Name: Alexandre Hellmann
Role: Owner of the “Grand Rex”
Location: Paris, France
Notable Achievements: Owning one of the biggest cinema in the world
About Alexandre Hellmann
“My grandfather, Jean, created the Grand Rex. My father, Philippe, developed it. I hope to continue in this vein and my greatest pride would be for one of my two children to take over,” says Alexandre Hellmann, the third generation at the head of this incredible cinema in the heart of Paris! Grand Rex became in few years the place to be for all the biggest premieres in France.
Why did your grandfather decide to launch and develop the Grand Rex?
In 1947, my grandfather took over the Grand Rex with an American partner. They buy it back and take possession of it, but I can’t tell you why. I wasn’t there.
How does it feel to grow up in a family passionate about cinema?
I was raised in it. My father took care of me on the weekends. And when my dad worked, he used to take me to a room at the Rex. There was an cinema opener who moved me from film to film and that’s how I saw all the films! So I’ve been immersed in the world of cinema ever since.
Have you always wanted to take your father’s inheritance/follow-up?
I was always told about my father’s companies and especially my mothers, who often told me about them. But over the years, I wanted to be a professional sportsman, I was really into sports! But as we went along, after I had made my way, my father and I found each other. I worked with him before he died in 2010. And overnight I had to take back the inheritance.
How did the transition from the second to the third generation go?
It was brutal because my father died of a disease pretty quickly. I learned the trade with him, in fact, I spent 2 years working with him at the Grand Rex. Overnight the Managing Director took over and taught me the job untilI felt comfortable enough to develop all my ideas within the Rex. He had already worked with my father for many years.
What is the sequence of a typical day in cinema management?
There are several different activities. First of all, the movies rooms, which is not only used for cinema but also for concerts, shows or company conventions. There is also the museum “Le Rex Studio”, the nightclub Le Rex Club and soon the Escape Game. But my main job during the day is to manage all the staff, as well as manage all future events. Indeed, future teams must be managed and set up to ensure that everything goes smoothly and to anticipate well. I also look for events by dealing with music producers for concerts, with general managers, distributors, etc..
I also handle corporate conventions and there’s a whole team with me that takes care of that. Indeed, it is a tool that is developing more and more because companies rent our movies rooms, large and small.
How is your team composed?
It consists of about 48 people. There are already a lot of reception officers. In fact, the teams on the ground represent the vast majority since in the offices we are not that many. There’s only the CEO, me, the accountant, the person in charge of the Rex Studio communities, the person in charge of the Rex Studio, etc..
Then there is also the manager of the movies rooms, etc.. All this small world actually represents the majority.
At the level of the preview, who is in charge of managing this?
It’s me and my teams. There are no departments that deal with events in particular because even if we seem to be many in the company: we are an SME. So everyone touches everything, we are obliged to do everything and fortunately because it occupies us! Because if we did, we’d be turning our thumbs. For example, in a hollow period like July-August, you would be bored. So we always have to create events and that’s our niche. For example, at each major outing we plan whether we are going to run a marathon, a preview or a retrospective. You have to be the most reactive and stand out before the competition.
All this to say that it’s an exciting job, which gives glitter to the eyes! We don’t sell sauerkraut, we offer beautiful products that make people happy! Indeed, people sometimes wait 9 hours in lines in the cold because it makes them happy and you see them applauding, etc. it’s just magical and wonderful to give people a dream! Every time we create an event, we say, “I’ve created something great.’
What is the balance between cinema and all your events?
We have the schedule well in advance with the big American releases and that’s what works well at the Grand Rex, they’re the biggest appointments and we know in advance how and when to release the films. For example, if a Marvel or a Star Wars comes out: we block the big halls even the concert halls because fans from all over France take the train to come to the Grand Rex because the atmosphere is amazing and it defies all competition. And if there aren’t any big releases, all extra cinema requests are good to take.
How did you put the Grand Rex on the front of the preview stage?
That was my battle horse when I took over the Grand Rex! I didn’t think it was right that all the previews were on the Champs Elysées. So I fought with all the producers by doing win-win on prices for example, etc..
But when I say “fought”: the word is weak. After a few years, my wishes came true: the Rex became the place for preview. The atmosphere is incredible and we’ve done some work to improve the sound and image so it’s all a great asset. It was a big battle but there is no better place for events than at the Grand Rex.
Do you have any anecdotes about the Great Rex?
Yes ! When the last Harry Potter was released in Bercy, there was the biggest 3D screen in the world and, most importantly, there were 8000 people. We had organized a marathon over two days. We got a lot of fan letters to meet the actors, etc.. and many of them were touching. The actors came to Bercy and Grand Rex afterwards but nobody knew he would come to the Rex.
Once at the Grand Rex, we decided to bring the person who had written the most touching letter to the stage and read his letter. Then, the actors arrived with their ears plugged up because there was so much noise and the atmosphere was crazy, the audience was in full swing. Even the Warner boss, who was there, understood that there was only one place to do the fan meetings because there was much more atmosphere at the Grand Rex than at Bercy.
The pandemic distributed the cards in 2020: how do you feel about the platforms and the fact that distributors decide to organise the distribution of films on their platforms instead of cinemas? A good example is the film Mulan.
This is the big debate. The pandemic has exacerbated this. They have to release their films despite the pandemic because of the huge financial stakes behind it.
We must not throw a stone at them either: they are companies, they are there to make money too.
Indeed, they have a lot of employees, a lot of infrastructure. But for example, Warner Bros have just announced their movie release on HBO Max next year at the same time as the cinema: it’s very, very scary for the industry.
But hopefully it’s just during the pandemic period and it stops afterwards and goes back to normal.
As for Mulan, it was never released in the cinema, although at first they all wanted to release it, but anyway, we didn’t open it or we opened and closed it, so we’ll see.