The takeover project for La Clef

Abstract

In a historic setting, with 2 screening rooms and a total of 600 m2 of space in Paris’ Quartier Latin area, the association La Clef Revival, with a rich cast of artists, filmmakers, citizens from alternative venues, students and local residents, has turned the spotlight back on La Clef cinema in September 2019. In more than 2 years, more than 600 screenings, including 12 outdoor screenings, 25,000 spectators, 17,000 members, more than 150 guests, 130 volunteers and more than 40 programmers have contributed to the rebirth of this cinema.

The goal is simple: to save the movie theater La Clef and make it a place of general interest, a common good.

Table of content

The roadmap is based on the experience of the venue by the members of the association La Clef Revival; on the functioning of the associative, voluntary venue, open to all; on the horizontal governance within which decisions are taken collectively on a daily basis, by rotating working groups (administration, reception, programming, communication, technical support…).

The practice of free pricing, the provision of premises and the running of workshops open up the place to the public as well as to precarious professionals.

The intent is to secure the place’s aim and its artistic and social function, through the model deployed since the reopening of the cinema La Clef. The association La Clef Revival links its artistic work with structural work, in order to get the place out of real estate speculation in the long term and to include it in a project of general interest.

“ The era has not succeeded in getting rid of all these fragments of resistance which, even if they are fragile and in the minority, save what cinema can and will always be.
And La Clef is still there, a small island of bravado and quixotic resistance. While the world’s becoming a zombie seems to be coming to an end, there is, and always will be, a film at La Clef to share, to discuss, to dream about with a few joyful survivors. ”

JEAN-GABRIEL PÉRIOT

Preface

The cinema La Clef is a historic movie theater, located in the heart of Paris and born in the movement of May 1968. For almost fifty years, this place has attracted a large audience with its diversified programming, low prices, debates with filmmakers, hosting festivals and associations from all over the world.

The desire to meet up in cinemas has never been so strong, despite the individualisation of film viewing made possible by technological innovations. After the waves of isolation linked to the pandemic, this desire to experience cinema collectively is, we believe, greater than ever. It must be sustained by audacious proposals that are open to the spectators.

In the Paris region, in parallel with resort cinema chains whose programming is increasingly homogenous, many collectives are developing alternative cinemas and organising screenings there that are run on a voluntary basis and at free prices. In this way, they reaffirm the social function of the cinema by encouraging meetings and exchanges around films. In a perspective relatively close to the great era of film clubs, which were so important for a generation of filmmakers, rare cinematographic objects can be discovered there. There are also established cinemas offering original and independent programming, such as the Gran Lux in Saint-Étienne, the Univers and the Hybride in Lille, the Nova in Brussels, the Cavia in Rotterdam, the Off Kino in Bielefeld, members of the Kino Climates Network in Europe*, and the Vidéodrome 2 in Marseille.

The cinema La Clef has seen the realisation of a utopia linked to artistic creation in the heart of Paris: it is a totally independent place, open to all, collective in its programming, horizontal in its organisation and non-profit. The association La Clef Revival, and its work over the past two years, represents a sustainable and realistic proposal: this is the project we wish to defend here.

* Members of the Kino Climates network in France and throughout Europe, these cinemas defend a totally independent and collective programming. Most of the structures operate on a voluntary basis. The cinema La Clef Revival has been part of this network since the beginning of 2020.

La Clef Revival society

History of the occupation

On the 20th of September 2019, people from alternative venues, filmmakers’ and artists’ collectives, festival programmers, supported by the spectators’ committee “Laissez-nous La Clef!”, started the occupation of the cinema at 34 rue Daubenton in Paris, in order to resurrect the building, which had been abandoned since April 2018. From this common project was born an association that now has thousands of members and spectators, more than a hundred volunteers and about fifty active members who manage the place. The team thus formed defends an independent and associative place, driven by the shared will to preserve this asset considered of common interest.

Starting the following day after entry, a different film is offered each evening at free price, with no hierarchy of genre, duration or production means. The films are systematically shown with the agreement of the rights holders. The programme is decided at a monthly meeting of volunteer programmers, open to all. Major importance is given to the presentation of films by their authors, leading to meetings and discussions with the public. To date, the La Clef cinema has had more than 600 screenings, 17,000 members and nearly 25,000 admissions in one year.

The initiative is supported by many filmmakers, cultural institutions, film festivals, distribution companies, film professionals and the City of Paris and the 5th arrondissement. The media is widely relaying the initiative, as shown by the extensive press review. Despite the many supporters and the effervescence created by this occupation, the owner filed a complaint and the association was ordered to leave the premises. Encouraged by the growing number of spectators, the association decided to maintain the occupation while waiting for the appeal. The volunteer team continues the daily public screenings and strengthens its links with the film community (partnerships with festivals, meetings with the CNC and the Mission Cinéma de Paris, events with the SRF, round tables on the diffusion and distribution of films in Paris, etc.), attesting to the importance of an associative cinema.

“In a few months, this cinema became the epicentre of French cinephilia.”
SAÏD BEN SAÏD

In October 2020, the justice court confirmed the legitimacy of the occupation by recognising the existence of the association, cancelling its fine and granting a six-month period to establish itself. The association’s volunteers continue to diversify the place’s activities (open-air projections, ephemeral radios…).

An endowment fund was created, which quickly raised a substantial sum, but the owner obstinately refused to consider the association as a possible buyer, and in December 2020 signed a sale contract with the Group SOS, which was not bound to maintaining a cultural activity in the building.

In September 2021, the collective appealed to the enforcement judge (JEX) to try to stay the eviction. In December, it appealed against the unfavourable decision of the court of first instance: the association is still in the process today, with a court date set for 3rd June 2022.

Experience & Diversity

The grouping of experienced collectives (DOC!, POST, Jardin Denfert, Les Froufrous de Lilith, SMAC, CJC, Curry-Vavart) has given life to a hybrid association. From production to film distribution, through the management of cultural venues, relations with the media and politicians, and the setting up and communication of events, the intersection of our complementary skills has lit the missing spark in the projectors of La Clef cinema. We took care of the building, have been able to rehabilitate the DCP players thanks to the intervention of the company 2AVI (who provide the open air of La Villette), the 5.1 sound system and the 35mm projectors. Their maintenance, as well as that of the building, is ensured with the help of the regular training of volunteers by the many film professionals who voluntarily participate in this occupation: filmmakers, producers, projectionists, distributors, etc. Through the horizontal organisation of the working groups, the association is strengthened, welcomes new volunteers and continues to be enriched on a human level: regular spectators, students (in cinema or otherwise!), critics, journalists, cinema technicians.

Resources & Support

Collective of inhabitants « Laissez-nous La Clef ! » – Their support confirms our local anchorage.

Kino Climates – This extraordinary network of projection rooms opens up our project on a European scale.

Actes If Network & SCIC La Main 9-3.0 – These cultural federations contribute to the collective reflection on the independence of “third places”.

L’AbominableThanks to the training courses in the film development laboratory, we promote rare films beyond digital formats.

La Clef’s historic festivals – We were able to renew events such as Le Maghreb des films, Ciné-corps, Autres Brésils…

Groups of cinema professionals – SRF (French director’s association), ACID (Society of independent cinema for screening), GREC (Research group for cinema essays), Monteurs Associés (Associated film editors), AFC (Associated french directors of photography)…

A couple of facts and numbers

Two and a half years of volunteer work

600 screenings including 12 open-air sessions

6 cine-concerts

25 000 spectators

An average of 65 spectators per session

4 of free price
per person on average

17 000 members

More than 40 film programmers

130 volunteers including 50 active members

More than 130 directors
who support us

More than 150 guests
who came present their films

Around forty partner festivals and associations

The site

A unique architecture

In the dense context of Paris, La Clef provides a rare intermediary space in the heart of the capital, allowing meetings and exchanges. With more than 600 m2 of available space, the cinema is organised around its multi-purpose room, the heart of shared activities with several rooms dedicated to work, and, of course, its two projection rooms. With 120 and 64 seats respectively, they include functional digital projectors, film projectors (35mm, 16mm and super 8mm), a theatre stage and an exhibition area.

The renovation of the premises will consist in bringing them up to standard, financed by a fund set aside for this purpose. In the common areas, spaces will be dedicated to film production. We will set up two image editing rooms and a sound editing room. These workrooms will be available to the public participating in the training workshops open to all, as well as to emerging filmmakers whose projects are supported by La Clef Revival. By choosing to restore a cinema and not to create a new one, the project is consistent with its spirit of economising on resources and minimisation of the environmental footprint.


“ We need places that are managed autonomously and collectively, open to debate, discussion and discovery. Especially through the cinema, which has always accompanied struggles, a tool used by activists, by those who want to bear witness, to make us dream, to make us approach the full complexity of human life.”
FRANÇOISE VERGÈS

How it works

A citizen, local, supportive and creative cinema

Voluntary and horizontal management

Each member of the association contributes with his or her know-how in terms of space management, communication, programming and broadcasting, accounting, reception, debate animation and technical maintenance. Each activity is organised around a pole, from ticketing to the handling of film copies and programming. The exchange and transmission of these skills are implemented on a daily basis among the rotation of persons in the hubs. Decisions are taken collectively at weekly meetings where all active volunteers are welcome. Responsibilities circulate between the members who provide regular training for new volunteers. The association is open to all: La Clef must become a citizen cinema and a common good.

Neighborhood associations

Because of its location and architecture, La Clef is a lively place, open to the whole neighbourhood, encouraging meetings, sharing and learning. Since March 2020, the place has been home to the Popular Solidarity Brigades, which come every week to collect basic necessities from neighbours, which are then redistributed to the neighbourhood’s vulnerable people. La Clef Revival has also started to work with students and professors from the University of Paris 3 – located next door to La Clef – and with other higher education institutions – ENS Paris, Paris Nanterre… – around film programming. Among the existing projects at La Clef and to be renewed, partnerships with the AMAP, the LDH and Attac are in the line of sight. By multiplying and reinforcing the links with associations and structures in the neighbourhood, La Clef is asserting itself as a local cinema.

Openness to the world

The cinema will continue its partnerships with neighbourhood associations, film festivals, schools and universities, etc. They will be able to take possession of the premises through “cartes blanches”, master classes or screenings from pre-existing festivals. The program will be able to respond to current events, by proposing films that extend the reflection and invite discussion. The screenings will be presented by guests linked to the making of the films shown, whether their authors, producers, technicians or actors, in order to allow for an exchange of views on the films programmed. La Clef is and will be a permanent festival.

Free/open price

The screenings will remain at free price so that the cinema is accessible to all, each person setting the amount of his or her admission ticket, according to his or her means and the service offered. The “free price” model has proved its efficiency: the average price is about 4, and contributions go up to 20. This model ensures the greatest accessibility, allowing everyone to attend the screenings. It is also a form of public empowerment and a practice of solidarity, with the more affluent allowing the less affluent to attend screenings. La Clef must remain a cinema accessible to all.


“Because it is a place of youth, of meeting people, of diversity, of passion, of generous cinephilia, without dogmas or borders; because its programming is the most exciting in all of Paris; because the avant-garde rubs shoulders with popular, queer, bis, classic, porn and seditious cinema; because the old (essential) flirts with the new (turbulent); because we need, more than ever, alive, joyful, free and rebellious cinemas today. For all these reasons and a thousand more, it is absolutely necessary to support La Clef and its current team now!”
YANN GONZALEZ

The project

Le lab of free programming

The dynamics and effervescence of the programming, at the heart of the association’s activity, have managed to unite a community of film lovers extending beyond the 5th arrondissement and composed of a varied public (with a majority of young people between 18 and 30 years old). This search for rare films is a direct legacy of the legal years of La Clef cinema. Proven and widely acclaimed, the programming offered at La Clef Revival has become its field of expertise, recognised by its peers.

Like the way this place works, the programming of the cinema is dealt collectively by about fifty members of the association. This plurality of programmers ensures a great diversity of films presented, stemming from the cinephilic cultures of each member. The films are systematically shown with the agreement of their rights holders. To this day, the collective benefits from the support of numerous distributors (ISKRA, Potemkine, Mutins de Pangée, Iskra, Ad Vitam, Arizona Distribution, JHR Films, l’Agence du court- métrage…).

The multiplication of festivals and events around rare or precarious films, or those that are simply not distributed in France, demonstrates a need to get out of the circuits of homogeneous programming in order to construct other discourses. This dynamic is in line with that of art and cinema in particular, notably the decolonial, feminist and intersectional intellectual movements. This need for diversification calls for a profound work of programming films, outside of the (re)release calendars that distributors propose. By preserving this singular expertise, La Clef protects the exercise of free and collective programming, at the heart of a real Parisian cinema. It is a question of creating a space where we know that every evening we can access a different film. Under the impulse of its enthusiastic and renewed programmers, La Clef would then take on the function of a popular film library.

The creation lab Studio 34

Noting the lack of work and learning spaces for young emerging filmmakers, and the increasing difficulty of making films, the association created Studio 34. Unique in the heart of Paris, this independent laboratory is dedicated to the creation and training of young filmmakers and technicians, imagined by them and open to all, around three poles.

A creative residency

This sixteen-month residency offers to accompany 6 filmmakers during all the stages of film creation, from its writing to its distribution. This residency offers them a framework and spaces dedicated to this entire process.

Workshops open to the general public

The members of the association and external contributors coordinate practical workshops, open to all, on image and sound techniques, writing, self-production and film development.

A dedicated cinema program

Screening cycles specially designed around emerging cinematographic creation are programmed; these sessions offer talks with film professionals.

THEY ACCOMPANY US
Studio Orlando – Post-Production
lab facility
Les Films Hatari – Société de Production company
La Base – Post-Production
lab facility

An image factory for the youngest

Every Wednesday, ten leisure centres from the 5th and 13th arrondissements are welcomed in turn at La Clef for three sessions each (initiation, writing and filming). The children gradually discover the stages involved in making and distributing a film: a primer on film professions, an introduction to sound effects, rigging and special effects, writing a script, preparing a set, directing actors, editing, etc. The objective: that the children make their first short film from start to finish!

Sessions for all ages

‘La Petite Évasion’ also organises events open to families, with “young audience” screenings (free of charge) accompanied by workshops and discussions. For example, past screenings have included selections of animated shorts, The Ugly Duckling, a clay and feather adaptation of Andersen’s fairy tale by Russian filmmaker Garri Bardine, and Strings, a film made with puppets by Danish filmmaker Anders Rønnow Klarlund.

The endowment fund: making La Clef a common good

“Cinéma Revival: For an associative cinema”

The endowment fund “Cinéma Revival: for an associative cinema” aims to get the building out of the speculative market. The ideal that we want to achieve has been put in place by several structures that have influenced us: the Antidote property company, Terre de Liens and Le Clip*. The only status that is permanent enough to guarantee very long-term preservation in France is the foundation (or endowment fund) recognised as being of public utility. The endowment fund is a legal entity and a general interest structure, without shareholders, which allows the collection of donations, legacies and other gifts (tax-free) to acquire a property in a disinterested and sustainable manner. The administrators of the endowment fund are not the owners of the property: they are responsible for the good management of the fund and for respecting its statutes – in this case, “to preserve and develop non-profit, independent and open to all cinemas”.

The ownership of the building is separated from its use. The place is no longer an object of speculation; it becomes a common good.

*Several collective farms, newspapers such as Mediapart, and even ZADs (and we can add the Réseau des Alternatives Forestières) throughout France have also chosen this way of operating in order to have total freedom and to think differently about the notion of property.

The “Cinéma Revival” endowment fund will make La Clef available to the occupying association, which will become an independent user of the premises. A third body (made up of a group of voluntary groups not involved in the association) will act as a watchdog to arbitrate major decisions or, in the event of disagreement, to ensure that the fund’s statutes are respected. And if the association La Clef Revival were to disappear, the Cinéma Revival endowment fund would take charge of proposing the site to a new association – with the same vocation, in accordance with the statutes of the endowment fund.

To set a price on a historic cinema in the heart of Paris is like estimating the value of an intangible cultural heritage: impossible! In fact, the 600 square metres of the cinema represent a colossal real estate and material asset. It has been valued at more than four million euros. In order for the endowment fund to be able to acquire the premises, three stages are necessary: a first fundraising campaign with the cinema’s close circle of friends, a second fundraising campaign towards a wider public (underway) and finally a major corporate sponsorship campaign. For this final fundraising campaign, we are accompanied by high-level sponsorship experts, in dialogue with industrialists and philanthropic companies with larger portfolios. Finally, once the largest part of the budget has been raised, we will take out a loan to reach the amount necessary to purchase the premises. The endowment fund will be the manager and the association the user, according to the pre-defined mandates.


“We must maintain and develop our community cinema in the heart of Paris. We have a vital need for free screens. Let new alliances be forged, let living spaces be opened. Unique, singular, collective, poetic and political, what is taking shape here is the face of our best tomorrows.”
DOMINIQUE CABRERA

Resources

A field-proven budget

Mostly voluntary work has enabled us to devote ourselves fully to film programming, the heart of the cinema’s activity, and to anticipate the various technical expenses linked to our project. As soon as our use of the building is legalized, we will be able to pay the distributors of the films shown each day (until then, we benefit from the solidarity of the rights holders of the films programmed), whether this is done on the basis of revenue sharing or, in the case of off-circuit films, by fixed rental fees. We have already set up several resource-generating activities, and the takeover project will maintain those that are best suited to our desire for general interest.

Rental of the building’s premises

The screening rooms are intended for DCP tests and daytime team screenings. The equipped spaces will be rented as post-production or meeting rooms for the needs of fragile external structures or self-production. Offered at solidarity rates and adapted to each project, these spaces offer support for artistic creation, as well as sustainable resources for the project.

Bar and Restauration

When conditions will allow it, the refreshment stand in the multi-purpose hall, open before and after the sessions, will prolong the meeting in a friendly and engaging environment. Catering, maintained at fair prices, may be offered at the request of the participants, who will pass on a part of the revenue to the site’s project.

Membership contribution

The association has more than 17,000 members and more than 100 participating members. Their membership, based on free participation, will be ensured through the annual renewal of a subscription.

Cinema ticketing

La Clef Revival will have a classic CNC ticketing system, like any other cinema, which will allow revenue sharing and contribution to the financing of French cinema, while remaining free price for the spectator.

They support us

Mathieu AMALRIC ; Danielle ARBID ; Olivier ASSAYAS ; Philippe AZOURY ; Jeanne BALIBAR ; Xavier BEAUVOIS ; Samuel BENCHETRIT ; Saïd BEN SAÏD ; Alix BÉNÉZECH ; Sébastien BETBEDER ; Pascale BODET ; Bertrand BONELLO ; Agathe BONITZER ; Damien BONNARD ; Jérôme BONNELL ; Lizzie BORDEN ; Lucie BORLETEAU ; Sigrid BOUAZIZ ; Serge BOZON ; Catherine BREILLAT ; Nicole BRENEZ ; Mikael BUCH ; Guillaume BRAC ; Olivier BROCHE ; Emmanuel BURDEAU ; Robin CAMPILLO ; Laurent CANTET ; Leos CARAX ; Alain CAVALIER ; Caroline CHAMPETIER ; Jonathan COHEN ; Catherine CORSINI ; Pedro COSTA ; Lola CRÉTON ; Jean-Pierre DARDENNE ; Judith DAVIS ; Thierry DE PERETTI ; Yann DEDET ; Claire DENIS ; Caroline DERUAS ; Alice DIOP ; Audrey DIWAN ; Quentin DOLMAIRE ; Valérie DONZELLI ; Christine DORY ; David DUFRESNE ; Karine DURANCE ; Antje EHMANN ; Annie ERNAUX ; Frédéric FARRUCCI ; Léa FEHNER ; Sophie FILLIÈRES ; Hélène FILLIÈRES ; Alain FLEISCHER ; Christine FRANÇOIS ; Jean-Michel FRODON ; Louis GARREL ; Charles GILLIBERT ; Yann GONZALEZ ; Samir GUESMI ; Alain GUIRAUDIE ; Lucile HADZIHALILOVIC ; Arthur HARARI ; Michel HAZANAVICIUS ; Bojena HORACKOVA ; Isabelle INGOLD ; Charlotte ISSALY ; Agnès JAOUI ; Radu JUDE ; Jacques KEBADIAN ; Nicolas KLOTZ ; Roger Alan KOZA ; Jeanne LABRUNE ; Jean-Marc LALANNE ; Alexis LANGLOIS ; Arnaud et Jean-Marie LARRIEU ; Boris LEHMAN ; Alice de LENCQUESAING ; Louis-Do de LENCQUESAING ; Elena LÓPEZ RIERA ; Frédéric LORDON ; Marie LOSIER ; Vincent MACAIGNE ; Bertrand MANDICO ; Damien MANIVEL ; Valérie MASSADIAN ; Patricia MAZUY ; Kleber MENDONÇA FILHO ; Léa MYSIUS ; Louise NARBONI ; João NICOLAU ; Ioanis NUGUET ; Océan ; Valérie OSOUF ; F.J. OSSANG ; Mariana OTERO ; Nicolas PEDUZZI ; Jacques PERCONTE ; Vivianne PERELMUTER ; Matias PIÑEIRO ; Lila PINELL ; Caroline POGGI ; Aurélien RECOING ; João Pedro RODRIGUES ; Axelle ROPERT Agnès de SACY ; Emmanuel SALINGER ; Céline SCIAMMA ; Coline SERREAU ; Claire SIMON ; Peter SNOWDON ; Öykü SOFUOGLU ; Nicola SORNAGA ; Sarah SUCO ; Brigitte SY ; Jacques TARDI ; Leïla TOUATI ; Marie-Claude TREILHOU ; Andrei UJICA ; Gérard VAUGEOIS ; Virgil VERNIER ; Frédéric VIDEAU ; Anne VILLACÈQUE ; Elie WAJEMAN ; Eléonore WEBER ; Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL Yolande ZAUBERMAN ; Rebecca ZLOTOWSKI ; La SRF ; La Quinzaine des Réals ; La Cinémathèque Française ; Premiers Plans ; Le GREC ; Cinébanlieue ; L’AFC ; Les Monteurs Associés ; Festival Cinéma du Réel ; Etats Généraux du Documentaire ; Festival du Film de Fesses ; Festival des cinémas différents et expérimentaux de Paris ; Entrevues Belfort ; Parties (de) Campagne ; Réseau Actes If ; L’Abominable ; Kino Climates ; Cinéma Nova ; Le Videodrome 2 ; L’Etna ; ISKRA ; Potemkine ; Les Mutins de Pangée…
and many more!

BECAUSE LA CLEF REVIVAL IS THE ONLY ACTOR IN THE FILM SECTOR THAT IS SELF-MANAGED, COORDINATED BY WORKERS AND FUTURE WORKERS IN THE ART AND FILM SECTOR.

BECAUSE ITS PROGRAMMING IS UNIQUE, COLLECTIVE AND ESSENTIAL, AND IT HAS BROUGHT TOGETHER MORE THAN 17,000 SPECTATORS AND A HUNDRED GUESTS IN JUST OVER A YEAR.

BECAUSE IT ALLOWS A NEW GENERATION OF FILMMAKERS TO DEVELOP THEIR FILMS AND TO SPEAK OUT WITHIN ITS WALLS.

– THE OCCUPANT COLLECTIVE