‘Experience Is At The Heart Of Everything We Do’: Talking Shop With Nicolas Dupeux

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Nicolas Dupeux, CEO of Paris Entertainment Company. (Picture by Nicko Guihal)

We’re breaking records,” said Nicolas Dupeux, CEO of Paris Entertainment Company (PEC), the umbrella organization running three of the city’s most iconic buildings: Accor Arena, the notorious Bataclan, and adidas Arena, currently under construction, and scheduled to open in February 2024 – just in time for the Olympic Games in the French capital.

Dupeux expects ticket sales to increase by 20% compared to 2019 and turning over around €50 million ($54 million) by the time the 2022 fiscal year ends on Aug. 31. Aside from helping to facilitate the strong return of live with the venues under his care, there were a couple of other hot topics Dupeux talked about with Pollstar.

Number one on the list is turning the surroundings of Accor Arena into a proper entertainment district welcoming visitors all day. The offering includes a new bar and restaurant, as well as co-working spaces for b2b professionals. A basketball playground just opened, and in July Dupeux’s team will host an outdoor cinema for the first time.

In terms of nightlife, the forthcoming opening of Phantom, the largest party venue in Paris located inside the building with 3,500 people capacity, will enable the public to extend their enjoyment of the events in the Main Event Hall and will become the place to be for Parisian parties. “Our district is now open to the public every day, at every hour, even if there’s no concert or sports match on,” he said, adding that the expansion of the side-offerings was an ongoing process.

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Accor Arena Paris is an entertainment temple offering something for everyone 24/7. But the building remains a concert arena at heart. (Photo by Nicko Guihal)

Number two is, of course, adidas Arena, the only venue that’s being newly built inside Paris for the 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics. With Paris Basketball as sports tenant, and at 9,000 capacity, the plan is to host more than 100 events per year with a mix of sports, e-sports and music throughout the year.

It marks the first naming rights deal for adidas worldwide, which, according to Dupeux, showed how important urban culture and music were to the positioning of major brands. Despite supply chains still recovering from the effects of COVID, which includes the prices and availability of materials, Dupeux is confident that the arena will open next February, as scheduled.

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General view of the construction of the Adidas Arena in Paris, Feb. 2, 2023. The building will host badminton and rhythmic gymnastics during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, before picking up live entertainment business as well. (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Like Accor Arena, the building will work with all promoters internationally, and thanks to its size, it will host more independent and local artists than PEC’s flagship is able to accommodate. And just like Accor Arena, the new building will form the center of a wider entertainment district, including bars, restaurants, retail and more on 3,500 square meters directly connected to the Arena.

Adidas Arena’s capacity, ranging from 3,000 to 9,000, will be perfectly complimentary to the Accor Arena, which can host artists attracting crowds from 8,000 to 20,000. And since 2021, there’s a building covering the lower end of the spectrum (up to 1,500 capacity) under the PEC umbrella as well: Le Bataclan, the venue that got attacked by terrorists seven years ago, during the Nov. 13 performance by Eagles of Death Metal.

Dupeux said, “It was very important for us to write a new story for the venue. To move firmly towards the future without forgetting the past. We wanted to position Le Bataclan as the premier destination for rock in Paris, seeing that it embodies the spirit of rock: freedom, audacity, and impertinence.”

Dupeux, who loves Le Bataclan for its beautiful decor and atmosphere, said the building has managed to move on. “What we find is that our customers now are 18 to 20 years old. During the attack, they were 12 or 13, their parents most likely hid the TV images from their view. They know what happened, but they don’t have the same images in their heads as you and I have.”

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Le Bataclan continues to make rock history in Paris. (Picture by Titouan Masse)

Dupeux said one of things COVID has made abundantly clear is that “people need to experience live music events. Not through digital, but through real communion between artists and public. They need to feel something, they need to activate the different senses. Nothing could replace the live thing. People want to feel the atmosphere, they want to see their favorite artists, they want to smell the energy in the venue. It’s very, very important.”

Paris Entertainment Company, in Dupeux view, represents a new live entertainment business model for Paris: one company running a set of differently sized buildings dedicated to the best in sports and entertainment in one of the culturally most vibrant cities on earth.

Some of the upcoming concert highlights at Accor Arena include Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters, Madonna, Robbie Williams, and more, alongside a string of French stars like Jenifer, Lomepal and M. The split between international and national acts at Accor is around 70/30.

Aside from bringing the world’s biggest artists to their French fanbase, PEC also works in the b2b market, turning partnerships and VIP offers into a place of experiences. The team just opened a new b2b suite, which is modeled in the style of a traditional Parisian apartment, where you feel “at home” including a fireplace and couch, with a panoramic view of the Main Stage. “Whether it’s b2c or b2b,” Dupeux concluded, “whether it’s the artists, fans or promoters, the experience is at the heart of everything we do.”

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