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Films are a source of entertainment. We learn from them, enjoy them, and relate the fantasy on screen to our own lives. These cultural artifacts reflect our culture, beliefs, and provide joy and relaxation.

In the past decades, Mexico has witnessed many small cinema houses go out of business or converted into multiplexes. This trend in turn has led to soaring ticket prices as high as US $4.50 (close to INR 250). While this is affordable for the middle-class and the elite, for 90% of the Mexican population who earn less than US $300 per month (close to INR 1500), this is a luxury they cannot afford.

Cinepop movie on inflated screen. Image Source: http://www.socialearth.org

Ariel Zylbersztejn, a young film-maker, came up with a unique model to screen free movies without relying on donations to sustain operations. He founded Cinepop. Cinepop provides free access to family movies for the urban and rural poor in Mexico.

“We give massive movies shows on gigantic inflatable screens totally free, in places where the average family income is approximately $300 a month. On weekend evenings, we project family films in central spots of the city for about 5,000 people,” exclaims Cinepop’s founder Ariel Zylbersztejn.

Cinepop shows more than one film a week in Mexico, reaching upwards of 350,000 people a year. The showings are occasions to promote social programs, like free or low-cost medical consultations and education on self-employment.

“At one show, we were able to start 250 lines of microcredit for those wanting to start a business or in need of working capital,” says Zylbersztejn. “By bringing a lot of people to the same place, we’ve found we can do many different things.”

Zylbersztejn has changed the ‘pay-for entertainment’ paradigm by creating a win-win situation for all stakeholders involved. The local government provides a spot for Cinepop to host its massive screening events. They also provide venue facilities, and transport. Prior to film showings, Cinepop offers an opportunity for sponsors to carry out promotional activities and public service messages to an audience otherwise inaccessible. Sponsors include microfinance organizations, low-cost medical clinics, housing projects, and education organizations.

Cinepop does have a huge responsibility towards its audience. They need to be cautious of whom they partner with for sponsorship and what message is provided to the people. They have expansion plans and would like to replicate the model in developing countries such as India and China.