Valdivia, Day 2

Would more cinemas increase admissions? This very theory was presented by Patrice Vivancos, a media expert/consultant yesterday at our first full day of work for the CSF workshops. Using the US market as a model, where there is a screen per each 7,800 inhabitants (and consequently has the highest visit per capita worldwide), he argues that if the industry wants more customers, it needs to start re-opening or building new cinemas. This sparked quite a debate, as the US model is not seen as particularly an enlightened one by arthouse operators, particularly since its the French model that is being presented here as the panacea to all our problems.

The French system taxes all movies, TV and any other audiovisual commercial activities to the tune of half a billion euros each year and then reinvests this money in their national industry. This is a hugely privileged position that few countries can afford, if only because 21st century WTO rules prohibit such protectionism. But in another sign that the world is changing and the Washington consensus is not so consensual, Venezuela have just passed a law (our Venezuelan colleagues tell me) that makes it a legal requirement for multiplexes to play national cinema, and injects a lot of money into production, distribution and exhibition of national and Latin American cinema.

After the sessions we were given a tour of Teatro Cervantes, a 1940s theater that is closed permanently but re-opened each year just for the Festival dates. They have a collection of ancient projectors and were busy making the space safe and ready for audiences when the fest opens tomorrow. They clearly had heard of my obsession with historic cinemas.

As always with these events, the real reward is in meeting likeminded colleagues doing the same work in a different country - with different markets, cultures, and laws. Some of the best debates about the future of arthouse happened over a quinoa risotto (a local speciality).