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 and early 2020, Boxoffice Pro will continue to honor the women who have an immeasurable impact on the exhibition industry with a series of in-depth profiles.
Christine Beauchemin-Flot is the director of programming of the municipal art house cinema Sélect d’Antony, located in the southern suburbs of Paris; administrator of the AFCE (French Art House Cinemas Association); a member of the College of Recommendation of Art House Films; deputy chairman of the FNCF (French Theater Owners Federation): co-president of SCARE (Art House and Experimental Cinema Theaters Syndicate); member of the César Academy; guest speaker at the major public film school la Fémis; and as a member of various committees of the CNC (French National Cinema Center). Beauchemin-Flot also received the Best French Female Exhibitor award for an unprecedented two consecutive years.
What’s your proudest achievement so far in your career?
I would say the expansion from one to four screens at the Sélect, our municipal art house cinema in southern Paris. It was a beautiful and ambitious project that required a lot of patience and tenacity. The additional screens opened five years ago, but the challenge keeps going. These four auditoriums have allowed me to improve our offerings and the diversity of our programming, meaning that it made me come closer to the core of my job as an exhibitor and to my duties towards public service and the protection of culture. [The expansion took the Sélect] from 100,000 admissions on a good year for our single screen to 240,000 today.
I’m also very proud of the Best French Female Exhibitor award that I received in 2008 and 2009. Beyond the pride that I felt personally, these awards also shine some light on a job that is not very well known, even though it’s so fascinating and important to the industry. Whatever we say or think about them, without theaters, movies wouldn’t exist!
Throughout the Sélect’s ambitious expansion project, did you ever feel that being a woman was helpful or, on the contrary, played out as a disadvantage?
There were so many different obstacles, but they had nothing to do with my being a woman. They allowed me to develop values—like determination, stubbornness, hopefulness—that I wouldn’t define from a gendered perspective. But in the end, it might be because of my feminine sensibility that I became tenacious and pugnacious, that I got this ability to see everything like an obstacle, like another challenge to take on, and to transform it into something positive.
What are some things that you would still like to accomplish?
In the infinite field of possibilities that is cinema, I want to continue to reflect upon and invest in the reacquisition of young audiences, especially teenagers who are not naturally frequent patrons of art house cinemas like the Sélect. For example, my colleagues and I are currently exploring a “discover two films” offering where you can watch a new movie as well as a classic. We have come to understand that with this type of special offer we can capture a segment that is missing from art house cinemas right now but that represents the moviegoers of tomorrow. We need to come to terms with the plurality of their moviegoing practices. This group might be different, but [their habits] do not signal the end of our theaters.
According to a 2016 study by the CNC, in France exhibition is the most gender-balanced sector of the movie business. Women represent 51.6 percent of workers, with 51.8 percent holding a permanent position. How do you see the progress that has been made by women in this industry over the last few years?
We need to be happy about it but not satisfied with it. Even if there are a lot of women in the CNC, Unifrance, the Fémis, or Arte (a major Franco-German channel), there are not that many women in positions of power in exhibition.
I’m not sure that men think as much about the atypical rhythm that comes with our job: working at night, on weekends, frequent traveling. A woman does, especially if she’s a mother. Despite some progress, we still need to change the judgement on these particular personal decisions, which should not be judged differently because of gender.
Do you regard equal pay as a major issue of gender equality?
The FNCF paved the way for salary equality, as it made an effort to know the numbers and then to correct any anomalies. As long as men are in more positions of power, income inequality is pretty much mathematically given. We need first to have more women get to these positions of power and higher responsibilities in order to aspire to equal pay.
What advice would you give to women starting their careers in exhibition?
It’s both the woman and the mother in me talking: Young women who just enter exhibition are very combative and committed to issues of equality. Their drive to continue the fight with the strength of youth (that my generation might have less of) gives me a lot of hope. My advice is that they should have a clear vision of what they want to do. They should assert their choices and give themselves the means, through hard work, to achieve them. [I would advise them] not to succumb to the shortcomings of my generation, especially when it comes to second-guessing our legitimacy in certain positions.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
To believe in your dreams and be determined. That doesn’t stop you from having moments of doubt. But being propelled by your passion gives you an incredible energy and allows you to better face adversity and obstacles.
What’s a foundational moviegoing memory from your childhood?
I had the chance to start going to theaters when I was really young. Sometimes a little too young, maybe. I have to admit that I did take some naps when I went to screenings that were way past my bedtime.
Another beautiful memory was my participation at a kids’ jury at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Fest while I was in middle school. The opportunity to discover so many movies in a communal way was a magical and foundational cradle that forged my link with cinema. Plus I got to ditch school! Even though it’s not commendable to admit it, I still think that cinema is a good reason for truancy.
What’s the biggest challenge that theaters will face in the years to come?
To continue to instill a desire in moviegoers to discover films in theaters, on a big screen and communally. A theater is not only a place of screening but a place of collective discovery, of social connection. When we organize meetings and debates and offer to finish it with drinks, I frequently witness the pleasure that patrons take in talking and sharing. This form of entertainment could be a solution to the menace of new [viewing] practices and the temptation to discover movies differently.
More specifically, art house cinemas like the Sélect need to keep defending the diversity of cinema, which makes the emergence of new talent possible. We have a role to play, especially by engaging with schools. These young people that come—maybe a bit like hostages, because they are constrained by their schools—discover what a theater is. They discover their neighborhood cinema. Without being too naive, we could say that maybe one day, they will want to come back. There will be some periods of absence, but there are so many young moviegoers that we lost a little in their youth but that we find again in their adulthood!