Vive La France: Marilyn Iacovissi Excels at The Boxoffice Company

By Ayşegül Algan

Earlier this year, Boxoffice Pro partnered with Celluloid Junkie to present the fourth annual list of Top Women in Global Exhibition, published in our CinemaCon issue. Throughout 2019, Boxoffice Pro continues to pay tribute to the women who have an immeasurable impact on the exhibition industry with a series of in-depth profiles.

While studying law in France, Marilyn Iacovissi spent four years at CGR Cinémas, now the country’s second largest circuit, where she was introduced to the world of exhibition. Writes Iacovissi: “I always loved cinemas, but there I discovered a new environment that I did not expect as a viewer.” From France, Iacovissi moved to London, where she became the manager of one of Odeon Cinemas’ flagship locations—“Even the Queen herself visits for charity screenings!” After moving back to France, Iacovissi joined the Côté Ciné Group, where she managed exhibitor relations. Côté Ciné Group was later purchased by Webedia Movies Pro (now The Boxoffice Company), where Iacovissi now serves as operations and commercial director for the French division.

What’s your proudest achievement from your time so far at The Boxoffice Company?

What makes me proud is when my teams thrive and when my coworkers feel good in their work. I am very attached to the idea of supporting them when they face challenges, so I give a lot of importance to communication and training. It’s satisfying when I see them following my advice successfully. I am very lucky to have a very professional and invested team; we do beautiful things every day. The responsibilities that were conferred to me by Côté Ciné Group’s president Patrick Farcy, as well as the international adventure undertaken by the side of Julien Marcel with Webedia Movies Pro, are also among the successes I’m most proud of. The challenge is not easy. I still have a lot to learn. The adventure continues!

What are the key accomplishments you would still like to achieve at The Boxoffice Company?

Supporting all types of exhibitors in their day-to-day [business] is in The Boxoffice Company’s DNA. Since a few years ago, we’re facing a big challenge because of digitalization. We can’t leave anyone behind on this journey. The train is rolling, and we need to accompany the smaller and medium-sized theaters in these changes. The vast majority of these theaters don’t have a marketing team. We are their daily advisers. 

I would also like to develop charity actions in France. It’s something that’s already in place in the United Kingdom. Our American colleagues at The Boxoffice Company are also far ahead on the matter.

As your company has taken on an international dimension, how do you ensure that corporate culture stays positive and welcoming?

We have put into place numerous communication channels and moments of exchange between our teams with internal newsletters, team-building sessions, a yearly general meeting, seminars. … The possibility to work in different offices (in France as well as abroad) and teleworking are also assets that enhance and consolidate The Boxoffice Company’s corporate culture. 

How would you evaluate the progress women have made in the exhibition business in France over the past few years?

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing more and more women taking hold of positions with more responsibilities in the industry. I’m thinking in particular about Cathy Coppey from the Ociné group or Marie-Christine Desandre [of Loft Cinémas]. However, there are still a lot of battles to be fought to defend women’s rights, most importantly in terms of equal pay and against reflexes that are deeply rooted in our collective unconscious (of women included), like believing that entrepreneurship is essentially a man’s affair. The proof is that when I started working in the field, women were still at the register (and wearing skirts!) and men were at the concession stand. Today, the positions are more balanced and the possibilities of advancement in the company are more rapid for women. And even if we have long proved that we are capable of reconciling our personal and professional lives, this requires even more work and a mental burden that’s heavier for women; for the same position, a woman is continuously tested and always needs to show that she’s on top of things. 

What advice would you give to women just entering the movie exhibition business?

I would tell them that there is a legitimate spot for them in this industry and that their responsibilities are compatible with their personal aspirations, including their familial ones. You need to hang on and believe. Women have the same capacities as men to succeed. Wage differences can be justified, but we need to differentiate between disparities linked to one’s experience and those that come from discrimination against women. The fact of the matter is that we need to stop enduring it.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during your time in this industry?

That we always need to adapt and to be available for our clients. At The Boxoffice Company, customer service and innovation are our priorities. If you have good products but no one answers your clients, it’s not gonna work.

Tell us about your mentors in this business.

I always loved working with people at all levels. I have to admit that there is not a single woman amongst my mentors, proof that positions with responsibilities are still mostly male. But I immensely appreciate working with women, be it from my team or exhibitors. In France, there are a lot of women exhibitors who are real businesswomen, which is very rewarding. 

Patrice Martin, who was my director at CGR Cinemas (he’s now a programmer of CGR group), allowed me to go beyond exhibition and work in distribution, which I didn’t know at all back then. Christopher Hilton, general manager at Odeon Leicester Square, introduced me to the management (the British way) of a cinema, teams, and the retail business. Patrick Farcy, of course, with whom I share the love of exhibition, offered me a real vision of the industry; his knowledge of the market is just incredible. I don’t know anyone who knows as much as him. Lastly, our own CEO at The Boxoffice Company, Julien Marcel, is a brilliant spirit who guides us internationally [and has] a striking ability to analyze the market. He inspires us daily. 

Describe your ideal moviegoing experience.

A good comedy with Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream! For some time now moviegoing has been a family affair. As a very cinephile family, we never miss the opportunity to make our children discover classics like Who Framed Roger Rabbit or [the comedies of] Buster Keaton.But the ultimate pleasure is to discover a new theater!

Can you describe a formative moviegoing experience from your childhood?

I have very strong memories from my “educational cinema” outings in elementary school, where my classmates and I discovered one film every Wednesday in the city’s cinema (which doesn’t exist anymore). Another formative memory: the release of Terminator 2, which everyone was waiting for but that was forbidden to children under 12 … and that I still managed to see! 

What is the biggest challenge facing exhibition in 2019?

To always give people a reason to get out of their house and come to the theater. To do this, we need to adapt to new technologies, to digitalization, to data, to online alternatives. … When I see that some theaters are still reluctant to offer online sales, that’s where our expertise and our advice come into play. We also need to preserve the culture of moviegoing for younger audiences, which can be done through education at a very young age. It’s an essential task for the future of our industry. 

Disclaimer: Boxoffice Pro is a subsidiary of The Boxoffice Company.