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One model is not the answer


- The conference of Europa Distribution in Rome focused on new film marketing and distribution strategies

One model is not the answer
From left to right: J Duszynski, D Elstner, T Grady, K Ellen, M Probst, C Tremblay, S Massenzi

Due to the different possibilities of distribution in the digital age, the habits of consumers in terms of how they watch films are changing. But not every strategy necessarily works for each film and territory. At the panel discussion of Europa Distribution, film professionals from different sectors and parts of the distribution chain exchanged their ideas about and experiences with the new distribution models.

“If we are going survive in the space that we are in, where everyone wants everything now, we have to be very pro-active”, emphasised Madeleine Probst, cinema programme producer at the Watershed in the UK. “I have been releasing foreign-language films in the UK for over 20 years," reported Laurence Gornall, CEO of British distribution company The Works. “Since the introduction of the VPF in the UK, we have stopped distributing foreign films because the market for foreign films has completely collapsed in the UK. If a distributor moves his film from one cinema to another, each time he has to pay £500 for the booking.”

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For this reason, companies such as Curzon Cinema World are trying to figure out other distribution strategies. “Curzon released the two Nymphomaniac [+see also:
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films by Lars von Trier in 70 cinemas in the UK for one night,” said Katie Ellen, senior manager at the British Film Institute. This five-hour event was very successful. “And they made some more revenue with premium-pricing on the VoD. I think it was a very interesting model because everybody benefitted from it.”

According to Charles Tremblay, distributor at Metropole Films Distribution in Canada, Netflix has changed a lot of things. “People see only one film in a few months in the cinema,” underlined Tremblay. In Canada, many arthouse films are going straight to VoD. “For the first time, we had more digital than physical sales.” But the distributors have little influence where the film is shown on a VoD platform. “It is all about placement on the platform, but the space is almost exclusively dedicated to the major movies.” The number of platforms keeps growing. In 2015, HBO will start its own VoD platform. Also, the US network CBS plans to launch a pay-TV service.

“The big limitation is tradition,” underlined Stefano Massenzi, head of acquisitions at Lucky Red, which has been releasing arthouse movies in Italy for 27 years. The main cinema chains force the distributors to wait 15 weeks with a release of a film on VoD and video. “So piracy is basically the winner,” stated Massenzi, who is looking for different recipes for the distribution of films. “We are creating events for a mainstream special audience.” The marketing is coordinated with the cinemas. Among the event movies were the re-release of Pulp Fiction and the German film Run Boy, Run [+see also:
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by Pepe Danquart. “I don't think that events won't take over,” remarked the Italian distributor. “It is just something on top.”

“Content is king”, stressed Kobi Shely, vice-president for marketing and business development at Distrify, which delivers videos in 165 countries. “It takes time to build up an audience. We go where the audience is. About five percent of the viewers who are watching a trailer online are actually buying a film,” explained Shely. “VoD doesn't replace the cinema in terms of sales. We are looking for new ways of monetisation.”

“The minimum guarantees went down drastically,” reported Daniela Elstner, CEO of Paris-based world sales agent Doc & Film International. “As the prices went down, we strengthened our collaboration with the distributors.” For Elstner, the theatrical release comes first. Statements such as "Cinema is only publicity for VoD" give her sleepless nights.

“There is so much content available that there are not enough arthouse cinemas to show all the films,” said Tim Grady, president of distribution and digital at Adopt Films in the US, who considers the theatrical release to be very important. “Cinemas like the Film Forum in New York are opinion leaders.”

“For niche films, you have to activate the audience,” added Jakub Duszynski, president of Europa Distribution, who runs the Polish distribution outfit Gutek Film. “We have to understand who these people are and want our audience to learn about our programme,” summed up Duszynski. “It is all about editorialisation. We have to find ways to diversify,” concluded Madeleine Probst. “Netflix is not the solution for diversity. Subtitled films don't work there.” Stefano Massenzi sees the danger that within digitisation, everything is put into boxes. “One model is not the answer. Every audience is different.”

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