CineCiutat (Palma de Mallorca)

Taken over by the Majorca Island citizens, CineCiutat is a pioneering experience in Spain and a self-management model. Its members now manage the cinema, rescued by its audience when it shut down.

On the 8th of May 2012, the Renoir of Palma de Majorca, which was then the only cinema in the Baleares to screen independent films, went out of business. On the day of closing down, regular customers of the cinema gathered for an ultimate farewell. A group of spectator then spontaneously passed around a form: the “Salvem els Renoir” initiative (“Let’s Save the Renoir” in Catalan), which proposed people to help save the place through financial support, met an immediate success. In less than three weeks 2000 people answered the appeal. An association was created –Xarxa Cinema–, as well as a bank account. The initial financial supports were received rapidly adding up to 50 000€ by the beginning of June. On the 14th of June, the first assembly took place in the presence of the 600 contributors who voted the reopening of the cinema and its new name “CineCiutat”: it mixes the Spanish word « cine » and the Catalan « Ciutat » (city), whilst referring to the famous Italian studio Cinecittà. Alta Films, the former manager of the institute, was seduced by the citizens’ initiative and graciously gave away all equipment, screens, seats and projectors. On July 13th, just two months after its shutting down, the cinema was welcoming its new audience.

Three years after this passing of the torch, we entered the walls of the former red bricks slaughterhouse that houses today CineCiutat; we met with Javier Pachón, manager of CineCiutat, and Pedro Barbadillo, head of the association. They presented us the project’s philosophy around three main axes: release quality films in their original version, be run by its members and be much more than a simple cinema. « We knew this venue would not survive the 21st century by being solely a cinema. We needed to become a platform for alternative contents, a place where the audience becomes a stakeholder, but also through the diversification of screened contents. » explains Javier.

We knew this venue would not survive the 21st century by being solely a cinema. We needed to become a platform for alternative contents, a place where the audience becomes a stakeholder, but also through the diversification of screened contents.

Projections are listed with different labels- “Ciné Nins” for young audiences, “Repescas” (reruns) for films reshowing, and “CinèFilms”, a cine club for heritage screenings followed by a debate. Beyond these, CineCiutat offers new contents such as theatre (National Theatre Live), TV series (final episode of the third season of Game of Throne, a cycle around TV shows pilots is in project) or short-films during their own Kontrabendo Festival dedicated to cinematographic creation made by 13-18 years old. They also plan to tackle video games, virtual reality, and a wider scope of interactivity that « is opening a brand new narrative world » shares excitedly Pedro. New events have also found their place since the cinema’s reopening: themed nights (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Back to the Future), outdoor screenings, releases of films made by local directors, drama readings, concerts, multi-disciplinary shows, festivals. They regularly host events in partnership with the Spanish VoD platform Filmin. The winning film from the Kontrabendo festival is also made available on the platform. Their collaboration could go further in the future by showing some films from Filmin that were not released in Spain, or even by allowing the audiences to program films at the cinema themselves via the platform.

How a cinema run by over a hundred citizens is organized? With the growing workload since the reopening, six staffs were hired for the daily missions along with the CineCiutat members: they are in charge of projection, admin tasks, programming and events management. However, they take no decision without the members knowing and agreeing. Each week, members meet within 9 committees for decision making around the following themes: programming; involvement; regeneration and sustainable development; CineFilms (Heritage films); communication; translation; educational activities and new technologies.

« We believe to have found a way to organically structure the running of the cinema whilst preserving the initial soul of the project, which was above all to be a cinema run by the community, and yet still take into account the reality of the cinema industry. » tells Javier. An anecdote illustrates the members’ attachment for their cinema: every evening at 11 the number of tickets sold during the day is sent to all the members. « It has turned into a ritual » says Javier with a smile, « when we meet with several members, we see everyone checking their mobile at the same time to see the results ».

As a citizens’ initiative, the environmental and social awareness invited itself into conversations. All the energy used in the institute is 100% solar and produced locally. They also set up the distribution of solidarity tickets (butaca solidaria) on the same model as « pending coffees »: spectators can purchase an additional ticket that is then given for free to someone in need. Over 200 tickets were sold within a few months.

CineCiutat partnered up with other cinemas in the country to give birth to the first Art-House network in Spain, Cinearte, in order to strengthen links between independent venues and support emerging artists.

By taking the fate of their cinema into their own hands, the members of CineCiutat have managed to consider the technological and social upheavals for a new management structure. They have created a new way to bring life back into a cinema and run it, redefining the very role of the venue within the cinematic chain, thriving from the input of each of its members.

Translation by Eva Jaurena ♥