Alice Tourlonias, co-director of an independent cinema: “A room allows you to create social ties”
The Cross The Weekly : What makes you get up in the morning?
Alice Tourlonias: My job. All that it allows, the collective, the gathering of spectators in the same room. It is not the cinema that is my passion, but its distribution. I also appreciate the relationships we have with the associations. On some themes, I even feel a sense of usefulness. For example, we have just collaborated with the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes space for ethical reflection.
This allowed us in January to launch Cin’éthique, a debate evening where we showed More than ever by Emily Atef, in the presence of health professionals, a philosopher and a lawyer. The goal was that after the broadcast, the guests discuss with the public on “Can we choose our end of life? Thanks to a film, we are opening up a social debate that would have been difficult to envisage alone at home.
At work, how is it going?
AT: The day begins every morning with a session for school children. Each term, we welcome just over 4,000 high school, college and primary school students. Since 2017, the launch of “Mon petit Rio” allows the same device for kindergartens. We program fairly short works that are similar to an introduction to cinema.
During the first session, we explain to them that the lights will go out, that the sound will come out of the speakers and that the film is projected from the back of the room unlike the television. As in any structure, management, accounting and communication are part of everyday life. Since 2016, we have been running Le Rio collectively with Aurélie, Rémy and Sylvie. The division of tasks is meticulous but the common basis of work remains programming, namely choosing the films that will be broadcast.
Who do you trust?
AT: I trust the profession. Le Rio is the last independent cinema in Clermont-Ferrand. The pandemic and the proliferation of online platforms have inevitably led to a drop in attendance. Spectators aged 45-50 have discovered a new use. But to speak of an imminent end to cinema is to be alarmist. With each technological upheaval (the appearance of television, the birth of the Internet or the launch of VOD), the question arose. 2019 was the best year for movies in decades.
This crisis is an opportunity to review our profession. For multiplexes (cinemas with a minimum of eight screens, for a capacity of more than 1,000 seats), the aim was to increase comfort, for example by installing recliners. At the Rio, which only has one screen, you have to ask yourself how best to support the public.
A scene that marked you recently?
AT: I remember a retired couple, the kind of spectator who is part of the walls: they always occupied the same two seats. They came every week, and that long before I started here. We had become quite close.
One day, the lady arrived alone, she announced to us that she was moving to Aubenas, in the Ardèche. To say goodbye, we offered him a drawing of the room showing them from behind. For me, this is a nice proof that the room makes it possible to create social ties, to share emotions and to develop a unique character.
Something that would change your life right now?
AT: Improving our reception in the cinema and accessibility for people with reduced mobility. Renovating and expanding it would be an investment to attract a new audience. Even if we suffer a little less from the drop in attendance than other cinemas, the objective is to continue to work on the animation, the evening debates with the local associative fabric. Obviously, we are betting on cinema for young audiences. The children of today are our spectators of tomorrow.
And for tomorrow, an idea to change the world?
AT: Access to the cinema for all. That everyone wants to move in a dark room. Everything then goes through image education. We need to make people aware of its importance. Producers and distributors like Disney have a role to play.
Before landing on their platforms, their films must be released in cinemas exclusively. The concern is that in the future, this will no longer be the case. It would be harmful for everyone, even for Le Rio. We need it to create a balance for the whole profession because admissions contribute to the financing of all. It’s a virtuous circle.
On the occasion of the Césars ceremony, broadcast live and unencrypted this Friday February 24 at 9 p.m. on Canal +, we met Alice Tourlonias, co-director of the last independent cinema in Clermont-Ferrand, Le Rio. A difficult position, given the competition from the six other establishments in the city, video-on-demand platforms and the pandemic, which has alienated part of the public. What matters to him is the distribution of films to as many people as possible. A passion born by discovering Cinéfac, a Clermont university film club. During her master’s in cultural and artistic action, she passed a projectionist operator CAP, which no longer exists. At only 32 years old, this Auvergne woman fights body and soul to bring Le Rio to life and attract spectators.
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