Eric Busidan • Deputy General Director of the ARP
by Fabien Lemercier
- Eric Busidan deciphers the TIDE project, coordinated by the ARP, which experiments with "day-and-date" release of movies in theatres and via VOD on a European scale
In the spring, ten European countries will participate in the premiere of The TIDE Experiment (article). This pan-European experiment of "day-and-date" releases in theatres and via VOD, which will start with Viramundo: a journey with Gilberto Gil [+see also:
film profile], is expected to be as fascinating as it is controversial. Explanations from the Deputy General Director of the ARP ("Société civile des Auteurs, Réalisateurs, Producteurs", or Industry Guild of Writers, Directors and Producers ), which is coordinating this project backed by the Media Programme of the European Union.
Cineuropa: Why did the ARP embark on THE TIDE Experiment?
Eric Busidan: For two years now, we have been working on ways to depart from France's media chronology for the release of films which have difficulties getting into theatres: we already proposed closer VOD releases for films shown on less than 15 screens. When we learnt that Europe wanted to experiment with simultaneous or almost simultaneous cinema and VOD releases, we signed up for this project with parties who wanted to consider the issue: Europa Distribution, the VOD aggregator Under the Milky Way, marketing agency The Film Agency and a number of vendors (Urban Distribution International, Fandango Portobello, Goldcrest Films International and Wide Management), who emphasize that it is becoming increasingly difficult to sell special-interest artistic and experimental films on foreign markets. We started from the observation that the pan-European market is jammed: except in France, the number of cinemas is going down, sometimes drastically. Yet Europe still produces 1,300 to 1,400 films per year. While the number of theatre seats continues to fall, we still need opportunities for authors to emerge, in order to encourage new talent. We have no intention of bypassing cinemas, but would rather associate them with a development whereby authors can get more recognition, and films can enjoy wider geographical coverage. When it comes to film exposure, the movie-theatre must remain the main influence for the cinema, but not the only one. This requires some willingness on its part to share a certain kind of exclusivity.
How will you proceed with countries that have very rigid media chronologies?
The experiment does not aim to infringe the rules of the various states regarding media chronology. The terms “simultaneous or quasi-simultaneous” are part of the specifications of the European Commission. In France, for example, media chronology starts when a film is released in cinemas. What happens beforehand is open to free initiative. So it is possible to try premium VOD until the film is released in theatres, as long as it stops when the movie hits the screens. This would be "quasi-simultaneous", or at least a way of adapting to regulations to try to shorten the timeframe between both releases, or even invert them as in the case of France. We also want to try to release films over shorter periods in the different territories. For the first TIDE film, releases will be spread from May to July, instead of the usual 18 months in Europe. It is an interesting experiment to see if a pan-European word of mouth can be created.
What do you think about the outcry triggered by TIDE amongst some professionals (in theatres, TV...)?
They know about our proposals. They have just received a stronger reaction due to this European experiment and also, in France, to the Lescure mission, since an amendment to media chronology, which would open the door to possible derogations (for films released on a combination of a relatively small number of screens and not pre-financed by networks), was drafted at the CNC and submitted to members of the industry. The climate is a bit tense, but discussion is starting to open up more and more.
What about "day-and-date" releases in cinemas and via VOD for mainstream films?
Our argument needs to defend independent cinema and the diversity of the films being made. We are committed to media chronology because it provides a structure for the financing of films and exclusive rights for each participant. If we attack theatres with huge blockbusters, it would lead to total deregulation. Even in the United States where there is no pre-funding and chronology is contract-based, the Studios have to maximize their revenues from each outlet: theatres, VOD, DVD and pay-TV... For big blockbusters, the “day-and-date” approach would result in a loss of profitability.