The pressing post-pandemic issue of how to find a theatrical audience for arthouse films was the subject of a morning panel at the Zurich Summit. Among speakers were A24 acquisitions and distribution executive David Laub, Sierra/Affinity exec Kristen Figeroid and Christian Bräuer, MD of top German indie exhibition group Yorck Kinogruppe.
A24’s Laub noted that there had been a box office comeback in recent months thanks to movies like Everything Everywhere All At Once and Top Gun: Maverick: “While arthouse movies remain challenged, overall, people are returning to cinemas. If people didn’t care, they would have switched off entirely after the pandemic, but they didn’t. We are very proud of Everything Everywhere All At Once. It was a movie that appealed to a younger audience, which is very important to our brand at A24. But this fall will be very telling. We have some films that skew older that played at Venice [The Whale] and other fall festivals. Will that older audience come back?”
Figeroid also noted the challenge: “With that older audience, we have to give them a ton of reasons to come back. Fall will be very interesting.”
Laub added about how best to attract movie-goers: “Consumers having trust in the brand is key. Creating loyalty is essential.”
Swiss exhibitor Stephanie Candinas concurred: “A24 does a great job in creating hype and a brand. As cinemas we also need to create a brand.”
This was a sentiment echoed by Bräuer: “Exclusivity matters. Windows matter. We need content dedicated to the big screen just like streamers need exclusive content too. Membership is key for us, just like it is for the streamers. As is making the experience more of a gastronomic experience. That’s another way to offer something unique and different. Understanding our clients is also vital. We realised we needed to get more data, we needed to talk about data, and we know we need to know more about our audience.”
When considering what could help or hinder a film’s marketing, Deadline co-editor Mike Fleming, who was moderating the panel, noted the good early box office for Don’t Worry Darling and asked whether the extraneous noise surrounding the film (‘spitgate’, supposed on-set feuding, press conference drama, social media speculation and memes etc) would help or hinder the movie.
Figeroid admitted: “I was obsessed with the situation while I was trying to work at TIFF. I was definitely scrolling through Twitter following the coverage. I was primarily interested in the project and its different elements. But the drama around it certainly made me wonder whether it was good or bad press. I do think it helped the movie along from a marketing sense. And of course, there is inevitably gonna be a big fan base for Harry Styles.”
Laub added: “It was just the right side of the line. The noise was gossipy and people were having fun with it. There was curiosity.”