By guest blogger Peter Belsito
Photo from left to right: Luisa Grave, Project Coordinator EFP Hamburg; Jo Muhlberger, Project Director EFP Hamburg; Martin Dale, Variety; Bea Cuttat, Look Now! Filmverleih, Switzerland; Kevin Feng Ke, Executive Producer, Shanghai Film
On Tuesday September 21, under auspices of the San Sebastian International Film Festival, a meeting of important European Distributors was organized by European Film Promotion's Jo Muhlberger, Project Director EFP Hamburg.
The problem being discussed by European distributors has been stated thus by EFP: The majority of exciting films made in Europe still can't be seen in cinemas outside of their home countries. This panel brought together ten independent distributors from ten different European countries to discuss the potential of new technical formats, social community platforms and business models.
“Distribution these days is confronted by enormous changes”, says Renate Rose, managing director of EFP. “It is a great challenge deciding which will be the successful way of distribution for the future and how to improve international circulation. EFP sees the need to support the discourse among these professionals who must operate with creativity, courage and sensibility in order to strengthen their position in a complex market dominated by the major studios.”
Martin Dale, Variety, moderated the meeting discussion.
The main question of the day was posed as the current possibilities of distribution on a European level, or, as Martin Dale, in his introduction, succinctly stated, 'Do we have films worth tweeting about?'
One after another, the participant distributors stated similar problems in the current commercial film environment. The traditional theatrical business is changing. Audiences are dwindling. Income from specialty films is down as 'mainstream, commercial cinema' is actually increasing.
The fundamental problem was also stated in another way, 'How do we overcome the contradictions in today's cinema business world to reach young audiences?'
While digital cinema has opened vast possibilities of new ways to reach audiences, the digital (download, streaming) income levels are low currently as compared to other, perhaps more traditional windows (DVD).
Right now the VOD / Video On Demand deals are in flux for Distributors as subscription services, VOD services and different platforms compete for films on the one hand and paying viewers on the other.
The meeting also focussed on marketing concerns. Marketing dollars are being spent today on traditional means (newspapers, which are in decline everywhere currently) and also through blogging and various internet platforms. But so far no one has come up with any magic formula to entice targeted audiences to pay for digital
content in significant numbers.
The meeting ended with the consensus acknowledgement that we are passing through a time of great ferment in the business and the new methods of doing business, i.e. attracting paying viewers for content, are still being worked out everywhere.
(left to right in the above group photo) Thorsten Frehse (Neue Visionen Filmverleih, Germany), Panos Martakis (Feelgood Entertainment, Greece), Katrina Mathsson (Folkets Bio, Sweden), Oli Harbottle (Dogwoof, U.K.), Ditte Daugbjerg Christensen (Ost for Paradis, Denmark), Didier Costet (Swift Distribution, France), Line Daugbjerg Christensen (Ost for Paradis, Denmark), Martin Milinkovic (Continental Film, Croatia), Simona Calcagni (Bolero Film, Italy.
not pictured: Michael Stejskal (Filmladen, Austria), Bea Cuttat (Look Now! Filmverleih, Switzerland).