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Etienne Ollagnier • Distributor

"Protecting cinemas is not just about business"

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- Etienne Ollagnier, producer at Jour2Fête and co-president of the Syndicat des Distributeurs Indépendants, discusses reforms to French media timelines

Etienne Ollagnier • Distributor

Etienne Ollagnier, head of Jour2Fête and co-president of the Syndicat des Distributeurs Indépendants (SDI), gives his views on media timeline reforms (the timings of film releases on various media platforms following theatrical release), a subject that is being discussed today in Dijon by professionals gathered at the 27th Rencontres Cinématographiques (Film Meetings) organised by The ARP (read the news and interview with Mathieu Debusschère here, and with Xavier Rigault here).

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Cineuropa: What is SDI's position on possible changes to media timelines?
Etienne Ollagnier: We agree with the operators and are totally in favour of maintaining their window of four months in order to protect the cinemas themselves, but also because the art and experimental films that we distribute tend to run for a fairly long time in cinemas. We don’t think that the suggestions made so far really line up with the reality of the market in terms of derogation schemes, and the idea that certain films that don't work well in cinemas could have their video releases brought forwards. For example, Jour2Fête is also a DVD editor and you can't just suddenly decide to bring forward a DVD release three weeks after a theatrical release, because you have to organise the stocking of stores months in advance. In general, we'd actually be more likely to delay video releases than shorten the release window to three months.

What about the possibility of geo-localised VoD releases?
It’s not about resisting progress, but rather about the idea that some cities would have access to content on VoD platforms while other cities would not. It would all be very complicated because the network of cinemas in France is very dense and you'd definitely end up in competition with a nearby cinema that might want to show the film. It would be impossible to structure that kind of logic of exception, and adding a few items to a contract that specify that "in cities of fewer than so many inhabitants, provided that the film has been shown in fewer than so many cinemas etc.," seems completely unrealistic. We also mustn't forget that, on top of the issue of access, is the issue that films only work if there’s a desire to watch them. These days the films that people want to see right away are the films that everybody wants to see right away, so all the audience has to do is move around a bit. Unless, of course, we're deciding that cinemas are no longer important. But at SDI, we believe that films gain life in cinemas, which is even more true for the types of films that we distribute, which are subject films. Watching them at home is not at all the same as watching them at the cinema! Protecting cinemas is not just about business for us, it's about citizenship, in many European countries in which cinemas disappear, other problems tend to emerge.

And what about other release windows?
We're in favour of thawing out the VoD release window and, in return, considering the idea of bringing forward certain TV release windows, but only under certain conditions. We are also in favour, in terms of the lack of sales of a film on paid TV, of bringing forward the broadcasting window. It doesn’t bother use if films are not bought by Canal+ or Orange, and then other channels want to show them earlier. On the other hand, we're against the idea of ​​bringing forward the release window for films for which channels have taken enormous risks. What complicates the discussion on chronology is that we're trying to bring everything under the same umbrella, when films actually vary greatly. A French blockbuster, a foreign auteur film and a documentary do not behave at all in the same way in cinemas, on DVD or on VoD platforms etc. This makes it extremely difficult to obtain a consensus. Globally we are not in favour of things that we consider to be killing diversity.We also think that there are much more crucial issues to discuss, for example, the creation of content, the cost of the creation of content, the profitability of content, what viewers expect and what professionals are providing.

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