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FILM

French cinemas face 400-film backlog as they prepare to reopen

France's love affair with cinema threatens to be an overwhelming experience next week, when theatres finally reopen -- the scheduling nightmare of a massive backlog of 400 films.

French cinemas face 400-film backlog as they prepare to reopen
No less than 45 films are slated for release when cinemas reopen on May 19 after six months of pandemic-induced closure -- two to three times the usual number. Photo: BERTRAND GUAY/ AFP

On the outskirts of Paris, cinema owner Stephane Goudet is poring over the long list of options, trying to figure out how to gives as many films as possible their shot at succeed.

“It’s like a giant Tetris!” he told AFP.

Some had just been released and were scoring well when the second lockdown in October stopped them in their tracks.

READ ALSO: Cafés, shops, cinemas: How France will ease Covid restrictions from next week

Among them were French film “DNA”, by award-winning director Maiwenn. And also doing well when the curtains fell was Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round”, starring Mads Mikkelsen, which picked up this year’s foreign film Oscar.

No less than 45 films are slated for release when cinemas reopen on May 19 after six months of pandemic-induced closure — two to three times the usual number.

The authorities have encouraged cinemas to play multiple films in each screening room, so Goudet crams in 18 movies across his six screens for the opening week.

Cafes, restaurants, cinemas and museums will reopen partially on May 19, 2021 after seven months amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: LOIC VENANCE/AFP

Local and international

Audiences at France’s 2,000-plus cinemas enjoy both international hits and the products of its own prolific film industry.

There are the Oscar winners to catch up with, including best picture winner “Nomadland” and local success “The Father” from French writer-director Florian Zeller, for which Anthony Hopkins won his second best actor award. It also picked up best adapted screenplay.

Long-delayed Hollywood blockbusters will also soon start taking up space, including superhero slugfests “Black Widow” and “The Suicide Squad”, from the Marvel and DC stables respectively.

And the Cannes Film Festival, pushed back this year to July from its usual slot in May, also will also unleash a barrage of new releases.

The big cinema chains have abandoned attempts to coordinate a calendar.

But France’s independent theatres and distributors are still determined to find some agreement to keep smaller films from being lost in the deluge.

“What we want to avoid is a situation where 40 to 60 films a week are looking for screens, especially if distributors rush to release films before Cannes takes place,” Etienne Ollagnier, of distributor Jour2Fete and the Syndicate of Independent Distributors (SDI), told Screen Daily last month.

READ ALSO: French cinema club for English speakers has new online screenings

‘Terrific diversity’

Despite the logistical headaches, which also include added health protocols and a 35-percent capacity limit in the first weeks, there’s a festive spirit in the air.

And while many cinemas in the US have gone bust in the past year, that is less of a threat in France, said Elisha Karmitz, co-head of France’s renowned production house and cinema chain MK2.

“We have a different model that isn’t so dependent on blockbusters,” Karmitz told AFP. “It’s that diversity that preserves the French film industry in its entirety.”

And of course, the backlog is also a film buff’s dream.

“We’re going to be able to offer something for every type of cinema-goer, with a terrific diversity,” said Aurelie Delage, who runs the Megarama cinema in Angoulême in southwest France.

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CULTURE

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?

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