French film executives Mathieu Robinet, former head of Bac Films, and Yohann Comte, co-founder of Charades, have joined forces to launch Drive-in Festival, a not-for-profit initiative that will take place in several cities across the country until theaters reopen.

The initiative was inspired by American drive-in cinemas and similar initiatives created in Germany, South Korea and even Lithuania, where the Vilnius International Film Festival converted airport space into a massive drive-in cinema, said Comte.

Robinet, who conceived the idea of the Drive-in Festival, enlisted Comte and other film executives and received the blessing of cities, individual exhibitors, distributors such as Le Pacte, The Jokers and Wild Bunch, and the National Film Board to put together a line-up of films that can be watched outdoors from people’s cars.

The first session kicked off May 16 in Bordeaux on the Place des Quinconces, which welcomed 200 cars for “Hippocrate,” Thomas Lilti’s film which world premiered at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight in 2014. The idea is to host one screening per day and change location every week. Tickets cost €10 ($10.95) per adult and €5 ($5.48) per child, with the festival’s admissions going to local exhibitors and distributors.

The Drive-in Festival’s film slate does not include new releases or blockbusters, but rather popular director-driven films, like Céline Sciamma’s “Tomboy,” Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash,” Michael Dudok’s “The Red Turtle” and Gilles Lellouche’s “Sink or Swim.”

While the Drive-in Festival has been embraced by local players, the national exhibitors association (FNCF) was quick to protest, arguing that drive-ins will lure away moviegoers, the media, as well as industry orgs from actual cinemas.

Comte, whose company Charades handles prestige arthouse pics such as the Oscar-nominated “Mirai,” said the Drive-in Festival has no intention of competing with theaters and will stop as soon as they reopen, possibly in July.

“We’re thinking of this initiative as a way to (show solidarity) with local staffers, industries, as well as entertain people while theaters, restaurants and cafés are closed,” said Comte.

“So far we’ve had people on their first date, we had caregivers, we had someone who had never been to a theater before.. It’s heart-warming and it’s beneficial for our industry because it’s making people enthusiastic about movies,” Comte continued.

Elsewhere in France, a couple of virtual cinema initiatives have thrived, including La Toile, a local VOD platform that partnered with French exhibitors to offer curated films every month. The platform is embedded within an exhibitor’s existing website and sales are split between the exhibitor, rights holder and platform. Another digital service, La Vingt-Cinquième Heure, works as a geo-localized virtual cinema allowing people living within a 25-mile radius from participating cinemas to access content.

The French government will be announcing on June 2 reopening dates for theaters, restaurants and cafés. Exhibitors had previously asked the government for one month’s warning in order to get prepared for the eventual greenlight.





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