Independent distribution, vital for creativity
by Chantal Gras
A weekend of reflection on independent distribution was held last June 22-23, on an initiative of the MEDIA programme.
The European Audiovisual Observatory announced important data on the current situation in eight EU countries and two case studies on distribution strategies were presented for Ken Loach’s Just a Kiss [+see also:
film profile] and Darwin’s Nightmare by Hubert Sauper. The conversion to digital projection in theatres was also in the spotlight.
With the globalisation of the planet and the dizzying concentration of distribution means, it is necessary to preserve the variety of films and "guarantees of freedom of thought in democracy," as Robert Guédigian, president of the Europa Distribution network, pointed out in his opening speech. Filmmakers, as well as distributors and exhibitors. are vital for good visibility of this diversity as a cultural asset. The aim is to preserve Europe’s strong cultural image.
The statistics presented by the Observatory included figures on 644 distributors in the EU25 countries in 2004/2005. France heads the list by far (108), followed by Spain (80). As for the number of screens, there has been a phenomenal boom in the Russian Federation (+486%), while Bulgaria experienced a sudden decrease (-60%).
A detailed analysis was drawn up for eight countries (Germany, Italy, UK, Norway, Poland, France, Greece and Switzerland).
The situation in Germany is interesting. There are 55 independent distributors of a total 60, but the five main ones are representatives of the US Majors: US films account for 74% of the market, German 20% and European 6%.
There has been strong competition by several broadcasters that offer a wide range of quality films, in addition to the competition presented by DVDs and piracy. To top it all, a “cinema outing” is considered more of a teenage pastime and therefore the release space for large media dedicated to film releases is very weak. All of this can be explained by an increase in distributors’ promotional expenses.
Another example is Switzerland, where 250 European films were released in 2005, compared to 140 US titles. However, US titles took 59% of market share and European films only 35%.
Darwin’s Nightmare seems to be a case apart, at least from a distribution point of view. Although it was not met with enthusiasm by buyers it won several festival awards, and word-of-mouth publicity by audiences gradually made it a must-see film. Time worked in its favour, which is very rare for a new film.
It finally opened in the US (via the International Film Circuit), while no distributor wanted it. In France, the film’s success was the subject of audience debates. Daily paper Libération made it front page news, which triggered good press coverage in general.
Meanwhile, Just a Kiss experienced varying degrees of success in different countries. In Belgium, its distributor (Cinéart) made it a success with schools and associations.
It seems as if the international poster does not contribute to the success of a film. In France, where it was a success, the film was released with a new, more romantic poster. The Austrian distributor (Polyfilm) was angered at not being informed; in Austria the film was a total flop and had hoped for better coordination between European distributors.
(Translated from French)
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