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Franco di Sarro • CEO, Nexo Digital

"Art at the cinema, TV series previews and live events in order to grow the market"

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- We speak to Franco di Sarro about the business model of Nexo Digital, the film event sector’s leading Italian company

Franco di Sarro • CEO, Nexo Digital

The cinema reconceived as a place to watch a concert or a ballet, to snoop behind the scenes of a play, to attend an exclusive sporting event, to visit an art exhibition, to watch a documentary or a director's show, to rediscover a classic film restored in 4K or a world-famous anime. Over the course of just a years, Nexo Digital has become an Italian leader in the national and international distribution of film events and alternative content, also dipping its toe into the world of art documentary production in 2017, developing relationships with major art galleries, from the Hermitage to the Prado, from the Musée d'Orsay to the Metropolitan, from Washington National Gallery to Vicenza Palladian Basilica and the Leopold Museum in Vienna. The company – run by Franco di Sarro – boasts recent box office successes such as: Hitler versus Picasso – The Nazi Obsession for Art [+see also:
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, Van Gogh and Caravaggio: The Soul and the Blood [+see also:
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, while its Grande Arte al Cinema project is currently running with Klimt & SchieleEros and Psyche, Van Gogh: Of Wheat Fields and Clouded Skies, Water Lilies by Monet – the Magic of Water and Light, all of which were sold and pre-sold around the world at Cannes Film Market. Nexo's line-up doesn't just include art: in October, the first two episodes of the series My Brilliant Friend, directed by Saverio Costanzo, were screened at Venice, while Mayerling, a classic from the Royal Ballet repertoire, which inaugurates the new season of the Royal Opera House is being screened at the cinema, the anime film Miraiby Mamoru Hosoda was screened in world premiere at the Directors' Fortnight at 2018 and Imagine is being released in cinemas on the occasion of the anniversary of John Lennon's birth.

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Cineuropa: Following a long period of steady growth in distributing alternative events and content, Nexo also recently got involved in international documentary co-productions and the worldwide sale of rights. With some very positive results in the main markets, such as Cannes. What is your business model?
Franco di Sarro: Nexo Digital's business model is probably unique in the world, at least for now. This is because we operate – depending on the region – using three different methods: directly distributing our content to international operators, acting as international sales agents or trusting local sub-distributors. We adopt this approach both for theatrical distribution and for sales to television channels.

The data shows that alternative content is performing well internationally. According to analysis by IHS Markit, it will be worth one billion dollars in 2019. Nexo has actively participated in this growth. How is this phenomenon changing the industry? England, for example, has already reached saturation and there are ongoing discussions about aspects such as "live vs. recorded" etc.
Nexo Digital can only serve to cement a very important growth trend. In this sense, we are proud to have contributed to the growth of the market in general, in addition to our company's good results. We’ve achieved our goals thanks to the inclusion of new types of content in our programme schedule (such as TV series premieres), but also thanks to the success of our international projects, such as Grande Arte al Cinema, which is garnering support all over the world. As far as live and recorded events are concerned, we don’t really see a conflict. In general, our strength lies in working on unique events that allow fans to come together in cinemas regardless of the contemporaneity/live aspect of the event, which isn’t always possible or sensible (such as for art films or TV series).

Returning to the programming of alternative content in Italian cinemas, I've noticed that Nexo has invested a lot in communication. What kind of strategy have you adopted with respect to the channels used by fiction distributors?
In addition to working with all the major national media channels on a daily basis, Nexo Digital is particularly attentive to local media and has always paid attention to digital communication. We also pay a lot of attention to the positioning of our content in store, thanks to continuous and constant work with exhibitors in order to the best communication possible, including in cinemas. 

Does Nexo make use of European funding for distribution and/or co-production?
No, we have not received any funding. 

And what do you think about the new Italian legislation on cinema and audiovisual content? Have you been able to gather whether or not it will bring benefits to your market segment to date?
We are sure it will, yes. It is a law that we fully embrace, and which offers us, as international producers and distributors, a concrete means of help, since we actually know the audience for which we are producing and how and when we will distribute our products.

(Translated from Italian)

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