French exhibs prep for shift to euros

Exchange could result in confusion at box offices

PARIS — With 96 days until the end of the year, the hot topic at this year’s three-day French theater owners convention, which wrapped Thursday in Deauville, was the Jan. 1 transition from francs to euros.

“Cinemas are one of the few places that will be open that day,” said a preoccupied Olivier Snanoudj, director of the FNCF (Federation Nationale des Cinemas Francais). “We’re on the front line, since we’ll be the first to do business in euros.”

From Jan. 1-Feb. 17, businesses in the 15 EU nations will accept payment in both euros and the country’s currency, but will give change only in euros.

And that will mean confusion at box offices from Biarritz to Barcelona.

“People will be less patient in a long theater line than at the bakery,” Snanoudj said. “At the bakery, you’ll eventually get your bread and go home happy. But at a movie theater, if the cashier has currency conversion problems, you might miss the beginning of the film.”

In order to mitigate what promises to be a day filled with blunders and frustration, the FNCF devoted Thursday afternoon’s program to tips for making a tricky situation less daunting for both exhibitors and the public. Exhibitors were advised to train personnel and get them used to handling the new currency (though it won’t be available until December) as soon as possible and to lengthen film shows by adding trailers, shorts and ads.

Wherever possible, moviegoers are urged to use a method of payment other than cash to facilitate the process. This advice surely will promote usage of the cinema discount cards issued by the larger chains but scorned by the independents.

“This is a big psychological change and will affect anyone who is in contact with the public,” said Pascal Rogard, director of French directors/producers org ARP. “It’s normal the cashiers will be lost at first.”

Since merchants will not be able to raise prices after Jan. 1 in order to round out to the nearest euro, many have done so already, with the promise to round down again after the changeover. “But you can be sure the euro will always be adjusted to the exhibitor’s benefit and not the public’s,” Rogard said.

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