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"Dovremmo trattare gli streamer come alleati, non come nemici”

Rapporto industria: Distribuzione, esercenti e streaming

Eduardo Escudero • Distributore, A Contracorriente Films

di 

Abbiamo incontrato uno dei fondatori della compagnia catalana per approfondire il suo complesso modello di business e il suo rapporto con le piattaforme VoD

Eduardo Escudero  • Distributore, A Contracorriente Films

Questo articolo è disponibile in inglese.

Cineuropa caught up with Eduardo Escudero, one of the founders of Barcelona-based A Contracorriente Films. The firm is one of Spain’s major industry players, characterised by a multi-faceted business model encompassing distribution, production, VoD and FAST streaming, plus the management of two theatres.

Cineuropa: Could you please touch on your company’s editorial policy? How is it staffed?
Eduardo Escudero:
A Contracorriente Films was launched in 2010. Over the years, our offering has been successful, and we’re now Spain’s largest independent distributor. We’ve got a team of about 40 people handling the distribution business, and we release over 35 titles per year. Besides this, we also release some additional direct-to-VoD films. We’ve built up a strong, large catalogue of titles, made up of both classics and fresh titles. This [growth] allowed us to embark on other digital ventures. We place the primary emphasis on the theatrical experience, but it’s also true that things aren’t great for independent distribution now – with some exceptions, of course. […] Moreover, we started our own platform, acontra+, in 2022. It was the evolution of a transactional VoD service that we had launched during the lockdown, Sala Virtual de Cine. After the lockdown, we realised it was still hard to intercept the whole audience that we had with the platform, so we decided to switch to the subscription-based model of acontra+. The fee is €3.99 per month. If you pay €4.99, you get a free cinema ticket on top of the monthly subscription. Furthermore, in 2021, we launched two cinema-focused FAST channels – Cine Feel Good, which is aimed at a more mainstream audience, and Cine Verdi TV, which focuses on arthouse cinema. More than 70% of the titles [we stream] are European. […] We also co-produce three or four films each year, and from time to time we’re the lead producer of one of these, as was the case with Isabel Coixet’s The Bookshop [+leggi anche:
recensione
trailer
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]
and Lone Scherfig’s The Movie Teller [+leggi anche:
trailer
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]
. The latter in particular sold very well, and was warmly received at Toronto.

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Could you mention some of the other titles you’re working on?
Upcoming and recent releases include local titles such as Alejandro Monteverde’s Sound of Freedom, Arantxa Echevarría’s Chinas [+leggi anche:
trailer
scheda film
]
and Joaquín Mazón’s Santiago Segura-led Christmas flick The Night My Dad Saved Christmas, along with European films like Trần Anh Hùng’s The Taste of Things [+leggi anche:
recensione
scheda film
]
, Wim WendersPerfect Days [+leggi anche:
recensione
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scheda film
]
, Ilker Catak’s The Teachers’ Lounge [+leggi anche:
recensione
trailer
intervista: İlker Çatak
intervista: Leonie Benesch
scheda film
]
and Jeremy Degruson’s The Inseparables [+leggi anche:
recensione
trailer
intervista: Jérémie Degruson e Matthie…
scheda film
]
.

As you can see, we mix arthouse, auteur-driven films with something we could call “arthouse+” – which means quality cinema but aimed at a broader audience, as in the case of The Taste of Things – alongside local comedies. This [mixed strategy] allows us to maintain a good market share.

We’re out of the pandemic. Did you notice any market shifts that have ultimately altered the make-up of the Spanish audience?
Obviously, the pandemic created a reality in which people abandoned their weekly cinema experience for months, or even for a couple of years. At one point, we noticed a lot of people were missing not because of fear, but because they suddenly realised that going to the cinema wasn’t that important. Of course, phenomena like Barbenheimer are positive because the cinema experience is once again at the centre of the public debate. […] In addition, our government created a special programme. It was launched in mid-July, and even though their PR [campaign] was not that great at first, by the end of August/September, many people aged over 65 had begun visiting theatres, paying only €2 every Tuesday, with the €2-3 loss being covered by the government. It’s that audience that used to play such an important role in backing independent cinema. Unfortunately, the initiative will end soon, but hopefully something similar will be offered in future for the 65+ segment and, why not, for viewers aged 18-25.

Why do you think theatres still struggle to attract younger audiences?
I see streamers as just one of the competitors that are striving to fill young people’s spare time, similarly to restaurants, bars, museums and so on. But this is the reality we need to face: they’re there, and they’re here to stay. So we need to look at them in a positive light and, to some extent, co-operate more. I think that what’s making cinemas emptier aren’t reality shows or football games. These people wouldn’t go to the cinema anyway. Instead, it’s people discovering new and established directors or classics on streaming platforms. We’re living at a time when we have more consumption of cinema than ever before. We should take advantage of this generation that is enjoying good films and good series [on platforms], and attempt to engage them and bring them to the theatres. We should treat streamers as allies, not as enemies.

Have there been any shifts in terms of your income split between VoD, theatrical and other sources of revenue?
Of course, there have been some movements, but nothing too big. A Contracorriente is operating in a large market, at least large enough to generate income from different windows. Over the last two years, we have tried to compensate for our theatrical losses, in particular through streaming. But when we talk about VoD, we need to point out that it’s a small business for independent players. […] Transactional VoD isn’t the solution; it can only be complementary. And theatres aren’t just a romantic idea. Theatrical distribution is essential for the survival of independent cinema. It’s still one of the biggest sources of revenue, and we need to protect it. It’s also the most effective way of creating a brand around a film.

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