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MIA 2020

The 2nd MIA online talk probes the future of European distributors and cinemas

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- The virtual debate, which took place on 18 May, saw the participation of four independent film distributors, alongside representatives of Europa Cinemas and Europa Distribution

The 2nd MIA online talk probes the future of European distributors and cinemas
The participants in the talk: (l-r) Fatima Djoumer, Antonio Medici, Louise Dent, Kim Foss, Andrea Occhipinti and Christine Eloy

The second MIA Audiovisual International Market online talk, entitled “(Re)Open for Business – Braving the Coronavirus Crisis: What's Ahead for Film Distributors and Cinemas?”, took place on 18 May and was organised in co-operation with EAVE. The one-hour discussion, moderated by Screen International journalist Wendy Mitchell, saw the participation of four independent film distributors – Louisa Dent for Curzon-Artificial Eye (UK), Kim Foss for Grand Teatret and Camera Film (Denmark), Antonio Medici for BIM Distribuzione (Italy) and Andrea Occhipinti for Lucky Red (Italy) – alongside Europa Cinemas' international relations and events administrator, Fatima Djoumer, and Europa Distribution's managing director, Christine Eloy.

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Following the opening remarks by the moderator, the floor was given to Lucky Red's Occhipinti, who highlighted the importance of the recent MioCinema initiative (see the news). In the short term, Occhipinti said that the effort is aimed at “not losing contact with the moviegoers”, but once business is back to normal, it will offer a sort of “digital extension” of the theatres' regular programming.

Speaking about current distribution strategies, Curzon-Artificial Eye's Dent explained that the titles that had been released in cinemas prior to the lockdown were made available on Curzon's home-cinema platform and mentioned the successful example of Céline Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire [+see also:
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interview: Céline Sciamma
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]
. A VoD release seemed to be the most viable option for films that were previously playing in theatres, or for those titles that were ready for distribution and whose marketing budget had already been decided on and invested. In addition, Dent confirmed that the release of arthouse titles that have not yet been world-premiered at festivals will simply be postponed. Among the benefits of this enforced digital distribution, Dent pointed out that it was easier to attract new, younger audiences.

Next, Grand Teatret and Camera Film's Foss said that Denmark’s whole distribution sector is ready to get “up and running again” and praised the role of the Cinema Clock membership scheme in attracting viewers to arthouse theatres again. The initiative counts over 200,000 subscribers and will see the release of four new films over the summer, the first being Greta Gerwig's Little Women.

Europa Cinemas' Djourmer touched upon the measures taken by the national governments to protect theatres during the crisis and the organisation's €5 million increase in funding for the 2021 budget, provided by Creative Europe. Among other topics, Europa Distribution's Eloy talked about the creation of an emergency fund as one of the possible provisions to limit the losses and hoped for a quicker public response in supporting both distributors and exhibitors.

Later, Mitchell asked the speakers to talk through the main support measures for distributors approved by the Italian, Danish and British governments, followed by the possible scheduling strategies that would need to be implemented. BIM Distribuzione's Medici offered his take on the topic: “I imagine that in the beginning, distributors will screen the movies that were released right before the lockdown. Nobody knows how the audience will react, though. Also, we need to know the safety protocols in place. I see the release of big titles on 15 June [the date set for the cinemas’ reopening in Italy] as unlikely. Instead, I can imagine a period of two, three or four weeks with old releases, and then the major companies will decide how to drive the summer market.” In this respect, Occhipinti added that their strongest straight-to-VoD release may be available for the reopening, too.

Finally, the long-term prospects for a hybrid future where theatrical and VoD releases will coexist in order to attract new viewers are very realistic, as pointed out by Dent: “Nothing will replace the theatrical experience. However, what would be great is to live side by side. People can choose to go and see the film in the cinemas, and if they choose not to and they want to watch it at home, they can do that, too. Then, if that distributor wants to keep that film for five, 15 or 20 weeks, they have that choice and that freedom to do so.” Medici explained that these changes are inevitable: “This crisis will have the effect of accelerating some trends that were already present in the market some months ago. Now, it is even clearer that only some films will possess the “DNA” to be able to afford theatrical distribution, whilst others won't be able to do so. Older audiences are now getting used to digital viewing; it will be a good opportunity for some movies that wouldn't have performed successfully in the theatres”.

This year's edition of MIA will unspool from 14-18 October.

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