The reopening of cinemas in France is therefore scheduled from Wednesday, May 19, with the wearing of the mask compulsory and in stages. The sector is organizing itself for this deadline, and this is obviously the case with distributors. Alexandra Henochsberg is director of Ad Vitam, which employs a dozen people and has distributed 36 independent films since 2005.
franceinfo: Are you waiting for this reopening with a mixture of excitement and apprehension?
Alexandra Henochsberg: We very, very much want and absolutely need the cinemas to open again, so we are impatiently awaiting that, it has been months since we have been prevented from working, from doing our job, that we have films that are ‘are piling up on our shelves because the shootings have continued. I’m seeing films right now that are being edited, finished, while I have others that have been there for a year and are waiting to be released, so it’s true that we absolutely need it to reopen , for many reasons from a distributor’s point of view but also from a personal point of view. To finally leave our home and find a cultural and cinema activity. But also an apprehension because we know very well that it will be very complicated for us.
There are a lot of films that are awaiting release, which were supposed to be released but have not been able to, since the month of November, and which will have to find a way out there, in the coming weeks. So yes, all of this creates a very complicated climate, which we will have to face. The more we will face it collectively, among ourselves, between distributors, by trying to get a little around the table, to work on a concerted schedule, by working harmoniously with the exhibitors, also hoping that the latter play the game and do not release the films one after the other, removing them after a week, but give them time to live and breathe. Everyone will have to accept the new rules of the reopening game.
Are you going to bring out the films that were released for a short time in the fall first, in fact working on the same schedule but off-set?
We, it turns out that we did not have a film showing, we had exploitation purposes, so these films which were “at the end of their life”, we are not going to re-release them. On the other hand, we had a lot of films which were dated and which were ready to be released, that is to say that we had completely started the display, we had organized tours in the provinces, previews, a job press which was very committed, associative work around films too. So we had done all our work for months and months, which is usually done around the exits. And films that were really broke just as soon as they hit theaters.
I think about Men by Lucas Belvaux which will come out soon enough after the reopening date. We try not to step on top of each other and spread out our outings. It will be difficult because under the reopening conditions, the protocol that is announced is that we would first open with a 35% gauge for three or four weeks, so we must still accept to release films in such degraded conditions, and then switch to a 65% gauge for the next four weeks.
Basically the first two months after opening are going to be complicated, degraded periods for distribution. Everyone has to accept: the authors, producers, filmmakers, us distributors, to release films under such conditions.
Are you confident that people will return to the cinema?
So maybe very naively, I’m incredibly confident. And the more time passes, the more I tell myself that people are going to go back to the cinema, that the collective experience, it seems to us to be vital, more and more essential.
I think that loneliness, in front of our screens, in front of our Netflix or other programs – well, I am not criticizing Netflix because I think it has served well during the pandemic – but this loneliness, we are at the end, therefore yes, I am very confident about a return, as we also know that the sanitary conditions in this type of place are not only respected, and we have proven it, that’s why we are all very angry, we knows very well that in a cinema, we keep our masks, we do not eat, we are separated from each other, we are not face to face, all these conditions have been respected from the start and we have not understood why we stayed closed for so long. So yes, I think people will feel safe in the movies and will be very, very eager to relive collective experiences.