The crowd is calling: Dutch platform ‘We Want Cinema’ expands to Germany
Recalling that ’80s battle cry “I Want My MTV,” the latest, notable attempt to get more people to see more films in more movie theatres has been branded “We Want Cinema.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
Launched in October 2012 in the Netherlands, “We Want Cinema is a cinema-on-demand platform that lets the public decide what is shown in the movie theatre,” the site and concept developers at distributor Amstelfilm explain. Another term being floated is “crowd ticketing.” Their appeal to the public is even more direct, however. “You decide what is shown in the movie theatre. The theatre is no longer in charge of the programming, you are!” In other words, “The movie theatre is yours!”
Not unlike U.S.-based www.tugg.com, which Film Journal International introduced in August 2012, We Want Cinema uses crowd-sourcing and social-media tools to promote a library of available titles, all the while fully automating the booking of shows and payment processing. “Anyone can create an event, book the first tickets and invite friends,” explains Marieke Jonker of Amstelfilm. “Click, click, click and the event is booked.” Once the showing is posted for a certain time and cinema location, others can join in. “When enough people buy tickets, the event will take place.” To see and hear her English-language video pitch, check out http://bit.ly/wwcpitch.
So far, more than 70 film events culled from a catalog of more than 1,500 titles have taken place through the platform, Jonker confirms, with 20 to 40 people attending on average at up to 12 venues. Much of the success comes from creating partnerships, she adds. “We work together with film festivals by hosting an event. The public is choosing from a selection of films and the most wanted will be screened. A youth group hosted a film about immigrants, followed by a lively discussion.”
The collaboration with Dutch dating site Pepper added some extra spice to the proceedings by asking its members questions about films and favorites. The resulting “48 uur van de liefde Film Festival” (“48 Hours of Love”) offered Thelma & Louise, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Intouchables and local title Smoorverliefd, which Jonker translates for us as “lovesick.”
While classics such as Eraserhead and Casablanca are definitely doing well, several other noteworthy events have taken place that demonstrate where cinema-on-demand might be heading. Created with user-generated content in the first place, Paul Verhoeven’s Steekspel (Tricked) made a good fit for the platform, releasing in 18 cinemas across the Netherlands. Encouraged by that experience, and after hosting the premiere of Game at EYE film museum in Amsterdam, We Want Cinema now wants talent to get in on the act too. “We invite filmmakers to turn into entrepreneurs in charge of their films,” Jonker says. “Our platform provides…a self-distribution tool and the opportunity to generate revenue directly. Utilizing their connections and fan base through social media, all connected via the platform, We Want Cinema can help them in creating an international network of people.”
We Want Cinema has been reaching across the Dutch borders as well. “We are talking with potential partners about licensing rights and technology to England, Finland and Denmark,” Jonker confirms. Germany is already lined up with a 30-Kino beta test across Berlin, managed and organized by Potsdam Babelsberg-based Cinetrans. “We know the German market,” says co-managing director Andreas Schaffner, referring to his company’s 30 years worth of storing, shipping, maintaining and otherwise managing film prints. As one of the largest privately owned depots in the country, handling more than 14,000 titles and now offering state-of-the art digitization and conversion services to match, “it was a small step to get behind We Want Cinema,” he assures. Film funders at Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg agreed and provided the support for acquiring necessary rights from the Netherlands. The goal is to assess the “Want” factor in Berlin first, where all types and sizes of cinemas are participating—from neighborhood favorites to art houses, to mini- and even multiplexes, as listed in our sidebar—before heading across the country.
“Interest has been great,” Schaffner confirms, adding, “Over the years, we have encountered many problems and certainly know about the frustrations that not only theatre owners have when looking for some repertory programs. But also those that film lovers face when they have just missed out on yet another movie at the cinema. How many times do you hear, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great to see that film again on the big screen?’ It’s like the old-time ‘movie wish list’ that we used to have hanging up in our lobbies.”
With more than 1,500 available films, Schaffner plans to offer classics, favorites and more recent titles (six months old, at least), even some “real rarities.” And there will be actual film to project. “We can still access some 7,000 analog prints. So for those theatres that still have 35mm equipment, the selection is even greater.” Like its Dutch counterpart, the Deutsche variation of We Want Cinema anticipates developing the platform as a tool for filmmakers. “We hope to encourage the public to go see smaller and unknown films that have not found commercial distribution.”
On that business note, We Want Cinema splits revenue three ways between exhibitor, distributor/rights holder and Cinetrans for providing the entire backbone, of course. As part of their agreement, exhibitors set aside certain days and fixed time slots for filmmakers and fans to book their shows into. Theatre owners determine a minimum number of tickets that need to be sold—at a program-wide and agreed-upon price—in order to make the screening happen. “We look at those times that are traditionally underutilized,” Schaffner explains. “This is where we have the biggest opportunity to significantly increase occupancy.” He has opted for a longer lead time after showings have been confirmed in order to give cinemas the opportunity for additional promotion and adding them to their calendars and for on-site display. And if the show shouldn’t happen, there’s plenty of time to fill in the gap with regular programming.
Even though Schaffner believes in “strong and unified branding across all participating countries,” he knows some tweaking is in order to go from Dutch to Deutsch. In addition to country-specific means of payment and processing—direct debit, credit cards, PayPal or mobile—he wants We Want Cinema to give more prominence to the actual cinema. “People love their Kino, they really do. We need to create a stronger presence for them and to showcase them on the platform. After all, our motto is ‘Mach Dein Kino.’ Make your cinema.”
Sounds like our Dutch and German colleagues have certainly come up with something that will “Make Your Day.”
We Want Cinema Partners
Participating cinemas (and their cities) in The Netherlands: Chassé Cinema (Breda), Concordia (Enschede), Filmtheater Gigant (Apeldoorn), ‘t Hoogt (Utrecht), Foroxity Sittard en Roermond, Filmtheater De Uitkijk (Amsterdam), EYE (Amsterdam), Forum Images (Groningen) JT Hoogezand. Filmhuis Den Haag and Lieve Vrouw (Amersfoort).
Content owners and film distributors participating: A-Film, Amstelfilm, Artifilm, Beeld en Geluid, BFD, Cine/Vista / Great Concept, Cinema Delicatessen, DFW, Europe’s Finest, EYE, Filmfreak, Just Bridge, Mokumfilm, Upload Cinema, Human Film, Dogwoof, IFFR, Paradiso, Submarine, Movies that Matter, Cinemien, Cinéart, Journeyman Pictures, Journeyman Pictures and Moonlight Films.
Participating Kinos in Berlin, Germany (and surrounding communities):
Alhambra Cineplex, Titania Palast Cineplex, Rollberg Kinos, Passage Kinos, Filmtheater am Friedrichshain, Toni&Tonino, Thalia Kinos, Filmrauschpalast Genossenschaft, Tilsiter Lichtspiele, Kinos in den Spreehöfen, Astra Kinos, Kino im Kulturhaus Spandau, UCI Friedrichshain, Hackesche Höfe, Cineplex Spandau, Cinemotion, Casablanca, Kant Kinos, Eva Kino, Moviemento Kino, Regenbogen Kinos, Bundesplatz, Filmpalast (Bernau), Conzerthaus K-Motion (Brandenburg), Magic Movie, Thalia Kinos (Potsdam), DFEA 70 Babelsberg Eventkino (Potsdam), Spreekino (Spremberg) and Scala (Werder).
Content owners and film distributors: Alamode Film, MFA Filmverleih, Farbfilm Verleih, Concorde, Barnsteiner Film, Alpha Medienkontor, Rapid Eye Movies, Joroni Film, Online Film C.Wesnigk, One World Production, DCM, Studio Canal, DEFA Stiftung, Kinostar, Projektor Film, Camino Film, Zorro Film, Arsenal Filmverleih, Alpenrepublik, Schwarz/Weiß Filmverleih, Rialto Film, CCC Filmkunst and Goethe Institut; negotiating with Paramount Pictures, Constantin Film, Walt Disney Studios, Prokino, X-Verleih and Splendid Film.