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CANNES 2021 Marché du Film

A Cannes conference organised by the European Audiovisual Observatory to discuss the production shift from theatrical to non-theatrical

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- CANNES 2021: The online event, which took place during this year’s Marché du Film, explored the effects of COVID on production and consumption of audiovisual content

A Cannes conference organised by the European Audiovisual Observatory to discuss the production shift from theatrical to non-theatrical
Burkhard Althoff (ZDF), Guy Bisson (Ampere Analysis). Neil Peplow (BFI), Gudny Hummelvoll (EPC), Chritisn Bräuer (CICAE), Alejandra Panighi (MediaPro) and Grégoire Polad (ACTE)

On the occasion of this year’s Marché du Film (6-15 July), the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) organised an online conference titled “From cinema to sofa: is COVID accelerating a production shift from theatrical to non-theatrical?” The discussion, held on 13 July and moderated by Ampere’s research analyst Guy Bisson, revolved around two main questions: was the pandemic the cause or just an accelerator of an already established move from big screen to small? And what was the effect of this shift from cinema to sofa on the production of films and series?

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After EAO’s executive director Susanne Nikoltchev and Bisson’s opening words, the floor was given to EAO’s Head of the Department for Market Information Gilles Fontaine, who shared some important insights on the current state of Europe’s audiovisual production. He pointed out how, prior to the outbreak, high-end TV production recorded a 39% production increase over the years 2015-2020, whilst the making of TV movies declined by 31% and that of theatrical fiction films grew by 10%. But how did COVID-19 accelerate this trend? Despite the lack of full data for 2020, a look at French figures suggested that film productions decreased by 21% (related investments by 30%), whilst other audiovisual fiction content by 11% (related investments by 7%). He added that some series episodes’ budget “equals or even exceeds the average cost of a feature,” and the production of high-end TV production still lacks significant data on financing structures.

After Fontaine’s presentation, Bisson inaugurated an open discussion about the production shift. European Producers Club president and Hummelfilm’s CEO Gudny Hummelvoll argued that said shift was already taking place before the pandemic, and that streaming platforms were already driving the growth of demand. Hummelvoll, like many others, felt it is the right time to enter the high-end TV series market, and believes there will be more and more “producers of features staging TV series.” BFI’s Director of Industry and International Affairs Neil Peplow highlighted the encouraging trend that sees a growing number of audience members saying that they feel comfortable about attending cinemas again (from 46% to 73%), still “a primary source of entertainment,” along with the promising recent results of the British box office.

Association of Commercial Television in Europe’s General Director Grégoire Polad stressed the great level of transformation, experimentation and dynamism recently seen in the industry. MediaPro’s representative Alejandra Panighi added that trying to experiment, however, is “absolutely risky and somehow tiring,” and many producers therefore still choose “comfortable paths.” Meanwhile, CICAE’s president and AG Kino’s chairman Christian Bräuer is not pessimistic about the future of the industry yet said that, for the past few years, production volumes were the focus of industry talks, but now it would be advisable to look at quality, and to pay more attention to budgets and who is really watching (or not) a certain piece of content and why.

Later, Hummelvoll touched upon the recently proposed Code of Fair Practices published by the European Producers Club, while Panighi explained that one of the main struggles is to retain “IPs rights” and “some still survive with IPs created twenty years ago.” ZDF’s Head of Das Kleine Fernsehspiel Burkhard Althoff added that talents are now travelling much more between countries and genres, shifting from arthouse to mainstream cinema or the other way around, and he said that German laws allow streaming platforms to acquire features co-produced by pubcasters during the theatrical window. This is a big challenge for pubcasters, which makes it way less attractive for them to co-produce. With the current legislation in place, streaming platforms can “exploit” films before the pubcasters.

In a recorded video message, EAO’s Head of the Department for Legal Information tackled the question of what type of content is best to support. The answer seems to be “all of them,” as EU policy is based on the “promotion of culture” and the “enhancement of cultural diversity.” For this reason, the Creative Europe MEDIA programme supports films, immersive reality and video games, while national bodies still tend to distinguish formats and therefore apply different rules and obligations. A further open discussion on policies rounded off the event.

You can watch the full conference here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEAvXydxJCw&t=80s 

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