An influential group of Nordic and international distributors and exhibitors gathered together during the recent Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund to discuss the role of the distributor in a changing market.
It is recognised that new players and falling revenues from the DVD market are challenging the traditional business models as well as shrinking some distribution windows, but what does it mean from a Nordic perspective?
Panellists were asked to discuss this issue by moderator Stine Helgeland, Executive Director Promotion and International Relations at the Norwegian Film Institute.
Åge Hoffart, Head of Theatrical Distribution SF Norge says that there is indeed, a need to adapt to the changing markets and it’s not hard to find concrete examples of it. “The 20-year-olds don’t want to own books or DVD’s. What they want is to have access”, Hoffart remarks. And it’s not only young people, whose needs are not answered well, TrustNordisk’s CEO Rikke Ennis adds. There is a growing need to access films outside of movie theatres, for example in ones own living room. “We should get closer to the end-user, the consumer”, states Jenny Stjernströmer Björk, Executive Vice President Acquisition and Business Intelligence at Svensk Filmindustri.
In the US, the high profile independent distributor Magnolia Pictures has adopted an attitude to move fast based on audience’s need. According to their Director of Acquisitions John Von Thaden’s experience, in the US market both the distributor and the audience benefit from multiplatform releases. “Many foreign language art-house films do not get a cinema release, so why not release those on other platforms almost at the same time”, he remarks, and points out that the audience might lose their interest towards an inviting film if they have to wait too long to see it.
The Nordic panellists on the other hand, wish for more flexibility compared to current practice, but also recognise the need for cinemas exclusivity. “Exclusivity for cinema window needs to be kept, but the question is how long should be the holdback”, asks Lone Korslund Jensen, Head of Nordic Co-production and Acquisitions at Nordisk Film. She remarks that there is a need for different release strategies, and maybe in some cases one option could be EST (electronic sell-through) release window of two-three weeks. In practice, that is not possible in all Nordic countries because of the current national legislation.
Swedish Folkets Bio’s Cinema Coordinator Rose-Marie Strand concludes that the market’s obstacles are two-fold: First, the market needs to reach out to the Nordic audience. Second, the Nordic countries need to find a way to hold on talents, who are currently drawn to TV productions. The latter trend is according to the Nordic panellists, recognized at least in Sweden and Denmark.
The Distribution panel held on August 21 was organised by the Norwegian Film Institute and New Nordic Films. Other panellists who took part in the discussions are Klaus Rasmussen, Senior Sales Manager Theatrical Global Screen GmbH, and Martina Ternström, Head of Acquisitions for Northern Europe Koch Media.