Industry Report: Distribution and exhibition
Distributing an animated feature film (2)
by Cartoon, the European Association of Animation Film
- Camille Trumer is general manager of UIP France since 2003.
Is an animation film distributed in the same way as a traditional feature film?
The answer is of course NO, no matter what the budget, type or provenance of the animated film are.
This has become obvious to us via a series of animation releases. Be it Rugrats, Antz, Land Before Time, Shrek 2, Balto or Shark Tale, the operation is different from that of handling a traditional film.
This truth is equally valid (or even more so) in the context of a film such as Kirikou, Belleville Rendez-vous or Raining Cats and Frogs.
Even though, in the animation area, we can also talk about "blockbusters" and/or "sleepers", we do have to handle them differently than when releasing films of other genres.
In animation too we can talk about "development" and "arthouse" films. The basic error to avoid is, in my opinion, one still committed by some of the "majors": the creation of a release plan based on and proportionate to the film's production budget.
You can only evaluate (within the margins of error that we're all familiar with) the potential of a film by screening it. It is only on this basis that you can develop a strategy for its release.
Although the various keys to the release of a traditional film are still valid, certain among them take on a far greater importance with animation.
I am referring to:
-the release date
-the number of prints
-pre-release screenings, paying or free
How important is the release date?
The release date definitely remains the most important factor in the release of a film.
For animated films, as for films in general, competition remains a decisive factor that you have to consider in order to place your film properly relative to competitors.
For the animation film in particular, especially if it is aimed at children and families, it is of course essential to be on screen during the school holidays or even a bit beforehand (a week or two, depending on the film's potential).
What is the ideal number of prints?
There has been a great deal of discussion in France on this point, but no one can claim any certainty as to the ideal number of prints.
Their quantity is of course linked to the competition, but also above all to the film's potential.
The competition is important, because depending on what is coming up on the horizon the film will have more or less time to make its mark (which is why the number of prints is so important).
Quality is also an important factor when deciding on the number of prints.
How is the publicity made?
Over here publicity is done rather traditionally, by the classic means of posters (since TV advertising is not allowed in France) and press ads, first and foremost in family-oriented publications when the animated film is for children.
What about promotion, pre-release screenings?
Producers and distributors have to link up with the greatest possible number of brands – again, it should be brands relating to children (cornflakes, milk, bottled water…).
The quality of the film remains a decisive factor. If you think the film is good but not sufficiently talked about, a system of pre-release screenings (even free) is indispensable to create good word of mouth in schools (and we all know how important this is.)
Edited by Cartoon, the European Association of Animation Film
Cartoon Master Munich, Germany, October 2004