Adeline Monzier • Europa Distribution
by Fabien Lemercier
17/11/2008 - Launched in spring 2007, Europa Distribution brings together 60 independent distributors from 19 European countries. Headed by director Robert Guédiguian, the network is an essential driving force in the circulation of quality European films and will hold its second annual conference at the Estoril Film Festival. We took a look at the current state of the sector with Europa Distribution’s delegate general.
Cineuropa: How are independent European distributors faring today?
Adeline Monzier: Problems such as the increase in the number of releases and prints, and the inflation of promotional costs have worsened. It is increasingly difficult for specialised films to find an audience and they’re removed too quickly from the line-up.
Moreover, the horizontal and vertical concentration of the sector continues. Independent distributors are faced with growing competition and risk missing out on strong arthouse titles due to the rise in acquisition prices. There is also the fear that telecommunications groups will invest in distribution. These phenomena are affecting the whole of Europe, to different degrees and in different ways.
What strategies could be used to reverse the trend?
Above all, we need a definition of the independent distributor, which would enable support to be directed towards the distributors who need it most and could also lead to preferential promotional opportunities with negotiated prices.
The Media programme’s automatic support scheme for distributors is moving in the right direction and the guidelines also incorporate a reform of the selective support system. This makes films with a budget of over €15m ineligible for funding and gives 100% of the support to the distributor. But there are difficulties in implementing this due to habits and reluctance.
What are your views on the transition to digital?
It’s very difficult to adopt a consistent position. Certain countries are quite advanced in this area (UK, Germany, France), whereas in others the issue doesn’t seem to be on the policy agenda (Spain, Italy). And in Eastern European countries, there isn’t a great deal of progress (except for Poland) or instead there is E-Cinema. But it’s not a matter of telling these countries what to do, for releasing films there demands great effort.
Europa Distribution is part of a group of digital experts set up by Media and we are also a member of CIN (eight French associations of producers, distributors and independent exhibitors) created in order to find a mutual, alternative solution for independent theatres’ conversion to digital projection. The aim is to prevent independent distributors from having to pay 80% of the VPF, which we can’t ask them to do right now. For they are small companies that struggle on a daily basis in this difficult time. Digital will be wonderful in ten years’ time, but initially it will double costs rather than reduce them.
Is a strategy of grouped film purchases conceivable?
Indie Circle provides a fine example to follow, but it’s complicated, for independent distribution companies are often founded by strong personalities who have carried them forward. Europa Distribution prefers to focus on internet networking and we intend to create an online database of promotional material available in Europe.
Is the rise in film distribution costs inevitable?
It’s a vicious circle. The distribution arms of large groups organise huge promotional campaigns and independent companies are obliged to follow suit but the economic risk for them is very high. If a film is unsuccessful in theatres, the distribution arm of a group will naturally find a TV and video broadcaster, which is very difficult for an independent company.
However, it is independent distributors who help circulate films and take a chance on new talent. Along with independent producers, they’re the Research & Development branch of the film sector and are involved in over 85% of the works presented at Cannes, Berlin and Venice. Without them, there’ll be no diversity or European film tomorrow. That’s why their financial health is important.