded and in terms of the values sought in the films themselves.
In view of the growing complexity in the field of audiovisuals, a further aim is to determine the importance of the movie theatre for young people, both compared to other forms of film watching and for the choice of films seen at the cinema.  In other words, the study means to discover how far the movie theatre itself can influence cinema-going amongst young people, through specific planning, including European films, and through special promotional strategies.

The analysis is based on questionnaires distributed in the movie theatres belonging to the Euro Kids Network to young people taking part in the initiatives organised throughout Europe in 1996.  The special programmes for young people and/or schools were, in fact, supported by numerous initiatives (graph 1), amongst which the most widespread regarded promotional pricing policies (discounts, season tickets etc.), the distribution of programmes and the organisation of meetings and debates.
 

 

 
 From the 1777 questionnaires returned correctly completed (table 1), there is immediate evidence of  considerable heterogeneity amongst the young respondents, due not only to their country of residence, but also to age, which varies between 11 and 25, and to the frequency of their cinema-going.
The study has not therefore been limited to an analysis of the overall data for Europe but has also examined the situations in individual countries, comparing them to the European averages, and also to the judgements expressed by young people, according to their age and the frequency of their cinema-going.

The main results at a European level
An overall analysis of the questionnaires yields the profile of a young person still strongly bound to traditional media, even when watching films, according to a leisure-time model characterised by escapism and a preference for the spectacular.
Young Europeans do, in fact, spend a lot of their free time in sporting activities and like eating out.  In particular, they spend three or more hours a day watching television (in 29% of cases) or listening to the radio (22%), whilst less time is spent on using the computer or reading books and magazines, activities to which only 7%, 6% and 3% respectively of young people dedicate three or more hours a day.
There is a considerably high consumption of films, both on television, where they are watched more than four times a week by 20% of respondents, and on videocassettes, regularly bought or hired by around half of the young people interviewed.
The cinema remains one of the channels of culture most easily accessible to young people and is preferred to the attendance of cultural/social/religious associations, discothèques, libraries, concerts, museums and theatres.
More particularly, the cinema is seen by young people not as a meeting place for socialising but as a form of personal entertainment:  the main characteristics attributed (in multiple choice answers) to the offer from cinemas do, in fact, regard the recreational aspect, that is: it is a show (52%), a form of entertainment (50%) and a pass-time (27%), and also, to a fair extent, a cultural value (31%), whilst the social aspect (16%) and personal involvement (15%) play a less important role.
Young people go to the cinema mainly in groups (54% of cases) or with a friend (40%), more rarely with parents or with the school (17%) and hardly ever alone (4%).
The frequency of cinema-going amongst the young people considered proves to be fairly high compared to the European averages recorded for the whole population (1,9 times a year in 1996), since 28% stated that they went to the cinema once a month, 21% more than once a month, 6% once a week and 5% more than once a week.  However, these figures do not seem likely to change much in the future, since 61% of young people declared that they did not wish to change their cinema-going habits over the next few years.
The aspects that most influence the choice of film (according to multiple-choice answers) are the genre (61% of answers), the theme or subject (57%), the director and/or actors (51%) and whether it has been recommended by acquaintances (25%); less influence is exerted by trailers (22%), the opinion of the critics (18%), success with the general public (15%) and prizes won (6%).
The movie theatres themselves do not count a lot in the choice of the film (only 5% of replies) and young people prove to be satisfied or very satisfied with them in 76% of cases.
Nevertheless, significant changes are not noticed in the service given by the theatres over the past few years, both in terms of the quality and novelty of the films screened and the range of choice, as well as in terms of comfort and, above all, the offer of promotional activities.
Young people are of the opinion that cinema-going could be encouraged by improving the quality/novelty of the films screened and the quality of sound and image, as well as the range of films to choose from and the comfort of the theatre, whilst they do not see season tickets/discount cards, the nearness of the movie theatre and information in the mass media as particularly important ways of increasing cinema-going.
In this respect, all the peripheral1  aspects of the service are considered to be of little importance, especially the mailing of information to the home and promotional activities organised by the movie theatre; this opinion reflects young peoplesí view of the cinema as entertainment and as a pass-time, rather than as a cultural or educational activity.
Lastly, whilst in favour of an increase in the range of films offered, young people state that they are interested in the screening of a greater number of European films in 74% of cases and show appreciation of the Euro Kids Network initiative in which they took part, considering themselves satisfied or very satisfied in 70% of cases.

Comparison of the situation in individual countries
As far as the leisure-time profile is concerned, significant differences do not emerge between the various European countries; however, it can be seen that Italian youngsters watch films on television, eat out at restaurants or pizzerias more frequently than other young Europeans (those who have been to a restaurant more than three times over the last three months amount to 64%, as against the 32% of the other respondents), attend cultural/social/religious associations more (26% against 11%) but go less frequently to discothèques (6% against 29%) and libraries (8% against 25%).
The main changes seen by young people in the audiovisual sector regard the improved quality of television programmes, in particular in Denmark, Great Britain and Sweden, whilst a higher percentage of young Britons see an increase in the range of films and promotional activities on offer in movie theatres, compared to the European average.
Referring more specifically to the cinema, important differences in cinema-going exist from one country to another; in particular the following points can be emphasised, with respect to the average figures for the whole of Europe:

 

 
Cinema-going according to age of young people in Europe
Age is a major influence in the organisation of leisure time and in cinema-going.
Dividing the total group of respondents (excluding Sweden2) by age, in categories of under 14 (18%), between 14 and 17 (58%) and between 18 and 25 (24%), it appears that, as the age increases, more time is dedicated to going to discothèques, restaurants/pizzerias, concerts and theatres, whilst fewer films are watched on television, either on cable or on satellite, or by buying or hiring videocassettes.
Cinema-going also increases, with less accompaniment by parents or family members and more and more by a friend or with the school.
As they grow older, young people are less influenced by public acclaim in their choice of film and pay more attention to the genre, the director/actors and to the opinion of the critics.
It is very interesting to note that, the older the respondents are, the less cinema-going tends to be characterised as pure entertainment, gaining instead the characteristics of personal involvement, educational value and, above all, cultural value.
As they grow older, young people suggest encouraging audiences by emphasising the core aspects of the service offered, in particular the quality/novelty of the film, the sound/image quality and season tickets/discount cards, whilst the only aspect of the peripheral aspects considered of growing importance is that of information in the mass media.
On the other hand, interest in seeing a greater number of European films does not seem to depend on age.
 

 
Cinema-going based on attendance levels
More frequent cinema-going, from a few times a year up to more than once a week, can be related to certain extremely clear trends in the behaviour or opinion of young Europeans (excluding Sweden); in particular the following aspects are recorded:

Frequent cinema-goers, 45% of whom consist of young people over 18, are also characterised by being those spectators most generally satisfied with the movie theatres and those with an above-average intention to increase their cinema-going in the future; they are also those who are most interested in screening a greater number of European films.

Conclusions
Young peoplesí cinema-going, whilst being generally characterised by specific aspects, linked mainly to a view of the cinema as a form of entertainment, has many different sides to it:  in particular, it is of fundamental importance to distinguish cinema-going by children from cinema-going by young people over 18.  This is because the demands of the former group regard mainly sound/image quality and the range and novelty of films programmed, whilst in more adult cinema-going cultural/informative and promotional initiatives by the theatre emerge as important factors.
The study also seems to confirm the importance of encouraging young people to approach the cinema, since it is the knowledge and love of the cinema, in other words frequent cinema-going, that yields greater appreciation of quality films and, in particular, of European films.

 
Milano, 3 November 1998

PAOLA BENSI
Expert on statistics at Milanís Catholic University
 

Table 1. The distribution of questionnaires on the basis of the nationality and of the cinema

 

COUNTRY CITY CINEMA NUMBER OF QUESTIONNAIRES 
Denmark Herlev Herlev Teaterbio 59
France Brive Brive Art et Essai 67
France Créteil Cinéma du Palais 122
France Fontainebleau Ermitage 7
France Guingamp Les Baladins 75
France Lannion Les Baladins 129
France Perros-Guirec Les Baladins 80
France Tremblay-en-France Jacques Tati 67
    Total France 547
Great Britain Cardigan Theatr Mwldan 48
Great Britain Northampton Forum Cinéma 89
    Total Great Britain 137
Italy Modugno (BA) Fantarca 168
Italy Conversano (BA) Norba 51
Italy Frascati (Roma) Politeama 130
Italy Genova Sala Don Bosco 110
Italy Lucca Cinéma Centrale 64
Italy Napoli Arci Movie 90
Italy Noci (BA) Eden 120
Italy Roma Cinéma dei Piccoli 43
Italy S. Severo (FG) Cicolella 120
    Total Italy 896
Suède Kungsbacka Saga Bio 138
 


 
Note:
1 Two basic areas can, in fact, be distinguished in the services provided by cinemas: a main, or core area, which regards the more structural aspects of cinema-going and a secondary, or peripheral area, which distinguishes the more advanced and better quality offer, appealing more to the spectator
2 Sweden was not included in the analysis, since individual questionnaires were not returned to MEDIA Salles, but only a processed, combined result..