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Industry Report: Distribution and exhibition

Best Strategies for Distributing an Animation Film


Best Strategies for Distributing an Animation Film

- Paco Rodriguez founded PPM Multimedia in 1990, where he spent 10 years working in distribution and co-production financing as well as executive producing several animated series for children. He is presently Executive Producer and director at Filmax animation on the ongoing productions, Nocturna, Donkey.xote and The Hairytooth Fairy I & II. He has also acted as Co-Executive Producer on other major animated feature films, including El Cid: the Legend, P3K: Pinocchio 3000 and Gisaku.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Filmax Animation was created in 2000. What has been the development strategy of the company in the last seven years?
The first idea behind the development strategy of the animation department has been to use properties that were known internationally. It is very difficult to sell and produce totally original concepts, like Nocturna, which are not based on known properties, books, comic books or video games. The first films produced by Filmax were based on classic books, such as Don Quichotte, El Cid or non-properties like Pinocchio. These known properties helped Filmax to enter the international market easily.
The idea was to create, behind the film, a brand. It took Filmax 5 years to recognise a brand. We got a brand with the film The Hairytooth Fairy I & II, which is known in the Latin American countries and south European countries. Without a brand it is very difficult to have an international distribution or exploitation.

What are the average budgets of the animated films produced by Filmax in the last seven years?
The budgets of the films were between 6 and 14 million €. When we thought of the kind of movies we wanted to do, we had to think of what kind of player we wanted to be in the international market. If you want to tease the international market, you must produce a film over 6 million €, at least to have a screen value on your property, a decent animation and a good story.

Did Filmax try to enter the American market?
Yes, but we never succeeded! The American market is very difficult. My opinion is that the American market is very protective. Generally a good European property is not sold to America, but Americans use it to do a remake.

How does Filmax finance its films?
Filmax finances its films with its own resources and partly through international sales and Minima Guarantees. It is generally Filmax’s own distribution branch who puts an MG and retains the rights for the international market. For Nocturna, Filmax’s sales department invested 1.1 million € as MG and 1 million € for Don Quichotte. It is quite difficult to find this kind of MG with other sales agents.

Do you think there are too many European films in the market?
Yes, also because producers are fighting on a very narrow share market. If we take the example of Germany, there is a very tiny space for European films. The German market share is 90% American, 5% local German films and 5% for the rest of the world. Non-German films all together are competing for 5% of the German share market… In Europe we are able to produce decent films, but we are not able to distribute them widely. Ten years ago there were no European animation films. Now there are too many films for a very narrow market. Last year there were 39 animated feature films released in Germany (more or less one per week). The independent producer is the loser of the game, because he is the one who puts the money for the film, but he is the last to recoup his investment. On top of that, at least in Spain, the producers have to invest in distribution and P&A to have a decent distribution.

Which are the tips you would give to other producers?
First of all it is necessary to try to get as much as you can from the distribution company as MG. It is important to have a date for the theatrical release and the contract with the distributor should reflect that. The producer should try to agree with the distributor on a minimum investment for the promotional campaign and the number of prints.

Why aren’t European animated films working well in non national countries?
There is no real market for independent animated films. We should try to have a pan European distribution company of our films or at least to encourage alliances between independent distribution companies. Europe lacks a distribution company that could invest high MG and distribute the films in several territories at the same time. A pan European distribution company could also exploit the merchandising potential of a film.
Producers should create a better interest from distributors and television networks on animated films. In Europe we should also improve our marketing know-how and try to understand other ways to market a film.
What we need the most are big box office successes to give credibility to the market and attract money, also from the banks.

Cartoon Master Potsdam, Germany, November 2007


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