Fall promotion aims to lure auds back to theaters

FNCF hopes discount tickets will entice Gauls

PARIS — Gauls depressed at the thought of returning to their work-a-day lives come September, may find themselves cheered up by the thought of a cheap date at the movies.

Or at least, that’s what France’s Federation Nationale des Cinemas Francais (FNCF) hopes as it prepares the launch of its promotional film event “La Rentree du Cinema.”

For the French, la rentree (the return home), is more than just the exodus from beaches and mountain resorts. Similar to America’s “Back to School” season but more widespread, it’s a concept that starts to loom large in the Gallic consciousness as the month-long August vacation comes to a close. Ad campaigns abound as department stores, publishers, and TV stations all try to cash in on the upturn in activity.

The film industry, however, has yet to find a way to capitalize on the event.

“The beginning of September is a paradox: You have a lot of French films opening but it’s always bad in terms ticket sales,” says Olivier Snanoudj, chief exec of the FNCF. “People come back depressed, they have less money, they’re preoccupied with work and they don’t feel like going to the movies.”

The FNCF, however, is planning a full frontal assault on the September blues with “La Rentree du Cinema,” a promotional event whose crown jewel is an informational pack dubbed Cinekit.

Inside the lucky recipients will find two movie tickets for a substantially discounted 4.50 euros, a DVD that contains all the trailers of Gallic films that will bow between September and December, and a magazine highlighting the films.

And unlike the org’s other promotional events, “La Rentree du Cinema” will aim to attract Gauls who aren’t frequent cinema-goers. To that end, the FNCF has partnered with French bank BNP Paribas and mobile phone operator Orange, who will serve as the distributors of the 1 million Cinekits.

“We wanted to do something similar to the literary rentree, where the publishers talk up all the new books coming out and create a phenomenon around them,” says Snanoudj.

The FNCF hopes that the new event will also change distributors’ outlook on September, which is generally flooded by Gallic auteur pics, leaving little balance in the programming.

Snanoudj points to “Shrek 2” which opened during “Fete du Cinema” and continued its extremely strong perf in its soph sesh.

The event itself was also a success, with 4.3 million tickets sold between June 27- June 29 — a score which equals its record-breaking turnout in 1999. And while distributors may be somewhat skeptical, exhibs are thrilled by the idea.

“It’s important to motivate the public to go to the movies,” says Antoine Mesnier, deputy director of development at exhib UGC. “You have to fight against the idea that the beginning of September is bad and will always be bad. It used to be the same way for July and August and that’s all changing now.”

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