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International Distribution Summit 2022

Industry Report: Market Trends

Distributors and sales agents discuss the marketing campaigns adopted for The Worst Person in The World and Compartment no.6 at the International Distribution Summit

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The conversation notably focused on strategies for selling, promoting and distributing European arthouse films

Distributors and sales agents discuss the marketing campaigns adopted for The Worst Person in The World and Compartment no.6 at the International Distribution Summit
(l-r) Gabor Böszörményi, Enrique Costa, Olivier Barbier e Triin Tramberg during the conversation

On 18 October, Cologne’s International Distribution Summit hosted a panel discussion about the most innovative release strategies for European arthouse productions. The first half of the event, moderated by Triin Tramberg, centred on Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Joachim Trier
film profile
]
.

The mic was first handed to Olivier Barbier of France’s mk2. The team decided to acquire and co-produce the film based solely on the first 15 pages of the script. Trier’s fifth feature, budgeted at €5 million, grossed over €17 million and was a co-production between Norway, France, Denmark and Sweden. After boarding the title in December 2018 and handling a certain amount of press coverage in 2019, a first round of pre-sales took place virtually at the 2020 Marché du Film, during which mk2 sold the picture’s rights to Benelux. A second and third round followed at the European Film Market and at Cannes, where the film screened in the main competition. After - and during - a two-year festival run, the title started to hit movie theatres, with the first commercial releases in Norway and France planned for October 2021. Barbier explained how the director’s notes (“a film about love [...], where everything is so simple, the stories so clear-cut, the feelings so admirably unambiguous”) and the key word “heartbreaking” were more useful than the synopsis itself in pinpointing the film’s USP. He stressed the importance of working with the various trades and on digital marketing, adding how challenging it had been to create a four-minute promo out of a film divided into 12 chapters.

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Next, the floor was given to Hungarian distributor Gabor Böszörményi of Mozinet. The movie had made the company “really happy,” especially considering the gloomy (post)pandemic context which saw a dramatic drop in cinemagoing nationwide (from 1.5 admissions per capita from 2016-2019, to 1 in 2022). The film is still in cinemas today, after being released on 20 January. Mozinet focused on selling the title to a 25-45-year-old age target and “creating good word-of-mouth.” Even though no industry talent travelled to Hungary to promote it, the movie gained good traction through its online trailer (180,000+ views), as well as “90% positive reviews” and intense press activities, with “seven weeks of pre-screenings and 4,243 tickets sold.” The movie was screened in 64 cinemas - dubbed in mainstream theatres and with subtitles in arthouse cinemas.

Spanish distributor Enrique Costa of Elastica chose the movie while looking for “something for younger audiences.” He found the powerful lead character particularly compelling, adding that the release date is one of the most important factors, as “it gives the movie a chance to grow or to disappear very quickly.” This led to a last-minute postponement of the release of Trier’s film, delaying it to March and swapping it with Drive My Car, whose international reception exceeded expectations and was subsequently released in February.

The second half of the event, moderated by Alexandre Dupont-Geisselmann, focused on Juho Kuosmanen’s Compartment no. 6 [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Juho Kuosmanen
film profile
]
. Pierre Landais of France’s Haut et Court said that the firm boarded the film before Cannes and initially released it in 96 cinemas in November, which is considered to be the strongest month for cinemas in France. They were tempted to change the title, since the railways don’t enjoy a particularly good reputation nationwide. The poster depicts the lead as if she were looking towards the future, featuring the evocative quote: “in between Lost in Translation and In the Mood for Love.” Moreover, the social media campaign attracted around 3.6 million views and 17,000 visits to the website. Overall, the movie hit 880 cinemas, sold almost 194,000 tickets and reached its peak in January, 3 months after its release.

For Marcello De Bellis of Italy’s BIM Distribuzione, the film was a case of “love at first sight.” BIM made an offer immediately, a strategy which has prompted a race with other Italian arthouse distributors to find “another hidden gem” in Cannes, a year on. Distribution challenges included the exhibitors’ initially sceptical reactions (“It’s beautiful, but it’s not going to sell,” “Awful title,” “It won’t last more than weekend,” etc.), finding a marketable title and the general lack of “brightness and light”, which drove BIM to promote it by way of a “box” (a poster featuring quotes from favourable reviews) and to commission an artwork with warmer colours for a revised international poster. In Italy, the movie recorded 80,000 admissions and grossed €480,000 nationwide.

Jakob Kijas of Germany’s Eksystent released the film on 31 March 2022, fearing competition from A Hero [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Asghar Farhadi
film profile
]
and Happening [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anamaria Vartolomei
film profile
]
. In particular, he spoke about CineStar’s refusal to screen the film, given that it’s a Russian co-production, and explained that the open letter they published went viral, driving the chain to revise their initial decision. In Germany, Kuosmanen’s film sold 300,000 tickets and grossed €245,000.

Finally, Ljudmila Gosteva of Estonia’s BestFilm.eu talked through how their campaign was made workable for both Estonian- and Russian-speaking audiences, resulting in a successful ten-week release grossing €97,000 and recording 16,300 admissions. In Estonia, the movie hit 20 screens from 3 December 2021.

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