Cannes 2021 - Marché du Film
Industry Report: Market Trends
Göteborg’s Nostradamus tries to see the future after the pandemic
CANNES 2021: During an energetic discussion held during the second day of the Marché du Film, the key question was how the film industry will return from a period of uncertainty
Like every year, the Göteborg Film Festival’s Nostradamus initiative has made its appearance at the Cannes NEXT section of the Marché du Film. Under the title “Transforming Storytelling Together”, this year’s Nostradamus report was presented by media analyst Johanna Koljonen and you can read the analysis of the launch of the report here.
Afterwards, the panel focused on the crucial topic of “Film’s Financial Ecosystem in an Uncertain Future.” Roberto Olla, executive director of Eurimages, mentioned that on the surface, European co-productions are doing absolutely great. The applications submitted for Eurimages’s last call were doubled, probably thanks to the support to artist provided by local funds during the pandemic, and 18 projects supported by the fund are premiering in Cannes.
After the festivals, the projects used to find their way to the audience through both cinemas and streaming services, with these two worlds overlapping. The pandemic froze the natural transition from one to the other, and the transformation of the industry has also been blocked. Olla highlighted that public funding makes sense, especially for quality arthouse filmmaking, and is helping the industry evolve, transform and adapt.
Regarding the market share of arthouse cinema, he believes that it’s impossible for all films to have theatrical releases in many countries. This depends on the local audiences’ preferences, the directors or talents involved, and the shrinkage of cinemas. Promotion, festival and cultural communities can help the content to be consumed by a wider audience so the film won’t get lost in VOD catalogues, and festival curation can make sure that the content is visible and spikes the audience’s curiosity, especially for niche films by first- or second-time directors.
Helene Aurø, sales and marketing director at REinvent International Sales, agreed that there is no shortage of content, as sales for both feature films and series are increasing. Some series are even presold before their launch, as is the case for some films with known cast and directors. Platforms are making release windows shorter and much more complex to navigate, as the competition among them is rising, with TV stations now entering the game and acting faster than usual. Exclusive deals are shorter and content can coexist in various platforms, so many different types of financing are now possible. However, the highest bidder is not always the best one and marketing, promotion and rights protection remain essential in such an unpredictable future.
Jakob Abrahamsson, CEO at NonStop Entertainment, mentioned that for distribution, it didn’t take too long to realign their line-up, even if some titles had to postpone their theatrical release, and the plethora of streamers in Scandinavia helped to have more negotiations. NonStop also bought less expensive titles, pushing a much smaller scale of niche screenings as there is more space for these titles to gain some revenue now due to the slowdown of US studios. A hybrid format of release, involving cinemas and streamers in the film’s promotion has also become common and may become the future norm.
Regarding the expansion of streamers, Koljonen explained that consumers have always been paying for content services, mostly in pay TV format, and most probably, streaming will also soon be bundled with other bills since within 3 years, everyone will have a Smart TV, making this transition smoother. She also added that the assumption that a festival premiere and a known cast and crew would suffice for a film’s marketing promotion is no longer valid. Recommendations from friends, a local cinema or the curated catalogue of a service are more impactful. US distributors like Neon or A24 build trustworthy brands and their audience follows their picks. Curation is the key.
The panellists agreed that there is no direct relationship between price and value right now as streamers invest big money in a competitive way in order to build brands and libraries, block competition, and attract different audience profiles. The price they pay for a project today therefore doesn’t relate to its value, especially in three years’ time.
In his closing remark, Olla expressed optimism based on the fact that people are watching more audiovisual content, and since the differences between films and episodic content is blurring, storytelling is booming. There will be more diversity behind and in front of the screen, which will translate into more diversified content. Abrahamsson added that cinema is becoming a more social experience now, helping it evolve. Koljonen underlined the unprecedented opportunity for creative control, and recommended artists to bring their projects to life in different formats – short films, graphic novels, audio dramas – which would work as a proof of concept, establish an audience, and protect the IP for the future.
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