Bruno Castro • Director, Alvalade Cineclube

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– The Portuguese professional spoke to us about the situation in his country and the important role played by film clubs in bringing audiences back to cinemas

We conducted three interviews with three professionals, in partnership with CICAE, in order to understand how the film industry evolves. from Portugal Cinematheque Alvalade director Bruno Castro spoke to us about the situation in Portugal and the important role played by film clubs in bringing audiences back to cinemas.

Cineeuropa: You recently participated in the training organized by the CICAE in San Servolo, and you led the “design thinking” workshop. What was this workshop about? Have you seen any interesting projects?
Bruno Castro:
It is difficult to have several good ideas. Most of us know this, but what can be done to unleash creativity and help develop projects from an innovative starting point? Since the CICAE truly wants to help cinemas and professionals to move forward and rethink their projects, the challenge was to lead a workshop with trainees in Venice and help them overcome the received ideas and ideas that usually block their ability to think outside the box. We did some exercises together, which resulted in group work and ideas, starting with the notion that all ideas are valuable and progressing to what we should start, stop and keep doing. It was a very practical workshop that involved everyone to understand how redesigning a cinema often starts with a new approach. The different scenarios that the interns worked on had very interesting results, touching on new approaches to audience development, community engagement and communications. I can only thank the CICAE for the courage it has shown in finding new ways to help professionals overcome their difficulties and do something new or in an innovative way.

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As a film club manager, how is the film club sector in Portugal doing and how do you see things evolving in the years to come?
Film clubs are part of the history of cinema in Portugal, since they played a fundamental role in the resistance against the dictatorship in the 60s and 70s. After a long period in which the landscape of cinema exhibition changed almost entirely, they are vitally important again, mainly because many multiplexes and art house cinemas have closed in recent decades and film clubs are now one of the driving forces of no – general public exhibition in Portugal. They also approach audiences in new ways; they are more open to community engagement, which will be crucial in the years to come. Engaging with viewers and presenting an organized approach to filmmaking are new essential necessities that make film clubs crucial players in the exhibition game. As commercial operators, cinemas still only deal with previews and the new release model, which is already proving insufficient in Portugal, especially with regard to art house cinema. The latest reports show a huge increase in the number of film clubs, which is a sign that things are changing.

How do you think cinema audiences are changing after the pandemic, especially in Portugal?
Are we already “after the pandemic”? The performing arts sector has seen audiences flock to theaters in Portugal, but cinemas are still struggling to convince viewers to return to their theatres. There’s probably something about the cinematic experience that makes audiences more fearful. Or there is an excess of content now, with distributors trying to relieve their backlog of releases and people feeling lost in the midst of so many options. What frightens us the most is the idea of ​​disconnection: that the disconnected audience in cinemas is a normal everyday reality. They see festivals and events as unmissable opportunities, but struggle to find a new rhythm when it comes to regular film screenings. This is what non-traditional cinema operators worry about: how to reconnect with audiences when their admission levels are skyrocketing and when the reasons for this are primarily emotional rather than rational. We all need to think about new ways to reconnect, for the long term.

There is talk in many European countries of measures to support the cinema sector and encourage the public to return to cinemas. What do you think of these proposals? What’s happening in Portugal?
As of the last question, nothing is happening in Portugal in the cinema sector. There are no metrics being discussed (which are common knowledge), and the national film institute seems to be focused on production or big events like festivals (if we’re talking exposure). But here again, Portugal has one of the most particular configurations in terms of exhibition: all its cinemas belong to distributors, even those of arthouse. The only exceptions are film clubs, which do not have their own rooms (apart from a particular case in Porto). So, in fact, if the authorities really decide that they should consider exposure, a brave and open discussion should take place about the model currently in place and why (and when and how) new independent actors should be motivated and supported in to set up their own projects. But that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. The level of support enjoyed by the alternative circuit (which is almost exclusively made up of film clubs) has increased for 2022/2023, but it remains symbolic. And distribution agents treat art house actors, like film clubs, as if they were regular business entities, charging market fees and hampering organized programs (although the same seems to be happening). produce worldwide). At European level, the support systems seem to push towards the networking of cinemas, although still based on a model which favors the number of screenings per year or the volume of films screened, in order to provide financial support (as with Europa Cinemas, for example). So, again, we have to ask ourselves: are we really “after the pandemic”? There are no new models being discussed, only tighter budgeting over the next few years. What’s happening during this pandemic should make us all think about new ways to get movies seen and make sure communities really connect with their theaters as cultural hubs. We are far from it, unfortunately.

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