Jnever doubtless have we taken the pulse of culture as much as since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. Sector among the most affected by the successive measures of containment, curfew and placing gauges in public places, referred to as “non-essential” by Emmanuel Macron, culture is the focus of much attention. The government – after 14 billion euros in public aid already paid since 2020 – continues to support structures in loss of revenue and announces, through the voice of the new Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, a communication campaign, at the start of the school year in September, to encourage the public to return to cinemas.
For professionals in all fields, it is also time for meticulous observation of a patient who is still recovering. Festival attendance, theater occupancy rate, number of volunteers, sale of subscriptions for the coming season, number of weekly admissions for films on screen… Each indicator is now scrutinized, day after day, between the fear of seeing a sluggish situation persist and the hope of a cultural hibernation finally over on the part of a public cautious about the idea of going out. And public or private studies are multiplying in an attempt to understand the phenomenon.
For the moment, it is very difficult to have an overview of the general state of health of culture in France. The cinema has lost more than 30% of its spectators, but the Festival d’Avignon has sold almost all the seats for The Black Monk, the new play by Kirill Serebrennikov. The Paris Opera continues to struggle to bring back its subscribers (40% less in 2021), and at the same time the resumption of the show Cinderella, by Joël Pommerat, triumphs at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin. Damon Albarn did not convince many people with his Flight of the Boli, in April, at the Théâtre du Châtelet, but had a full lawn, a few weeks later, at the We Love Green festival, with his group Gorillaz… Failures and successes, heavy and economic trends intertwine and draw an impressionist canvas whose outlines remain very blurry, leaving the “next world”, if there is one, in the fog.
If going out to see a film, a play, an opera or going to a museum is no longer – necessarily – self-evident, the reflection around what makes the value and the attraction of a cultural outing is not so that more essential. Gone are the days, not so long ago, when it was necessary to reassure the public in the face of possible contamination with Covid-19 in places of culture. Now is the time to reassure him that he has done well to leave home in a context of increased competition from domestic screens and tensions over purchasing power. 36% of people questioned, in May, by the National Center for Cinema and the Moving Image (CNC), on the reasons which push them to no longer go to the cinema put forward the price of tickets. Maria-Carmela Mini and Paul Rondin, co-presidents of the France festivals association, denounce them, in an interview with the regional economic newspaper The Gazette, hotel prices that will become “unaffordable” for the festival-goers, recalling that, for an event like Avignon, “20% of the festival-goer’s basket is made up of tickets and 80% of hotels, restaurants…”.
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