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BJORN VANDEMEULEBROEKE

Cinema operator, Belgium
"I started with popcorn and now I run a cinema! Every day is different. I really hope I can finish my career in the cinema business."

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?

I started as a student, 15 years ago. I made popcorn in the evenings and on weekends. I started as an employee selling coke and popcorn, then got the chance to be assistant manager, and then became manager in different multiplexes – in Leuven, Kortrijk, Oostende and now in Ghent. I am grateful to my employer Kinepolis. I got the opportunity to be a star in their movie! I started with popcorn and now I run a cinema for them. I am fortunate and grateful to Kinepolis for investing in their staff, to create opportunities even for people without degrees like me.

WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?

Working with a lot of young people, lots of students. Visitors are happy: they are in leisure mode, they come to us to relax. I can influence the circumstances in the cinema and make it as good as possible. If they like it they will come back.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PROFESSIONAL FUTURE?

Maybe it’s typical for our region, but I would like to finish my career in the same company that I started in. I am very happy. I want to share my knowledge and expertise by educating others.

HOW DO YOU SEE THE INDUSTRY EVOLVING?

In the last ten years we have seen a major change. The cinema windows are shorter now. When I started in 1997, Titanic was released and played in cinemas over a year. Now if a movie stays in the cinema for ten weeks, it’s already a great success. Cinema is becoming more of a marketing tool for the DVD market.

There are two kinds of movie-goers: film-seekers and fun-seekers. Fun-seekers go bowling or karting or to the movies, it’s part of their leisure time. Film-seekers probably won’t buy popcorn and coke. They want to see a specific title. The risk is that we have too many releases in the same week, so quantity becomes more important than quality, it seems. We may be losing the film seekers, we may be losing them to home cinema. More power to the cinema.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO SEEKS A CAREER IN CINEMA?

Be very flexible and open-minded, you have all kinds of visitors. You have to love your customer! The hours in our business are a disadvantage, but they also give you a lot of freedom. Every day is different. I really hope I can finish my career in the cinema business. If they can keep making movies with Sylvester Stallone, there must be a place for an old man in a cinema in Belgium.