111 years of Castillet – The advice of the Perpignan cinema boss: “Go and see the films with your eyes closed”

He swore he would not take over the family business, yet Jacques Font is now the head of a small film empire born 111 years ago at the foot of the famous Castillet in Perpignan. After studying economics and starting a political career at PSU, the grandson of the founder of the first cinema in Perpignan plunged into the family adventure. 36 years later, despite the crises and storms, he still shows the same enthusiasm and the same desire to move forward.

Jacques Font, how would you define your work as a film exhibitor?

It is first of all a passion. I have always said that I have never worked outside of my studies. Managing cinemas is a job that involves a thousand details. You have to take care of everything without being a specialist in anything: connecting with companies, architects, plumbers, technical managers …

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But also programming …

This is caviar. I see at least 80-90 films a year, often more. It is exciting to discover the films and present them to the public, people come to the cinema to have fun and it is up to us exhibitors to show them the films they want.

Show desirable movies

In almost 40 years of career, what has changed?

All. In my grandfather’s time, distributors came to Perpignan to offer him films. When I started, I went to Marseille where the main distributors had regional offices in the same district. We knew each other, we liked each other, we exchanged. In the 1980s you had to fight for movies. Today everything happens in Paris, we talk to people we have never seen and who think it is useful to give you good advice … With the transition to digital, there is no more problem with copies. The chance we have is our longevity. We are widely recognized in the profession.

The company went through difficult times. How did you get over it?

We forgot, but the troubles started in the mid-1980s with the arrival of Canal Plus. That’s when I started and we saw a drop in attendance of around 35%, it was the worst figure in the last 50 years. Then Canal started making films, but they weren’t necessarily designed for big screens. Finally, French cinema owes its salvation to films such as Les Visiteurs, Le Grand Bleu, Cyrano or l’Ours, some of which were produced by theater operators. It is these French films that make the difference in terms of attendance. At the beginning of the 90s, the arrival of multiplexes also increased the offer and inevitably also the presences.

The too high cost of the seats? A lunar debate

What advice would you give to those who want to go to the cinema?

Go there with your eyes closed and read the reviews only after seeing the movie. The main idea is to savor the pleasure of discovery. Another practical tip, to make the most of the big screen, the best seats are between the first and second third of the room.

How do the spectators behave today after the confinement?

They are just starting to come back even though in 2022 the decline is still 30%. Those who have found their way back to the cinema come more often because they understood what could have been deprived if the cinemas had had to close, which would have happened without state aid, it should be emphasized. Reviving the car is long and complicated, but we’re holding on to rekindle the spectators’ flame.

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While the purchasing power of the French is declining, isn’t the price of tickets a problem?

If so, explain to me why the cities where tickets are most expensive are the ones with the most entrances? The films that we offer in the technological theaters are 6 euros more than in the classic theaters. They are even more successful than ever.

People will always need collective distractions

For a family, subscribing to Netflix is ​​less expensive …

But cinema has nothing to do with Netflix. The question is: do we still want to go to the movies or not? The selling point of cinema is that it remains a popular pastime where you can find everyone. Skiing is expensive. Practicing a sport costs money and we don’t talk about it. For me, the high cost of movie tickets is a lunar debate. Most of the spectators come a couple of times a year. An extra euro per seat is not an incredible budget. Regular customers always have access to special rates.

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TESTIMONIALS. The Le Castillet cinema in Perpignan celebrates its 111th anniversary: ​​the readers of L’Indépendant give us their best memories

What future do you imagine for cinema?

People will always need a collective distraction, cinema has to adapt to the new expectations of the public. We have to encourage young directors who are talented so that we can broadcast quality films. But also the directors who are good craftsmen to project the most spectacular films in the cinemas of the new generation. They attract a larger and younger audience.

What is your greatest pride?

Having kept the Castillet and opening the Mega Castillet.

Your biggest regret?

The time lost before the start of the Mega Castillet site. But you have to stay positive and not dwell on the past!

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