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Annemie Degryse • Distributor

European Distributors: Up Next! 2009 - Belgium

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Annemie Degryse  • Distributor

Lumière Distribution was created in 2003, with the aim of "supplying" arthouse films to movie theatres managed by Lumière. Annemie Degryse, who joined the production department the same year, is now Head of Production and assistant manager. Along with seven other European distributors, she will take part in the European Distributors: Up Next! project. She talks to Cineuropa about the situation in Belgium, and Lumière’s ambitions.

A saturated market
The situation in Belgium is really no different from the situation across Europe. You sometimes get the impression that major film releases are early promotional campaigns for future DVD releases. The market is saturated, or at least invaded by US blockbusters. The situation is difficult, even for "major" French productions, which are nevertheless big-budget films. We had this experience recently with Seuls Two [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
. Despite the established reputation of its directors, Eric Judor and Ramzy Bedia, we had real trouble launching the film.

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Belgium: A unique case
In Belgium, our uniqueness stems from the fact we have always had to deal with bilingualism. Clearly, in logistical terms, it’s rather like dealing with two small territories. The number of prints is adjusted accordingly, as is the subtitling and/or dubbing. Most films are released in both French and Dutch-speaking Belgium, but on different print-runs.

Ultimately, what really makes a difference for us is the size of the town in which the film is distributed. With regard to Flemish films, some of which are major box office hits, it’s quite difficult for us to gain access to them, for Kinepolis (another multiplex operator) completely dominates this market. On the Francophone side, the situation is different, but hardly more encouraging. Save for a few exceptions, Belgian Francophone films don’t do well on our screens.

Lumière’s film picks
At Lumière, we tend to follow our heart. We have a preference for auteur films, sometimes aimed at a limited audience, such as You, the Living [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Pernilla Sandström
interview: Roy Andersson
film profile
]
, and we try to make them known to viewers. At the same time, we are also drawn to more crossover films, between auteur and mainstream, like Stephen Frears’ latest film Chéri [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Stephen Frears
film profile
]
, for example. We try to offer a variety of genres!

A constant at Lumière is our love of French cinema, and we’ve developed relationships of trust and loyalty with certain directors. At the recent Cannes Film Festival, we fell in love with Mia Hansen-Love’s second film The Father of My Children [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Mia Hansen-Løve
film profile
]
, which we’re delighted to bring to Benelux audiences.
We buy on average 12-15 films per year, usually on the basis of the screenplay. Festivals are an opportunity to meet again with sales agents, but in general, the deals have been sealed beforehand. However, we’re not unreceptive to new discoveries or out-of-this-world films that fall into our lap without warning, as was indeed the case with The Father of My Children.

DVD arm
One of our latest surprises has been the success of our DVD arm, Lumière Home Entertainment, which we set up recently. We’ve noticed a real increase in our sales. I get the impression that during the crisis, DVDs have remained a safe bet. In any case, they’re still quite a cheap pastime which viewers don’t deny themselves.

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