The future state of the film industry explored at MIA Market
- At the Italian event, a panel of film experts discussed the challenges they have been facing in recent times and what could keep the industry afloat in the future
During a session moderated by Andrea Occhipinti, the founder and CEO of Lucky Red, a panel of industry experts aimed to shed light on the current strategies and trends in global film production, sales and distribution.
Scilla Andreen, CEO and co-founder of IndieFlix, mentioned that during the pandemic, she had to combine the two sides of the business – streaming and screening films in communities – as everything was brought online. The hybrid approach that was created actually had a bigger impact, and she’s hoping that she can continue to support filmmakers in the future.
On the distribution side, Marc Gabizon, the CEO of Wild Bunch, underlined that we still need a period of roughly six months of regular releases in order to re-examine what people consume and what the real box-office hits are, because now, there are mostly a few “must-see” films that dominate the market, and there is consequently no room for smaller films to find their way to viewers. By entering into production activities, Wild Bunch was able to control the films that it releases, and also offer content to TV channels and platforms. Regarding acquisitions, the focus is on films that will be released by mid-2022, as there are many movies that are still due to screen in the cinemas. Gabizon argued that distributors have to diversify, as it’s too dangerous to focus solely on strictly theatrical films, and there is content that can benefit from platforms and reach a wider audience.
Rémi Burah, the CEO of ARTE France Cinéma, said that if the quality of the film is high enough, then the audience can consume it in any possible format or on any platform, but theatres do offer a unique experience. ARTE has reorganised its support for productions through its cash flow, and younger audiences have discovered the offerings it has on its digital platform. Nevertheless, the performance of films that ARTE has co-produced has been lower than expected upon their cinema releases, creating major issues for both the co-productions and the distributors. For Burah, the most viable solution for the future is for the digital platform to be positioned as a partner in a co-production, in order to protect the independent producers and allow them to retain their IP without becoming line producers. There should be a well-balanced collaboration between both worlds.
Producer Jonathan Kier mentioned that buying has become a challenge, as the competition is mainly with companies that don’t have to recoup their investments. Also, the use of data has changed the game, as platforms know all of the details without having to disclose anything – and this can be an even more valuable element than the box office. Europe seems to be the battleground for the transparency of those data, and he’s optimistic that this will help the future of the film.
As an independent distributor, Eve Gabereau, the CEO of Modern Film Entertainment, had to collaborate with cultural organisations to release films both in physical and in digital spaces during the periods when there were cinema restrictions in place, and there was an exchange of data with the theatres that was mutually beneficial. The goal is to have more resources and content that can be enjoyed by the audience beyond cinema and traditional formats.
For Michael Weber, the CEO of The Match Factory, the most recent, challenging period was merely an acceleration of what had been expected to happen anyway. Too many films are being produced that can’t find an audience, and some of them can only reach a certain amount of people. Without dismissing the core business of theatrical releases, digital offerings are another, additional tool, especially in some territories. Also, the festival circuit cannot be considered a secondary market, since it doesn’t represent good business for a sales agent, and practically speaking, fewer people watch the films there. Weber also underlined that it is only by combining the “soft money” that supports co-productions in Europe, but which is less flexible, with the pre-sales and equity financing dominant in the USA that the future of realistic and vital co-productions can be maintained.
Finally, Sean Furst, president of Film and TV at Skybound Entertainment, was unconvinced about how a new star system can emerge from television and streaming shows. Instead, he believes that IP- and brand-driven concepts that are being transferred to feature films could be more reliable for further development in the future than a movie-star model per se.
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