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“The films we choose are the films we love”

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

Sarah Chazelle, Étienne Ollagnier • Distributors, Jour2Fête

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The two French distributors unpack their company’s editorial policy and market strategies

Sarah Chazelle, Étienne Ollagnier  • Distributors, Jour2Fête

Cineuropa caught up with Sarah Chazelle and Étienne Ollagnier, of French distribution outfit Jour2Fête. During our chat, we covered the company’s line-up, its relationship with the audience and theatrical revenues, among other topics.

Cineuropa: Could you please touch on your company’s editorial policy and how the firm is staffed?
Sarah Chazelle:
We launched Jour2Fête in November 2006. We’ve got 12 people in the company right now, and we normally release approximately 12 films each year. Last year, we released 16 movies, and this year we’re releasing 18, but that happened because we had to catch up on the releases that we couldn’t distribute during the COVID-19 years. We plan to reduce this again, as it’s a huge number for an independent distributor, and we want to keep the same level of engagement with producers.

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The films we choose are the films we love, so we really work on a case-by-case basis. They’re arthouse flicks, encompassing documentaries and fiction features, and they all have a very strong political, social or historical impact. So we love films sporting strong subjects. We pick movies coming from all over the world, but in the last few years, we’ve had a lot from the Arab world – including Tunisia and Algeria – as well as a lot of Scandinavian titles, in particular from Iceland.

Étienne Ollagnier: But the majority [of our titles] are still French, including French co-productions.

You recently distributed Ninna Pálmadóttir’s Solitude [+see also:
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interview: Ninna Pálmadóttir
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]
, which was penned by Rúnar Rúnarsson.
SC:
Yes, we have known Rúnar for a long time. We met the young director at Les Arcs – where the film won the Artekino Award – three years ago, and we decided to pick up the project and handle its international sales [via The Party Film Sales] and French distribution after reading the script. We released it in France in April, under the title Le Vieil Homme et l’Enfant, after it played at international and French festivals, including Arras.

What about some other recent titles you’ve been working on?
SC:
The one that is really quite well known is Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Kaouther Ben Hania
film profile
]
, which won the César Award for Best Documentary. We released it in France, and it performed well, plus it was premiered in competition at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Another doc we distributed earlier this year was Gilles Peret’s La Ferme des Bertrand. The film tells the story of a family farm in Haute-Savoie, spanning 50 years. We have taken 250,000 admissions to date, and we believe that we can still get many more through school screenings. 

EO: Other titles include Pascal Plisson’s We Have a Dream [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, Rúnar Rúnarsson’s When the Light Breaks [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rúnar Rúnarsson
film profile
]
, Frédéric Sojcher’s Le Cours de la Vie [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Frédéric Sojcher
film profile
]
, André Téchiné’s My New Friends [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, Damien Ounouri and Adila Bendimerad’s The Last Queen [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Adila Bendimerad, Damien Ou…
interview: Damien Ounouri
film profile
]
, Leonardo Van Dijl’s Julie Keeps Quiet [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Leonardo van Dijl
film profile
]
, Sophie FillièresThis Life of Mine [+see also:
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film profile
]
, and Mo Harawe’s The Village Next to Paradise [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
. In 2023, our biggest hits were Hlynur Pálmason’s Godland [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Elliott Crosset Hove
interview: Hlynur Pálmason
film profile
]
and Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters.

How has the split of income changed between theatrical and other sources of revenue over the last few years?
SC:
It has changed, to some extent. Our income split is made up of revenues from theatrical, but also VoD and DVD. Overall, VoD has been quite stable over the last five years; the theatrical revenues have really been tied to the COVID-19 situation. Now they’re picking up, so we recorded our highest number of admissions ever in 2023, but [post-pandemic] VoD is not performing as well as we’d been expecting. Other sources aren’t that significant for us. It’s also important to note that TV sales have dropped significantly over the last few years, with a reduced number of TV channels buying arthouse films.

What about your relationship with the audience?
SC:
We release a lot of documentaries, so our objective is always to attract an audience beyond the obvious one interested in the subject of the film. Recently, we have been very successful in intercepting the school audience – it’s something we want to develop further, and we have acquired a significant share of the company behind the website Zéro de Conduite, which provides educational kits bound to school programmes.

How do you work with your sales arm, The Party Film Sales?
SC:
We have two separate teams, but we work together very closely. The Party Film Sales team is headed up by Estelle de Araujo and Samuel Blanc. Together, we try to get the films for both national and international audiences. Whenever we can, we work on a common strategy. For instance, for Four Daughters last year, or When the Light Breaks and This Life of Mine this year, we were both handling marketing and decisions about festivals, including discussing the most appropriate distributors in each country.

How is the role of the distributor developing?
SC:
It’s an important role that is constantly under threat. Recently, there was an issue with the threat of the end to geo-blocking at the European level, and that’s something hugely risky for us because it destroys our market specificities. Distributors across Europe, with the support of Europa Distribution, and sales agents, through Europa International, had to re-explain the importance of our respective roles to preserve diversity in Europe. [...] Besides, the role is evolving quite a lot with large players buying local companies or MUBI taking big stakes in Belgian distributors, for example. And we’re also facing a huge concentration of the market on a few titles every week. All of these developments certainly have an impact on international sales and local distribution.

 

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