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Cartoon Movie 2021

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

Europa Distribution’s workshop is back at Cartoon Movie

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The virtual gathering tackled the recent releases of animation films by the participants, during these challenging pandemic times and related restrictions

Europa Distribution’s workshop is back at Cartoon Movie
The participants at the Europa Distribution workshop at Cartoon Movie

Last month Europa Distribution was part of two major events that open the European film industry’s spring calendar: Cartoon Movie (9-11 March) and Sofia Meetings (17-24 March) (read news). For the association it was the occasion to experiment for the first time with all-digital workshops. The gatherings, however virtual, felt to all participants like friendly occasions to meet again after a long and challenging year. During both workshops, distributors exchanged information, advices and best practices.

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From both workshops it was clear that independent distributors are running the extra mile to stay afloat in this pandemic. Despite the evident difficulties, most participants acknowledged that whether it’s a different way of exchanging with partners, other distributors, and exhibitors, or a new way to connect with audience, there are some positive achievements they will carry with them in the post-pandemic future. In the hope this future is near.

On 8 March, in the scope of the 2021 edition of Cartoon Movie that this year took place online, Europa Distribution organised a workshop dedicated to independent distributors who already work with animation or are interested in discovering more about this specific genre. The attendees discussed the details of their recent animation releases.

Rose-Marie Strand from Folkets Bio shared her insights on the releases of The Breadwinner [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 by Nora Twomey (2017) and Wolfwalkers [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart (2020) in Sweden. In order to have something that could stand out in terms of marketing, the company created a “Cartoon Saloon Trilogy Package” by putting these two titles alongside with the previously released film by the same director of Wolfwalkers, Song of the Sea [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tomm Moore
film profile
]
(2014), that had also been presented at Cartoon. Having all three titles proved effective also in negotiations with cinemas.

Being Wolfwalkers an Apple title, cinemas who chose to screen it only had a two weeks’ exclusive window before the film was also available on the Apple+ platform, but data do not indicate any significant drop in the theatrical admission related to presence of the film on Apple+. What did make a difference however were the additional covid restriction that further limited the cinemas’ capacity in Sweden, causing a drop in the admissions.

With The Elfkins by Ute von Münchow-Pohl (2020) Norwegian distribution company Storytelling did manage to find a release date in October when cinemas were open, although of course on a limited capacity. Frank Johnsen, Head of distribution, considered the outcome of the release with 12.000 admissions a success, given the special circumstances, and was also pleased about the performance of the film on platforms following the theatrical release. In terms of marketing Storytelling chose for this particular title to address both children, through a dedicated campaign on Snapchat and using YouTube ads, and parents via Facebook, while also using outdoor advertising with film banners on buses and in-cinema advertising.

Demonstrating the power of collaboration with a practical case study, the two Belgian distributors Adeline Margueron from Le Parc Distribution and Arnaud de Haan from Cinéart explained how their companies collaborated on the releases of Yakari [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Xavier Giacometti (2019) and of Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Henri Magalon
film profile
]
by Rémi Chayé (2020). A few years ago, both companies realised that, instead of fighting over the same titles, they could combine their strength to achieve better results. Since Cinéart operates in all Benelux territories, they would handle bookings and sales, while Le Parc could use its expertise to organise special screenings and events to connect the film with the local audiences.

Discussing about Calamity, Margueron voiced her frustration with the great instability of the market during the time of the release, due to the unforeseeable evolution of the covid situation and to the limitations that went with it, causing the postponement or cancellation of several events and the sudden reduction of seats available for the screenings, severely affecting the admissions.

To compensate for the reduction of in-presence events, Le Parc organised several online activities using the platform Cinépilou that they created to screen animation films online in a specific time window and providing families with a toolkit of activities related to the film they could all do together, enjoying the experience from their couch. On Cinépilou tickets are sold directly by the cinemas partnering with the project so they can be included in the profits.

Echoing Margueron’s frustration when discussing about the release of Yakari de Haan admitted that, although the film was Cinéart biggest success in 2020 so far, the results did not match the expectations, based on the popularity in the French territories of the comic book the film is based on. Covid restrictions heavily impacted the number of admissions.

Seizing the chance to be finally in the same “room” with distributors from other countries, the participants took the opportunity to discuss about the Covid-situation and to take inspiration from others’ best practices. Eduardo Escudero, founder of Spanish company A Contracorriente Films, explained that although this is not a good time to release big films, A Contracorriente is finding opportunities to release small films who could benefit from the reduced competition, and to bring back classics to the big screen. For Escudero supplying the product to cinemas who are currently losing more money by staying open than they would if they were closed, all to give a positive signal, is also a matter of moral duty.

Europa Distribution will be back in the workshop scene this summer, hoping that the pandemic situation will finally allow in-presence events.

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