The business models need to be changed
by Birgit Heidsiek
- CANNES NEXT: At the Marché du Film, the new NEXT programme kicked off with a round-table on the realities of a digital demand-driven age
The need for new business models in the digital age was a key issue at the first NEXT round-table at the Marché du Film, which focused on film distribution strategies. “Not everything has to be on VoD,” said Philip Knatchbull, CEO of Curzon World. “While foreign films and documentaries are mostly released theatrically, genre films work better on VoD.” In the UK, Curzon can’t do a day-and-date release, because the multiplex cinemas don’t support it. “The major chains in the UK won’t play your film unless you do a traditional release.”
“In the US, the audience is more sophisticated,” underlined Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing. “They watch documentaries online.” According to the American arthouse distributor, cinemas are turning into entertainment venues for festival-related events and live broadcasts of shows such as operas. “This is a very holistic approach for a business model.” Meanwhile, the distributor earns 50% more per dollar with a DVD release than with a traditional theatrical release.
But theatrical release in Great Britain is also following new market rules. “If a film doesn’t work in three days, it will be kicked out,” reported Knatchbull. “It is a completely broken model.” In order to release films successfully on VoD, a certain level of expertise is needed to market the films. “We are trying to be a niche brand,” said the British distributor. “Vertical integration is the way forward in order to reach an audience.”
“The theatrical market has become overcrowded. This could happen to VoD as well,” stated British media expert Michael Gubbins. “It comes down to your product and how you sell it,” emphasised the Curzon CEO. “I instruct our market team to have a unified approach. The independent movies can reach a much wider audience, but the business model has to change.” Marketing is also becoming even more important in the digital world: “I need other people to suggest to me what films I should watch.”
The bottom line is that people still want to go out to see a football game, an opera or a movie. Curzon recently opened a new cinema with seven screens. “It is all digital, without any projectionist,” concluded Knatchbull. “That is where technology is taking us.” His American distributor colleague has a similar vision: “Cinema will become more of an exclusive event, like the opera, which provides the audience with entertainment, food and drinks,” summed up Bowles. “There will be fewer cinemas, which will charge higher prices.”