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ROTTERDAM 2017 Industry

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Europa Distribution discusses ways of cultivating audiences

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- A panel at the IFFR PRO Days gathered together distributors, exhibitors and marketing experts to reflect on how to attract audiences

Europa Distribution discusses ways of cultivating audiences

More films produced, fewer titles securing theatrical distribution for less time, and audiences flocking to online platforms and tending to engage more with TV series, rather than with arthouse films. This diagnosis is not exactly new, but it’s a topic that continues to worry the film industry, particularly in Europe’s fragmented and multi-linguistic market. It was against this backdrop that IFFR PRO Days, in cooperation with Europa Distribution, organised a panel entitled “Cultivating Audiences”, which brought together distributors, exhibitors and marketing experts to exchange their views on effective ways to reach bigger audiences.

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Audiences, someone once noted, are a sort of spectral entity. Marketing experts and advertisers have been trying to get to know them, segment them and eventually connect with them. That necessity is still very much applicable today, according to sales agent Jan Naszewski, whose company, New Europe Film Sales, is based in Poland. “When you ask filmmakers who their target is, they all tend to answer, ‘Everybody’! It’s not like that at all! If you have a small budget – and you often do – you need to carefully segment your audience. You need to decide whether you are going to spend your money on an ad in a women’s or men’s magazine, for instance,” explained Naszewski. “Another important issue to address is whether you want to reach a domestic or an international audience. It is a fact that in some territories, local hits don’t get distributed abroad, whereas local arthouse titles do, despite their inability to perform well at the local box office.”

Distributors-turned-exhibitors (or those amalgamating both jobs) also have something to say on the matter. Sarah Perks, from Manchester-based outfit HOME, has been developing projects in conjunction with the local population since 2015. “We are arthouse-orientated and truly audience-focused, organising Q&As and other events; we’re trying to make everything look alive and interesting!” Meanwhile, Jan de Vries, from KINO Rotterdam, programmes a four-screen venue that is a combination of a bar and a cinema. “Last year, we were showing Star Wars and It’s Only the End of the World [+see also:
film review
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over the same period. They are both quality films, able to find their specific audiences.” The venue also organises retrospectives and previews, in an attempt to connect with viewers and get them to come back. “We want to build a quality brand, take people by the hand and guide their taste!”

Challenging that strategy, marketing expert Mathias Noschis (Alphapanda) asked: “Does that mean that films are generally so bad that you need to build your own quality label to attract the public? It seems as though people are not heading to your spot for the films!” For Noschis, social media is one of the keys to involving audiences from a very early stage. “A Facebook campaign might actually help you to understand who is going to react well to, for instance, the same trailer in different territories. You know who clicks on what. Before social media, only Hollywood had the means to test audiences. Nowadays it’s simpler.”

The Netherlands is famous for having a hard time attracting audiences to its own arthouse titles. “We probably need to spend more resources on a good PR campaign,” stated Babette Wijntjes (Cinemien), who opines that audiences never get enough attention in the industry. “We need new partnerships, linking different agents and getting someone to actually provide proper data that we can build a strategy upon. I want to be optimistic: there are plenty of audiences out there still to be conquered!”

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