Behind the scenes of the Rex, soon to be thirty

Alexis Gonçalves has been running the Le Rex municipal cinema in Abbeville since 2019. (©The Journal of Abbeville)

The history of the Rex is made of new beginnings. For decades, the downtown cinema ofAbbeville (Somme) was privately owned, managed for almost thirty years (from 1956 to 1982) by a couple, the Degommes. Then the cinema closed its doors, and it could have disappeared body and property if the City had not bought it back in the early 1990s.

1992-2022

In a few weeks, the Rex will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of its reopening: it was October 12, 1992. A few months later, it was the other Abbevillois cinema, the Ponthieu, which closed its doors for good. Le Rex, with its three rooms, remained the only cinema in Abbeville. Until 2018.

That year, the CGR opened its doors on the site of the former sugar refinery: the first multiplex in maritime Picardy. With such competition, the Rex could have disappeared, and suffered the same fate as the Ponthieu. The municipality of the time wanted otherwise, resuming its direct management, and proposing an alternative programming to the CGR. Will reaffirmed by the new municipality.

From brainstorming to theatrical screening: the journey of the film

Establishing the weekly programming of the Rex is not always easy. It all starts around an office with director Alexis Gonçalves and his co-programmer Patrick Poidevin (photo), who also works for the Abbeville libraries. The two men make their choice around the many national releases and older films. The offer is great, and everyone brings their sensitivity, defends their favorites. “There can be disagreements, never shouting matches,” assures Alexis…
Some films are obvious: award-winning “festival films”, highly anticipated auteur films… Others are discovered during special screenings to which they are invited. You also have to take into account the films chosen by the CGR, which the Rex avoids most of the time. When the selection is made, it is necessary to contact the distributors, obtain their agreement, and decide whether the film will be screened nationally or a few weeks later, depending on the requirements of the distributors.
The film itself then arrives either in the form of a digital key which allows the film to be downloaded directly onto the Rex’s computer system (for a limited time), or in the form of a physical hard disk which arrives by courier. , and that the Rex must return when the film leaves the poster: the box then takes the direction of another cinema which programs it, or returns to the editor.

The public is at the rendezvous

In fact, Abbeville has probably never had such a wide cinema offer as today, between the multiplex and the Rex labeled “arts and essay”… Alexis Gonçalves is well aware of this: the young man has been leading the Rex since 2019.

Maxime, the projectionist, manages the technical aspects and provides reception at the checkout. As for Margaux, she is in charge of communication and welcoming school audiences.
Maxime, the projectionist, manages the technical aspects and provides reception at the checkout. As for Margaux, she is in charge of communication and welcoming school audiences. (©DR)

And with the small team that surrounds him, he strives every week to program films from all walks of life, for all audiences, and for all ages (and at a low price: 5 € the full price).

Establishing a program means finding a balance. We are lucky not to have an obligation of result, but we look at what works, we try not to forget the young public, we set up regular meetings, we always try to have new ideas, to arouse the desire of the spectators.

Alexis GoncalvesDirector of Rex d’Abbeville

And it works: after two difficult years due to the Covid, the Rex has regained or even exceeded its attendance figures for 2019, a reference year during which the number of spectators jumped 45% compared to 2018, with 21,000 entries counted. By offering numerous films every week (often more than at the CGR with its eight screens), the Rex proves that the cinema experience in theaters still has a future.

The projection room no longer requires the presence of the projectionist.
The projection room no longer requires the presence of the projectionist. (©The Journal of Abbeville)

The deserted screening room

But where did the projectionist go? Not in the screening room, except to change a light bulb. Since the generalization of all digital about ten years ago, the reels of film that had to be assembled have completely disappeared.

Videos: currently on Actu

It is therefore impossible for a film to be consumed, or for two reels to be mounted in the wrong order (the oldest will no doubt have some memories).

Remain large automated projectors, and an imposing system of ventilation essential to refresh the machines.

It is from the office, and no longer from the projection room, that films are now launched.
It is from the office, and no longer from the projection room, that films are now launched. (©The Journal of Abbeville)

An office that has become a nerve center

Films are now launched from a simple computer, installed in the management office. Software makes it possible to determine the course of the session: the selection and order of the trailers, the choice of language (French version or original version with subtitles)…

All that remains is to launch the projection, which is done with a simple click, at the time of the session. The projectionist can therefore launch films simultaneously in the three rooms, whereas previously he had to go from one projector to another.

Was this article helpful to you? Note that you can follow Le Journal d’Abbeville in the My News section. In one click, after registration, you will find all the news of your favorite cities and brands.

Behind the scenes of the Rex, soon to be thirty-year-old cinema in the heart of Abbeville