Arc cinema programming strategy
The overall purpose of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s cinema programming strategy is to present 'best‐practice’ cinema events to a wide audience for their enjoyment and appreciation of screen heritage and to showcase current practice in screen arts.
The centrepiece for this activity is the NFSA’s Arc cinema: its Canberra‐based, not‐for‐profit, screen cultural cinema venue and screening program. Arc and other NFSA cinema programming are informed by the NFSA’s strategic priorities, in particular:
- to develop knowledge and interpretation of the NFSA collection
- to inspire experiences, engagement and learning through the collection
- to value strategic relationships and partnerships
- to make an innovative and creative NFSA.
The Arc cinema program is a ‘flagship’ of the NFSA, as Australia’s peak national cultural and collecting institution for preserving, interpreting and providing access to Australia’s audiovisual heritage. It also gives an Australian and international expression to the NFSA’s membership of the international movement of moving image archives. This means the NFSA’s purpose, activities and the programming of its key cinema venue will have different objectives and operational imperatives to Australia’s commercial and ‘art‐house’ cinemas.
Arc operates in a regional marketplace of approximately 380,000 people. It is a substantially well educated population with a large proportion of families. The population has access to a very wide choice of cultural activities including the national collecting institutions’ exhibitions and public programs, speaker programs of the Australian National University and the University of Canberra and a myriad of local performing arts, galleries and museums. Other major activities also compete for the people’s discretionary leisure time including sport and recreation and ‘out‐of‐town’ travel. The film screen environment includes upwards of 25 commercial screens, a handful of film societies, intermittent screening activities at other national collecting institutions and community arts centres and a level of screening activity generated by the local, independent film production sector. There is also significant population turnover each year due to large student numbers and churn around federal government programs.
A 10 year vision for the NFSA’s cinema program
Arc will be the showcase of the NFSA’s public programs. Its internationally recognised cinema programs will excite a broad Australian appreciation of the heritage of world cinema—from its 19th century origins to its latest forms. These programs will be recognised as cutting‐edge, diverse, authoritative and entertaining, and will achieve a prestige for the NFSA equal to that enjoyed by other peak national cultural institutions.
Our audiences include:
- adults ‐ general interest/leisure
- adult learners
- cinephiles and people with cultivated interests in screen culture
- people from diverse communities
- Indigenous Australians and communities
- international representatives and visitors
- people with disabilities
- families and people with children
- primary and secondary school students
- audiovisual industry practitioners in production, distribution, exhibition
- local filmmaking interests especially through relevant parts of Canberra‐based universities and other learning institutions, local filmmaking groups and representatives of the local film, television and new media production sector.
Our broad strategic objectives
- achieve an agreed audience target annually
- broaden audiences as widely as possible across demographic and social groups, especially through the widest range of audience program choices
- increase audiences through effective and targeted strategic partnerships
- achieve clear, positive responses from audiences, strategic stakeholders, the screen industry sector, screen cultural scholars, value‐makers, critics and commentators, and other opinion makers
- increase national and international recognition of the Arc cinema program.
Arc cinema program goals:
Arc cinema and the NFSA’s curated cinema programs will:
- enhance the public’s enjoyment and appreciation of the history, heritage, social context, diversity and current state‐of‐the‐arts of the moving image
- showcase, contextualise and publicise the NFSA’s technical expertise and curatorial knowledge as Australia’s peak‐body in preserving, interpreting and sharing access to the moving image’s heritage and current practice
- be a forum for broad social, cultural and community engagement with the diversity of the moving image—and conversely, for the moving image’s relevance in Australian social and cultural debate
- be a place where the NFSA can market itself as a cultural partner, and activate and value‐add its partnerships.
Goal 1: The NFSA’s curated cinema programs will enhance the public’s appreciation of the history, heritage, social context, diversity and state-of-the-art presentation of the moving image.
- Present a diverse and curated screening program at the NFSA’s Canberra Arc venue.
- Provide curatorial support, oversight, leadership and mentorship in supporting other NFSA national and international cinema screening programs or cinema screening programs where the NFSA has a major stakeholder role.
Goal 2. Arc cinema and other NFSA cinema programs will showcase, contextualise and publicise the NFSA’s technical expertise and curatorial knowledge. Market the NFSA as Australia’s peak-body in preserving, interpreting and giving access to the moving image’s heritage and current practice.
- Curated, inventive programming that presents:
- the NFSA’s moving image collection, especially collection strengths and key areas of collection development, as well as works of national and international significance
- important work that has emerged from the NFSA’s preservation and restoration activities and technical skill‐base
- work that emerges from curatorial interpretation of the NFSA moving image collection by staff and external scholars
- national and international programs using non‐NFSA archival and distribution sources, but which give curatorial context to the NFSA’s own moving image collection and Australia’s wider moving image heritage.
- Program as a test-bed for the research, development and premiering of the NFSA’s curated screening programs, with potential for national and international outreach
- Cinema screenings will complement the NFSA’s on-line, reference and research collections with presentations and showcases. This potentially provides an enriched, cross-disciplinary and unified experience for audiences.
- Programming will follow best possible curatorial practice in the public presentation of the moving image, especially of alternative and legacy screen works, and will respect:
- the original historic and social experience of the moving image work
- the original creative intention and ‘moral rights’ of its makers (directors, producers, cinematographers, composers, editors, SFX artists, actors, etc)
- the conservation of the artefact (whether celluloid, magnetic or digital screening media)
- alternative, legacy and non-mainstream screening technical formats in film and video projection, correct aspect ratio, film speed and sound format. The correct practice of screening heritage material is especially important here, in particular legacy film speeds, aspect ratios, forms of theatrical presentation, experimental uses of projection technology etc
- other legal and moral obligations in the presentation of the moving image to the public.
- By applying the best curatorial practice possible, NFSA cinema programming will educate, celebrate and give leadership to other theatrical cinema exhibitors in presenting the diversity of the cinema experience, especially cutting-edge and legacy cinema formats. This is significant in a contemporary Australia screen industry culture where commercial business models and pressure for standardisation sometimes results in these standards not being accepted as important or a priority.
- NFSA cinema programs will be unique in Australia through enhancing, contextualising and marketing the curatorial activities of the NFSA.
- The program will also showcase the work of the NFSA’s peers, especially high‐profile preservation work from other moving image archives. This will enhance the public’s understanding of NFSA collection material and Australian cinema, placing it in the context of the global moving image heritage.
- Within the planning cycle, Arc cinema will also be a flexible and rapid response program that can support and complement other NFSA programs and outreach activities.
Goal 3. Be a forum for broad social, cultural and community engagement with the diversity of the moving image—and conversely, for the moving image’s relevance in social and cultural debate.
- The NFSA cinema programs will educate and engage Australian audiences about the original context of Australian moving image heritage and the collection—especially its diversity in aesthetic form, in technical format, in content and in social experiences.
- The program will screen important and creative moving image works and forms that are marginal or have little likelihood of being seen in Australian commercial cinemas.
- The program will consider and reflect contemporary Australia public issues and facilitate social and cultural engagement with the collection.
- The program will value-add by contextualising screening programs through Q and A forums, lectures, talks, program notes etc. This includes working closely with the NFSA’s research fellows and with expert partners, including academics, scholars, researchers and practitioners.
- The program will build engagement with local filmmakers and the local screen production industry.
- Arc and other NFSA cinema programmers are conscious of their role in a ‘post-celluloid’ (and possibly ‘post‐Cinema’) age—as both a contemporary forum and a rich museum for the moving image experience. Our venues will encompass cinema’s new exhibition technologies and will also cater for cinema’s changing social roles. At the same time, they focus on sustaining the social, experiential and technical histories of the moving image, especially the 35mm film screening experience.
Goal 4. Through the NFSA cinema programs and especially Arc, the NFSA will market and promote itself as a cultural partner, form new partnerships and value‐add to existing partnerships.
- Through cinema programming the NFSA will identify and build strategic and advantageous partnerships with complementary organisations, including but not limited to:
- diplomatic and national cultural agencies
- international Federation of Film Archive (FIAF) peers, cinematheques, studio film archives and on‐going cultural screening programs
- relevant international and national film festivals
- federal, state, and international screen industry development agencies
- national and state collecting institutions, visual art galleries and social history museums
- filmmaker representative organisations
- academic, screen education and research institutions (including screen production and studies schools) and curriculum development bodies
- emerging local filmmakers
- NGO and significant social advocacy groups
- NFSA programming will work in close collaboration across the curatorial, technical and cultural programming arms of the organisation to support, and be supported by, relevant staff, resources and established plans
- cinema programmers will work especially closely with marketing and communications staff to deliver general and targeted public information about programming using an Arc Marketing Strategy to prioritise and guide activity.
Success measures ‐ key performances indicators
The cinema program is supported by the Arc Cinema Marketing Strategy designed to ensure we build a strong and loyal audience for Arc and its screening program and to meet the following KPIs.
- achieve total annual audience KPI
- achieve total revenue KPI
- positive critical and stakeholder feedback about the program from surveys
- positive media coverage for the program
- increased national awareness of the NFSA’s cinema screen program and the Arc venue from surveys and media coverage
- increase liaison with other NFSA Branches to achieve a common vision, goal and strategy.
Consultation and evaluation
Stakeholder consultation and audience evaluation are central to maintaining and building Arc cinema programming. Evaluation will be primarily driven by the Arc cinema marketing strategy which identifies a range of tactics including targeted market research through audience surveys, analysis of media coverage, an online feedback service, social media platforms especially the Arc page on Facebook administered by NFSA and the collated anecdotal evidence from staff directly interacting with audiences at screenings.
Strategic and operational leadership
The NFSA has an Arc development group in place to provide strategic development and operational leadership to support the growth and development of the Arc cinema program. A charter defines the responsibilities and expectations of the group whose membership includes senior staff responsible for executive leadership, programming and curatorship, technical presentation and operations and marketing. The group undertakes detailed examination of market segmentation and audience attendance as part of the ongoing performance and audience development focus for Arc. A separate group known as the Arc operational team is in place to ensure day-to-day operational and marketing activities work smoothly.