French theatres prepare to break taboo by showing ads before the curtain rises

French theatres are set to break a major taboo and show adverts before the curtain goes up in what they claim is a world first.

French theatres prepare to break taboo by showing ads before the curtain rises
Inside the theatre de l'Athenee in Paris. AFP.
Twelve privately-owned theatres in Paris will in November begin apeing cinemas by showing ads as well as teaser videos for their forthcoming productions.
Five playhouses outside the capital have also signed up with up to 30 other theatres — including subsidised public ones — for talks to follow suit.
“Theatres are caught in a double bind: how to promote their own plays and how to make up for falling receipts and subsidies,” said  Alexandre Vernier, who heads ODW Regie, the agency behind the move.
His company will screen four minutes of ads before plays start, two minutes of normal advertising with the rest of the time given over to promoting upcoming plays.
“The idea is not to irritate theatregoers but to give them something to watch while they wait for the play to start,” Vernier told AFP.
“Theatres are prestigious places so the advertising will be high-end, for cars, jewellery and perfume,” he added.
Theatres are already trying to drum up interest in new productions with video clips posted on social media, while cinemas in the French capital regularly show ads for new plays, ballets and stand-up shows.
'Do we need more ads?'
Karine Marchi, who co-runs four theatres in central Paris, said showing adverts in theatres themselves was an obvious next step.
“The fact that we can promote our own plays is really something for us. We do not have the crazy sums you need to drum up publicity,” she said.
Marchi argued theatres had been missing a trick for decades by not copying cinemas.
“When I go to the cinema the trailers really make you want to go see those films and I hope the same will be the case for our audiences.”
But many theatre owners remains sceptical.
Jacques Mailhot, who runs the cabaret theatre Les 2 Anes (The Two Donkeys) in the French capital, said, “We are already being bombarded with advertising everywhere, do we need to add any more?”
He also claimed that the idea was not new — theatres used to project crude written adverts for their productions in the past.
And Bernard Murat, who owns the Edouard VII theatre in Paris and heads the private theatre union, said chasing after advertising money was an “expression of disarray”.
“I think we should be looking at other ways of getting the means that we should have, notably from he state because of our public service,” he added.
And he insisted that letting in advertising might lead to “ridiculous” scenes.
“I hope that we won't end up with adverts between acts or actors having to stop before they deliver a quip for an ad.”


Top Paris theatre reopens as Covid occupy movement ends

French actors, stage technicians and other members of the performing arts ended a more-than-two-month occupation of the famous Odéon theatre in Paris on Sunday, allowing the show to go on after this week's easing of Covid-19 curbs.

Top Paris theatre reopens as Covid occupy movement ends
A picture taken on January 26, 2011 in Paris shows the facade of the Odéon theatre. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

The protesters took down the banners they had slung across the facade of the venue in the Left Bank as they left at dawn, leaving just one inscribed “See you soon”.

“We’re reopening!,” theatre director Stéphane Braunschweig exclaimed on the venue’s website, adding that it was “a relief and a great joy to be able to finally celebrate the reunion of the artists with the public.”

The Odéon, one of France’s six national theatres, was one of around 100 venues that were occupied in recent weeks by people working in arts and entertainment.

The protesters are demanding that the government extend a special Covid relief programme for “intermittents” — performers, musicians, technicians and other people who live from contract to contract in arts and entertainment.

READ ALSO: Protesters occupy French theatres to demand an end to closure of cultural spaces

With theatres shut since October due to the pandemic, the occupations had gone largely unnoticed by the general public until this week when cultural venues were finally cleared to reopen.

The Odéon, which was inaugurated by Marie-Antoinette in 1782, had planned to mark the reopening in style, by staging Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece “The Glass Menagerie”, with cinema star Isabelle Huppert as a former southern belle mourning the comforts of her youth.

But the protests scuppered the first five performances, with management saying the venue was blocked — a claim the protesters denied.

“What we wanted was for it (the performance) to go ahead, along with an occupation allowing us to speak out and hang our banners. We don’t want to stop the show,” Denis Gravouil, head of the performing arts chapter of the militant CGT union, said on Sunday.

Two other major theatres — the Colline theatre in eastern Paris and the National Theatre of Strasbourg — have also been affected by the protests.
France has one of the world’s most generous support systems for self-employed people in the arts and media, providing unemployment benefit to those who can prove they have worked at least 507 hours over the past 12 months.

But with venues closed for nearly seven months, and strict capacity limits imposed on those that reopened this week, the “intermittents” complained they could not make up their hours.

The government had already extended a year-long deadline for them to return to work by four months.

The “intermittents” are pushing for a year-long extension instead.