Ivo Andrle • Distributor
by Theodore Schwinke
01/03/2010 - Aerofilms distributes 10 European and independent films a year, both to arthouse and multiplex cinemas. They acquire films at major festivals such as Berlin and Cannes and are increasingly interested in projects at script stage. The company's roots are in exhibition, however, and Aerofilms operates three cinemas in Prague. “The important thing is the link to the theatres. It all came from there,” says Ivo Andrle, director of acquisitions.
Cineuropa: What made you decide to expand beyond exhibition?
Ivo Andrle: When we started managing Kino Aero in 1998, we began organizing foreign film weeks and showing films that didn't have Czech distributors, so we learned how to buy rights and acquire prints. We enjoyed strong cooperation with the Association of Czech Film Clubs and learned a lot from them, and from Gutek Film in Poland. When we started operating Kino Světozor, in 2004 we realized that there was room for another distributor in the local market. We knew our audiences and knew they were interested films that were not always available through the Czech distributors. In 2005 we found an angel investor and started buying films for distribution.
Who is your audience?
For smaller arthouse films they are typically 16–40 years old, live in large cities, are university-educated and interested in art. But we also present digital broadcasts from the New York Metropolitan Opera, and those audiences are opera fans — not our usual audience.
What is your ideal film?
We look for films that will appeal not just to the arthouse audiences at our cinemas but also to the multiplexes. Vicky Cristina Barcelona [trailer] and Pan's Labyrinth [trailer] have been our biggest hits so far. But we also like smaller films, such as Grbavica (Esma's Secret) [trailer, film focus]. Even though such films will have limited admissions, we can calculate the costs and actually bring in a profit.
What was your marketing strategy for North [trailer, film focus]?
With any film we try to focus the publicity in the most effective way. Who's the target group? Where are they? What do the read? You try to think of who might be interested in seeing a film other than people who normally come to our cinemas. With North we tried to find people interested in Nordic culture. We went to the Scandinavia House in Prague, web sites about Scandinavia, told them about the film and asked them to spread the news.
When you buy a film at script stage, what are you looking for?
It's not just what's in the script, it's also the names that help us sell. We did a pre-sale on Jack Goes Boating because the director is Philip Seymour Hoffman, and when we read the script and we thought it was a good story. We bought Norwegian Wood, based on the novel by Haruki Murakami, whose books have all sold well here. Equally important is who's in it and who's selling it.
How much competition is there for pre-sales?
The bigger the potential, the more competition. It's happened that we've waited too long and lost the film to another distributor who was willing to buy film they hadn't seen. We've also lost out on pre-sales because we didn't offer enough money.
Do European films have an advantage over Hollywood independents?
This year we had two American indies — Black Dynamite and Cold Souls — which were not so successful. At the same time we had Bronson [trailer] and North, which also did not do well. But at least with the European titles you have MEDIA support and you don't really lose money. This allows us to take risks on European films, whereas with American films you have to think twice.