The longing for a European audience
by Birgit Heidsiek
- CANNES 2014: Distribution was the key topic discussed at the new European Film Forum
“We need to stimulate audience demand,” stated Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, at the Creative Europe conference at Cannes. “The way people interact with media has changed.” Therefore, it is crucial to develop a tailor-made marketing and distribution strategy for European films. “I propose a new European forum for film,” emphasised Vassiliou. This initiative invites industry representatives to discuss what kind of measures and actions will be conducive to creating a sustainable film industry in Europe.
During the Cannes Festival, the European Commission published a digital strategy for the film industry, in which the overproduction of more than 1,300 films per year is an issue. “The demand for moving pictures has never been higher, but people are not paying for it,” declared Vincent Grimond, CEO of Wild Bunch. French director Jean-Paul Salomé doesn't see this overproduction as a problem, however. “Each film has to tell its story,” he said. For Christine Tröstrum, project manager for Berlinale Talents, it is the freedom of creation that counts. “This is the big difference with the system in the US.” Berlinale Talents has adopted the motto “Act local, think global”, and the best proof that this philosophy pays off are projects such as The Lunchbox [+see also:
film profile], which started out at the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2011 and was sold after its premiere at Cannes last year to more than 40 territories.
The changing distribution landscape is a critical topic that leads to controversial discussions in the industry. “Netflix is coming to five different countries in Europe,” Grimond pointed out. “It is a failure in our global thinking that the only pan-European TV source will be Netflix. We have to think differently and not wait until an American company controls the market with the know-how they generated.” Tim Richards, CEO of Vue Entertainment, which operates 150 cinemas in eight European markets, was resolute: “There must be a way to retain our own culture. What is the point of sale for 600 films on VoD?” asked the exhibitor. “How can the audience find a film among 500,000 titles?”
“In Europe, there are more than 800 VoD platforms,” underlined Rikke Ennis, CEO of TrustNordisk. “We started to work with iTunes and sell them packages that have themes.” The International Film Festival Rotterdam also cooperates with several online platforms such as iTunes, MUBI and YouTube. “We are expanding the festival experience to other cities with a live video stream and the Q&A afterwards,” reported Melissa van der Schoor, coordinator at the Rotterdam festival. The approach is that the buzz should work as a marketing machine when the films are released on VoD after the event.
“When we are negotiating rights, we are doing the same for our partners,” explained Dragoslav Zachariev, secretary-general of EuroVoD/UniversCiné. “We have a duty to distribute their films on all platforms and new devices.” For this purpose, the films are subtitled in 24 languages.
“We see a vertical integration in the industry,” summed up Richards. The Vue Entertainment website has an infrastructure for VoD, which the company will launch within the next year. “The future is VoD with cinemas that we will determine as exhibitors.”
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