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Lessons learnt from Wild Bunch’s e-cinema experiment


- Several conclusions can be drawn from the unprecedented operation in spring which saw the release of The Keeper of Lost Causes on VoD, followed by The Absent One in theatres

Lessons learnt from Wild Bunch’s e-cinema experiment
The Absent One by Mikkel Nørgaard

While negotiations on the progression of the distribution windows (the legal time limits for making films available across various distribution formats: theatres, video, television, SVoD) in France are making little headway in the absence of any consensus, let’s take a look at the results of the e-cinema experiment that Wild Bunch conducted in France in spring (read the article) with the Danish Department Q diptych: it released The Keeper of Lost Causes [+see also:
film review
interview: Eugenio Mira
film profile
on 27 March across nine VoD platforms, followed by The Absent One [+see also:
film profile
on 8 April in theatres (with a print run of 111 copies).

Analysed by researcher Thomas Paris in his report "New Approaches for Greater Diversity of Cinema in Europe?" (presented last month at the European Parliament and the European Commission), this experiment is all the more interesting given that it benefited from some hefty marketing investment and a single promotional campaign for both movies (apart from purchases of television airtime, which only applied to The Keeper of Lost Causes, as TV advertising for titles being released in theatres is not permitted in France).

A viewer-satisfaction survey conducted by the Observatory as audiences came out of the theatres where The Absent One was screened has built on Thomas Paris’ analyses. So what were the conclusions drawn? The competitive threat posed to theatres by e-cinema appeared to be very weak when it came to this film, as a mere 5% of viewers would have preferred to see The Absent One on an e-cinema platform, and that is only among the regular visitors (who go to the cinema at least once a week). Furthermore, for the viewers of this movie, the reputation of e-cinema was by no means negligible, as 31.2% knew about e-cinema in general and 38.6% were aware of the release of The Keeper of Lost Causes beforehand on VoD. Lastly, the knock-on effects created between the two films seemed able to work very well, in a way: in fact, 58% of the viewers of The Absent One in theatres intended to then rent The Keeper of Lost Causes on VoD. On the other hand, conversely, just 3.4% of the viewers who saw The Absent One in theatres had watched The Keeper of Lost Causes beforehand on VoD.

As far as the results were concerned, the comparison of the theatrical admissions for The Absent One (49,665 viewers by the end of its run) and the VoD transactions for The Keeper of Lost Causes (a figure that was not passed on to Cineuropa) has allowed Thomas Paris to work out that the total amount spent on purchasing space per viewer is seven times higher for e-cinema (0.14 viewers per euro invested) than for theatres (1 viewer per euro). Nevertheless, this disparity should begin to decrease with the development of e-cinema, according to the author of the report, which also observed a VoD consumption that was geographically more dispersed and less urban-based than was the case for the theatrical release. In addition, the analysis notes that The Keeper of Lost Causes on VoD saw an audience structure that was a lot less uneven and better spread out over time (a gradual decrease in the transactions with a gentler gradient over the six weeks under consideration) compared to the screening of The Absent One in theatres, which experienced a peak in attendance levels in the first week, followed by a sudden lapse during the subsequent two weeks.

(Translated from French)

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