Culture is future » Innovation and digital

08.20.2015

Contribution : "Utopia Manutention cinema – Avignon’s site of cultural activities" by Manon Gay

Utopia Manutention, located just steps away from Palais des Papes, has been an independent local theatre venue in Avignon since the 1980s. It established as a local theatre venue amidst the establishment large cinema complexes, thereby contributing to the cultural identity of the Manutention neighbourhood.

Utopia Manutention, a cinema that has contributed to attractiveness within the walls of Avignon

“When we established in our current building (owned by the mayor) in the declining Manutention neighbourhood, the space underwent a major renovation project”, says Patrick Guivarch, manager of Utopia Avignon. At the time, the Sainte Anne prison was in full operation surrounded by parking lots for watchmen to park their vehicles and drug dealers who would often frequent the area. Since then, the area has undergone many improvements with the creation of AJMI jazz concert, les Hauts Plateaux (an art research and studio space) and Inoui (an organization responsible for promotion and diffusion of avantgard music. Utopia has become an attractive venue within the walls of Avignon and has contributed to the gentrification of the now hip Manutention neighborhood.

Faced with conformism of multiplexes, Utopia offers an eclectic schedule and reduced rates

Refusing to adopt a for-profit approach, Utopia offers a diverse lineup and provides opportunities for small producers and independent film studios. In fact, at one time Utopia was the only cinema to show films in their original version. Although Utopia receives far less publicity funding, the cost is much cheaper than larger cinemas such as UGC or Gaumont. Patrick Guivarch claims that Utopia initiated the concept of Discounted ticket booklets long before membership cards such as the one offered by UGC. Guivarch was of the simple mindset that “a pre-selected package of movie tickets were films that the general public may not otherwise have heard of”. Therefore, we couldn’t ask them to pay full price to see films that they knew nothing about. As a result, we decided to sell bundles of tickets for 4,80 euros apiece. This program encouraged individuals to see many films and created customer loyalty.

A cinema not penalized by downloading but by the lack of transportation within the walls

The evolution of audiovisual consummation, downloading, VOD, etc. is surprisingly not the main obstacle faced by Utopia. Patrick Guivarch explains, “Individuals who download movies online tend to download well-known movies rather than independent films”. Utopia is, however, at a disadvantage in terms of traffic and parking due to its urban location within the walls in Avignon. “When we say that multiplexes are far from the centre, it’s false”, argues the manager. If you look at the map of Avignon, you see that there are four lanes and parking lots leading to larger cinemas, which makes them much easier to access than Utopia. This lack of parking poses a problem for Utopia’s clientele who do not wish to spend more time driving than watching a film or pay more for parking than the film itself! Individuals of lower income brackets are slowing leaving the neighbourhood to live outside of the walls, thus rendering the cinema inaccessible to some. When Utopia opened its doors the 1980’s, they recorded up to 290,000 admissions per year. Although the attendance rates have since diminished to 250,000 in 2014, the performances offered by Utopia continue to contribute to the gentrification of this trendy neighborhood.

 

Manon GAY, Master 1 Publics de la culture et communication, Université d'Avignon