400 films waiting to be screened as French cinemas prepare to reopen
No fewer than 45 films are slated for release when French cinemas reopen on 19 May after six months of pandemic-induced closure. At two to three times the usual number of films to be released, it is causing complications for movie theatres across France.
Stephane Goudet, who owns a cinema on the outskirts of Paris, is trying to figure out how to give as many films as possible their shot at succeeding. "It's like a giant Tetris!" he told French news agency AFP.
The authorities have encouraged cinemas to play multiple films in each screening room when cinemas reopen on 19 May, so Goudet crams in 18 movies across his six screens for the opening week.
Some had just been released and were scoring well when the second lockdown in October stopped them in their tracks.
Among them were French film DNA, by award-winning director Maiwenn. Also doing well when the curtains fell was Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round, starring Mads Mikkelsen, which picked up this year's foreign film Oscar.
Audiences at France's 2,000-plus cinemas enjoy both international hits and the products of its own prolific film industry.
There are the Oscar winners to catch up with, including best picture winner Nomadland and local success The Father from French writer-director Florian Zeller, for which Anthony Hopkins won his second best actor award. It also picked up best adapted screenplay.
Long-delayed Hollywood blockbusters will also soon start taking up space, including superhero slugfests Black Widow and The Suicide Squad, from the Marvel and DC stables respectively.
The big cinema chains have abandoned attempts to coordinate a calendar. But France's independent theatres and distributors are still determined to find some agreement to keep smaller films from being lost in the deluge.
"What we want to avoid is a situation where 40 to 60 films a week are looking for screens, especially if distributors rush to release films before Cannes," Etienne Ollagnier, from distributor Jour2Fete and independent distributors union SDI, told Screen Daily website last month.
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Despite the logistical headaches, which also include added health protocols and a 35-percent capacity limit in the first weeks, there's a festive spirit in the air.
And while many cinemas in the US have gone bust in the past year, that is less of a threat in France, said Elisha Karmitz, co-head of France's renowned production house and cinema chain MK2.
"We have a different model that isn't so dependent on blockbusters," Karmitz told AFP. "It's that diversity that preserves the French film industry in its entirety."
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