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DISTRIBUTION / RELEASES / EXHIBITORS France

French distributors take the VoD path

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- Uncertainty over the re-opening of cinemas in France is forcing distributors to make difficult and, at times, counterintuitive decisions in order to clear their backlog of films

French distributors take the VoD path
Our Mothers by César Díaz

It’s like a perilous hike up a steep mountainside, with no visibility and no clue of how far away the summit lies, nor the landscape that will unfurl upon arrival. Despite their faith in the future revival of the bounteous magic of the big screen (213 million admissions in France in 2019, equal to 1.4 billion euros in takings), French distributors are having to move forwards amidst the ever-changing constraints of the health crisis, forcing them to make some very difficult decisions.

With the re-opening of cinemas not yet on the agenda (although, unofficially, it’s hoped this will happen on 1 July) and any summertime reboot set to suffer from the protection measures that will inevitably be imposed (capacity and motivation of audiences, masks, sanitization, the issue of aeration and air-conditioning, etc.), not to mention a significantly enfeebled film offering (the cost-effectiveness of screening movies in this complex climate of recovery is infinitely unlikely, further dampening distributors’ spirits), titles on the release schedule are finding themselves endlessly pushed back to the autumn, if not 2021. This flood of postponements, and the accompanying prospect of a backlog of film releases - which will lead to an assortment of cinema results even more brutal than the norm - is yet another issue on top of the evaporation of resources currently experienced by distributors, and these onerous, extra difficulties are driving many within the industry towards the speedier route of VoD releases, including distributors who would never before have envisaged such a scenario.

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In this respect, Pyramide have decided to release César Díaz’s Our Mothers [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Cesar Diaz
film profile
]
directly on VoD on 16 June - the Cannes Film Festival’s Caméra D’Or winner of 2019 was originally due to be released in cinemas on 8 April. Similarly, a number of distributors who hadn’t immediately capitalised on the CNC’s exceptional provisions (read our news) - authorising films whose time in French cinemas had come to a brutal end, on 14 March, as a result of the health crisis, to be released immediately on pay-VoD in France - have finally resolved to do so. Indeed, on 13 May, further titles were added to the VoD list, most notably Vivarium [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Lorcan Finnegan
film profile
]
by Lorcan Finnegan (which was released in cinemas on 11 March by The Jokers and Les Bookmakers), A Mermaid in Paris [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Mathias Malzieu (likewise released on 11 March by Sony Pictures Entertainment) and the documentary Woman [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anastasia Mikova and Yann A…
film profile
]
by Anastasia Mikova and Yann-Arthus Bertrand (distributed by Apollo Films on 4 March), not to mention Lara [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: GoCritic! Interview: Jan-Ol…
interview: Jan Ole Gerster
film profile
]
by Jan-Ole Gerster (KMBO, 26 February).

In all, 59 films have now been granted special exemption from French media chronology laws, opting for an early VoD release in France. Of the various titles launched in cinemas on 4 and 11 March, and in the midst of their movie theatre careers when these establishments were forced to close, many have already taken the VoD path (including Radioactive [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Marjane Satrapi
film profile
]
by Marjane Satrapi via StudioCanal, Monos [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Alejandro Landes via Le Pacte, Land of Ashes [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Sofia Quiros Ubeda via Eurozoom and Oskar & Lily [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Arash T. Riahi via Les Films du Losange). But several distributors haven’t yet made this about-turn and are instead standing firm on their decision to re-release their films in cinemas once possible, and under good conditions. Such firms include Memento with Martin Provost’s How To Be A Good Wife [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Jour2Fête with Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s A Son [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Mehdi M Barsaoui and Sami B…
film profile
]
, Paname Distribution with Sandra Kogut’s Three Summers [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, SND with Gabriel Le Bomin’s De Gaulle [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Bodega Films with Jan Komasa’s Corpus Christi [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Bartosz Bielenia
interview: Jan Komasa
film profile
]
, Pyramide with Hadrien La Vapeur and Corto Vaclav’s Kongo [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Les Valseurs with Marios Piperides Smuggling Hendrix [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Marios Piperides
film profile
]
and Norte Distribution with Patric Chiha’s If It Were Love [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Patric Chiha
film profile
]
.

If we also take into account the two films directly resold to Amazon Prime Video - Ballsy Girl [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Katia Lewkowicz (which was scheduled to be distributed by UGC) and Pinocchio [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Matteo Garrone
film profile
]
by Matteo Garrone (which was scheduled via Le Pacte) - and this week’s direct VoD release of Christian Volckman’s The Room [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Christian Volckman
film profile
]
(via Condor Distribution), we begin to get an idea of the extremely difficult position French distributors now find themselves in, especially independent firms. Their dilemmas are financial (cash flows are down and they must make the painful choice between the usual revenue hailing from cinemas - which, sadly, is a thing of the past for now - or, at best, from wholly uncertain screenings in the mid-term, and the incomparable and, for now, far less appealing revenue that comes from VoD), logistical (how and when to release films, and under what conditions, so as to avoid them sucking the lifeblood out of each other) and ethical (highly valued in France vis-a-vis other distribution media, movie theatres are of prime importance). To be continued…

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(Translated from French)

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