This past April, I led a student exchange trip to France in which students from my school stayed with correspondents and their families from Tours, France. While there, I visited Studio Cinémas, a local cinema that houses an extensive cinematic archive and provides an example of a lively cultural presence in its small city.
This cinema is an example of one of the many independently-run theaters in France. In France, there exists a system of support for independently-run local venues, such as through the Association of Arts Cinemas (Cinémas d’art et d’essai). In terms of youth initiatives, throughout Europe there has been a great deal of enterprise with media literacy education (and particularly in Britain) and France is no exception.
In fact, there are many initiatives in France to encourage understanding of media and to expose young people to diverse media messages. In some countries, funding of cultural initiatives and events is viewed as important to the health of society. It is compelling to look at examples of this on a small scale, and in the case of this theater, there is a courtyard in the back and café at the front of the cinema, as well as a library and setting for cultural events.
This raises key questions of economics and of the viability of independent cinemas: what is their business model? Conversely, how do chain theaters operate? How have distribution networks evolved over the history of cinema and television? To take the example of Paris, France, it is no random event that there are still dozens of individually-run cinemas in that city: they have been highly organized in developing support networks and they have been supported by societal attitudes in which culture is seen as a vital part of public life.
Think about how you experience movies and how they reach you: is there a diversity of choice in the movies you have access to? Is going to the movies part of any other social interactions you have? For many Americans, this would include the mall in which the chain theater is located.
For most young people today, they do not experience the majority of the movies they see in a theater. Often, they are seen streaming on the Internet or through sources such as Netflix. One aspect of media communications that is rarely discussed in any extensive or profound way is how we are affected by viewing experiences: what are the different manners in which we see and hear media? How do these differences affect us in contrasting ways? How do these experiences affect behavior, everyday life, and personal development?
As mentioned in an earlier post, an excellent investigative project can be undertaken by students in which they look at local examples of media sources, including cinemas, and work to answer questions about how they function, how they are designed, and how they are experienced. In the case of Studio Cinémas in Tours, here is an interesting article that appeared in The Guardian about this independent cinema.