The ideal Christmas present for Kortrijk residents: CUBO, Kortrijk’s Netflix for culture

CUBO, you may have already heard about it. An abbreviation for Culture Builder. Word of mouth advertising is starting to do its job. What is good cannot be ignored. When the cultural leaders in Kortrijk launched the idea a year and a half ago, they talked about the Netflix or Spotify of culture. And that’s it. You pay a monthly subscription and you grab as much culture as you can swallow. The formula seems to be working now. If you’re still looking for a year-end gift, this is an instant tip.

When Alexander Ververken from De Schouwburg and Kristof Jonckheere from art center BUDA (Budascoop) presented their innovative subscription at the end of June ’21, it was not yet clear whether the public in Kortrijk was ready for it. Meanwhile, CUBO turns out to be an exterior. The 15 euros you pay as a subscriber gives you access to both culture houses’ stage and film offerings. The account was quickly created. In the theater there are several performances for which you pay more than 15 euros. Whereas today you pay 10 euros for one cinema ticket. No wonder that 530 such subscriptions have already been sold a year and a half after the launch of CUBO. The statistics show that subscribers go to BUDA 1.2 times a month and 0.9 times to the theatre. It would cost them more than 30 euros without a subscription. Conclusion: you get more culture for less money.

Supported by the city

Ververken and Jonckheere had come up with the idea when they discovered that they had far fewer customers in common than they thought. “There was only 16% overlap,” says Ververken. “And so there was a lot of potential to go to a shared market, rather than each covering a separate part of the market. Too often the financial threshold prevents people from trying something they’re not yet comfortable with.” Now you can.Film enthusiasts also try out a dance or theater performance, and those who buy CUBO because of their interest in theater can watch a movie at no extra cost.

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It would be a two-year experiment. Calculations had shown that 1000 subscriptions were needed to cover the costs. They are currently at 530. And all partners are happy with that. Councilor for culture Axel Ronse is also well satisfied, even though the city still has to pay for the additional expenses for the time being. “We see that we are reaching an audience that would otherwise never enter a cultural center. 10% of CUBO subscribers are between 25 and 34. The average age of the CUBO audience is 53, while that age is 58 for other cultural subscriptions,” says the councillor. “Not only is the number of CUBO users growing steadily, it is also reassuring that the theater’s regular subscribers are not switching en masse to CUBO, but that we are reaching new people to a large extent. There was a fear that we would cannibalize our own revenue, that regular ticket sales would decline with the growth in the number of CUBO subscriptions. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. But the first season still cost us 32,000 euros.”

A part of these costs goes to the database and the computer system needed to order the tickets, but the heavy consumers among the subscribers will also cost money for the time being. “If you buy a movie ticket at the cinema, half of that amount goes to the film distributor, the company that bought the rights to show that film. He wants to see his money,” says Kristof Jonckheere. “If a subscriber goes to the cinema five times a month, then his monthly contribution is not enough to pay the film distributors’ share. But the gluttons among the subscribers are exceptions, I must mention right away.”

The theater closes for two years

The distribution of the money is also the explanation for the fact that popular music and comedy are not yet part of the theater’s CUBO offer for the time being. “The artists’ contracts do not allow that,” explains Alexander Ververken. “They are sharecontracts where the ticket price is determined by the artists themselves. However, we were prepared to make a financial arrangement so that they would not have felt the difference. But they weren’t ready yet. It is of course also the case that popular music and comedy must be stimulated less than theatre, classical music, jazz and the circus offering.”

The range of festivals such as Next and Jazzcats are also part of the CUBO range. And Axel Ronse hopes to expand the system in the future, including Wild Westen and Antigone. “In September, the theater will close for two years, but as soon as it opens again, I think there will be 500 subscriptions. And then we are immediately out of costs. Then we are the only city in the world that has an offer via a kind of fixed rate, where you can taste unlimited culture without it costing the city anything. In the city, we are therefore in favor of continuing the CUBO subscriptions during the renovation, because the theater will also organize numerous activities outside the home during that period. But whether that supply will be large enough is currently being investigated.”

Axel Ronse and his cabinet colleague Giovanny Saelens also wanted to keep CUBO during the period when the theater closes its doors (photo KVdm)
Axel Ronse and his cabinet colleague Giovanny Saelens also wanted to keep CUBO during the period when the theater closes its doors (photo KVdm)

Kristof Jonckheere knows that 10 to 20% of the Budascoop audience has a CUBO subscription. “If there are not so many people in front of the cinema, it is 20%; if there are many people, it is 10%. On average, 500 tickets per month go to CUBO users. In recent months it was around 800 or even 900 in November. These are people who used to come once a month and now maybe three times. People think: ‘it’s paid anyway, we have to try something we don’t know yet’. The same with Next. Many people thought: ‘wow, they take a lot of shows’, turned out to have a CUBO subscription. Super hello.”

The existence of CUBO leads to completely new phenomena. For example, Nele Van Coillie has a CUBO club. “Every week on Monday I go to a movie in Budascoop with friends. Our club is constantly growing and we are getting to know new people. We share a Whatsapp group and if one of us is bored in the evening, it happens that we unexpectedly end up in the theater. I didn’t use to be a theater person, but now that I could try things out at no extra cost, I now know what kind of theater I like.”

Those who have a CUBO subscription can book online for the performances they want to attend. That system also allows communication in the other direction. “In this way, we can approach our audience in a much more active way,” says Alexander Ververken. “If a performance is not sold out, we can say: “Aren’t you coming tomorrow? There are still tickets.” You’re CUBO anyway, so you don’t have to pay extra for it. In the past, if few tickets were sold for a performance, we did everything we could to convince even more people, but we could hardly give them a lower price because it wasn’t fair to the 200 people who had already bought tickets . Removing the financial threshold helps us enormously to generate more audiences for unprecedented work or new talent in the performing arts. This is why the most important goal of CUBO.”

All information about CUBO can be found on BUDA’s and De Schouwburg’s pages

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