With France’s theaters and museums shut down since Oct. 30, TikTok’s local office has launched its first live program of cultural events in partnership with prestigious institutions such as the Versailles Palace, the Chaillot Theater, the Army Museum and the Cinematheque Française.

The roster of events, all of which are reimagined for and viewable on TikTok, kicked off Dec. 14 under the hashtag #CultureTikTok. They showcased an exhibit about legendary French comedian Louis de Funes at the Cinematheque; a tour of the Picasso Museum; an original show at the Chaillot Theater of National Dance; the Cité Internationale de la BD et de l’Image (Comic Book Museum); a tour of Versailles Palace, including the famous Glass Gallery; the Quai Branly Museum; and the Army Museum, which hosts the tomb of Napoleon.

The initiative has been spearheaded by Eric Garandeau, former president of the National Film Board (CNC), who joined TikTok as manager of public affairs in France earlier this year.

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A Quai Branly Museum exhibit on TikTok TikTok

“We encourage our cultural partners to be purist and go for quality first: each event lasts about an hour and is presented by an expert on the subject to give people exclusive access to these high-profile places,” said Garandeau.

“Inside Versailles Palace, for instance, we’re being guided by its scientific director, Mathieu da Vinha, who shows us the mythical Glass Gallery, the apartments of King Louis XIV and the Queen, and debunks every big myth,” said the executive, who had his first novel, “Tapis Rouge,” published in 2019 and whose upcoming second book will focus on the history of Versailles and Venice in the 17th and 21st centuries.

“Culture in France, like in many countries, has been on lockdown, and our mandate at TikTok is to unleash it,” said Garandeau.

TiKTok isn’t paying these cultural venues for the events; both TikTok and the venues are instead leveraging the significant exposure afforded at a crucial time. Versailles Palace gained 10,000 followers in 30 minutes, and the Chaillot was amazed by the volume of visitors, as well as their engagement, said Garandeau.

“These live initiatives have given these venues the opportunity to fast-track their digitization, widen their audiences by attracting those who wouldn’t necessarily book tickets and visit these places, and on a basic level, help them stay in touch with people,” said Garandeau, who added that the live events were inserted on TikTok users’ news feeds.

The app previously piloted the cultural live events in France with the Grand Palais for a Pompeii exhibition in March, during the first lockdown. “One video did 10 million views, it was a huge success and everyone took note of the experiment,” said Garandeau.

TikTok in France has seen its subscription base skyrocket within a few months. In the last year, the social media app has grown from 1.3 million users per day to 5.5 million, according to Mediametrie.

In its early days, TikTok appealed mostly to teenagers and young adults, but it has increasingly lured other demographics. “According to a recent study by Kantar, about 70% of users on TikTok in Europe are more than 25 years old,” Rich Waterworth, head of TikTok Europe, told Le Figaro.