After the UGC Montaudran, in Toulouse, the Central, in an enlarged version, is about to open in Colomiers. Can the declining market welcome new players?
The releases of “Dune” and “Mourir can wait” bring a breath of fresh air to cinemas which are struggling to regain their pre-Covid attendance level. However, the improvement has mainly benefited long-established multiplexes, much less the more recent UGC Montaudran and Kinepolis Fenouillet (see box). Opened in December 2016, the Kinepolis (8 rooms, 1,150 seats) has not yet found its cruising speed. “Certainly, the figures are not up to the expected level, admit the director Vincent Boy. But we are showing a little patience and a lot of optimism. The northern sector where we are located is experiencing exponential demographic development. It’s up to us to convince our public, which is essentially family, to change its habits. We are making progress: in 2019, we still reached 270,000 admissions. “
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The new UGC struggles in Montaudran
Open at the beginning of June, the UGC Montaudran (7 theaters, 1,300 seats) had the same difficult beginnings but, again, don’t panic, answers in substance Damien Gérard, who now runs the new cinema in addition to the three UGC multiplexes in Bordeaux. and its agglomeration. “We expect this start because we are installed in a neighborhood in the making,” he notes. Also brand new, the UGC Ciné Cité Bassins à Flot, near the Cité du vin, in Bordeaux, benefits from the opposite of an almost finished and well identified district. In Toulouse, it will therefore be necessary to show patience… which does not mean stagnation. To boost the cinema, pricing operations, a partnership with Tisséo (access being complicated), and synergies with cultural players in the district such as La Halle à la Machine are planned. “There are encouraging signs,” says Damien Gérard. We are sold out for the premiere of the documentary Animal, in the presence of Cyril Dion. Many spectators then discovered the UGC and told us: we will come back. “
In a completely different register, the Utopia Borderouge (3 rooms, 300 seats) is far from making sparks since its opening in June 2019. Each week, a few thousand spectators make the trip, far from its point of balance. A small form that Anne-Marie Faucon, co-founder of Utopia, puts into perspective. “When we launched Saint-Ouen, we barely reached 400 admissions. In Avignon, it was even worse. And then, little by little, success came. The current scores, achieved with films already shown elsewhere, are really not bad. “
For his part, the director of the Utopia Borderouge, Arnaud Clappier, points to various problems that have accumulated: the succession of openings and closings, a bistro still not started, not very attractive exteriors. And to insist: “Each time, we start from zero. But the work of animation around the films produces its effects. The public is coming back; it is always displayed. “
“The cake is not infinitely expandable”
Interview with Charles Mascagni, president of the Union of Midi-Pyrénées area operators.
Given the state of the market, do we still need to build cinemas?
There are two distinct situations, in small towns and in metropolises. For the former, which are not subject to competition, we must continue to upgrade aging rooms. Most often, it is an issue of town center animation of which the municipalities are very aware, which entrust the management of projects to associations or private companies.
And in a metropolis like Toulouse?
With the growing population, the market is supposed to grow, which whets the appetite of large groups. It is a good choice to open theaters but we must not increase the offer at the risk of reaching a breaking point and weakening a well-functioning ensemble. We saw it even before the Covid: the entrances are crumbling, including in the multiplexes. The cake may not be infinitely stretchy. Toulouse and the metropolis are already well established in cinemas.
What is your view on the new Central in Colomiers and the future Cartoucherie cinema?
Colomiers has the necessary inhabitants for a larger cinema to be justified, offering a majority of films. The city is legitimate when it equips itself with such a tool which will create animation, will be a place of life. The Cartoucherie project is more problematic when we see, in a similar register, how fragile the Utopa Borderouge is. Everything will depend on the energy put in by the film crew.
How to ensure that the public is there?
Today, it is not enough to have posters on the front and screens inside to convince spectators. The attitude, the responsiveness of the public, it is the operator who makes them, by a field work, by the multiplication of the animations. It’s like in a restaurant: if the chef is good, the customers come back, if it’s soup …