The uncertainty of how and when they will open the cinemas it puts film distributors in a dilemma: to risk releasing just when theaters open or to wait until after the summer when the film market has stabilized. To regain normalcy, however, a powerful billboard is needed to attract the public. “We all have doubts that people will respond, but the theaters need films,” A Contracorriente Films’ production manager told ACN. Fernando Riera. The delay of major Hollywood releases and the business doubts of local distributors for capacity reductions draw a July with less supply, but with more opportunities for independent cinema.
“Either we bet and start putting on films that appeal to the audience or we will in no way manage to break this vicious circle.” This is the position of A Contracorriente Films, the Barcelona film distributor that will feed more premieres in the first weeks of cinemas open in Spain.
It is expected to be from 26 June, although distributors warn that with a third of the capacity few cinemas will be able to open their doors. One 50% capacity they consider it a “reasonable” and viable measure for the profitability of their films.
The first major premiere will be ‘The Wish List’, on July 3, and will hold a premiere each week. “We understand that there will be people with apprehension, and that it will be progressive, but that little by little we will lose the fear of entering closed spaces and enjoying entertainment,” says A Contracorriente distributor Fernando Riera.
On whether there will be a lack of content on the billboards, he considers it a possibility, but hopes that colleagues in the sector will “follow” their trend. “What is predictable is that there will be fewer films, but hopefully they will be enough and interesting enough to get the audience back to the movies.”
This view is shared by Enrique Costa, Avalon distributor, who will be “next to the cinemas” when they open offering news, from ‘Under the Skin’, ‘The glorious chaos of life’ or ‘Matthias & Maxime’ by Xavier Dolan . The reduction in capacity conditions the films that will be released in the first weeks or months after reopening. “Not all films can afford to move in this new dimension of capacity, this has changed everything,” says Costa.
Therefore, the productions for a more adult audience will leave them for more distant dates, in anticipation that the younger audience will be “less afraid of the pandemic.” Distributor calendars have been restructured from top to bottom.
Hollywood Vs. independent cinema
The films of the great American studies like Disney or Warner they are the appeal to the mass public. Internationally, the key date is July 17 with the release of ‘Tenet’, Christopher Nolan’s new film, the first blockbuster planned after the coronavirus crisis. The Hollywood schedule will depend on the de-escalation in the United States, a forecast that is shaping up later and influencing billboards around the world.
Some studies like Sony they have been more cautious and have been delaying the planned releases. “To the extent that major international studios postpone beyond the summer, in Spain will be shot domestic material or European films,” says Riera. The big ‘majors’, then, will be those who enter “more slowly with news“, as they are conditioned by a global market.
Until then, “it will be the independent distributors who will offer the premieres,” says Miguel Ángel Pérez, founder of Surtsey Films. “But don’t worry, when the multinationals see that there is a possibility of business, they will head out to release films,” he jokes. In his case, “they will go like brave” to release productions as soon as the cinemas open, such as ‘Everything Happens in Tel Aviv’, with which they were left with honey on their lips to release on March 13 with Barcelona wallpapered with advertising posters.
In the opinion of Javier Asenjo, distributor of Elamedia, until the malls open the multinationals “will not play it”, as the investment made and the possible loss is much greater. This distributor considers that having less competition in the billboard is an opportunity for independent cinema. In their case, they bet on releasing ‘Blanco en blanco’ on July 31, a film they had prepared to release on March 20, being “optimistic” that during the month of July the public has gained confidence to sit in the armchair.
Instead, the “star” title they had marked for June, ‘El centro del horizonte’, has been passed next year. This move is what many distributors will do with projects in which they have dedicated more budget, in order to ensure the return on investment in the future. To take a risk, what distributors are asking for is for the number of cinemas showing the film to be increased and for more weeks to be on the billboard, in order to compensate for the capacity limitation.
At a point in between is Caramel Films, which in the face of the “unknown” of what will happen have decided to wait to release ‘Arab blues’ in late August or September. According to its distributor, Enrique González Kühn, the key for people to go to the cinemas is for the billboard to be powerful and for the measures taken by the cinemas to make people feel safe. “There will have to be strong releases in the summer and the problem is that many of them have been delayed,” he points out.
Productions like ‘Mulan’ or ‘James Bond’ are the ones that ‘bring people en masse to the cinema’, and independent cinema ‘works in parallel’. González Kühn believes that the billboard will be shorter than the usual fifteen tapes, because “let’s see who is the one who is ready to launch first”, given the investment in advertising that should normally be executed a month before the arrival at the poster.
The other condition will be the different entry of the territories in the phases of the descaling. As long as Barcelona and Madrid cannot open cinemas, the distributors will not offer releases, as both capitals account for around 50% of turnover.
Accumulation in autumn
The problem for companies that decide to postpone the premieres will be oversaturation of supply between October and March. Distributors anticipate a serious problem of access to the rooms, with difficulty in fitting independent titles. “Cinemas will be starving and will want to put in everything that makes a lot of money,” they point out from Caramel Films.
Distributors such as Ramon Térmens, of Segarra Films, predict problems for the independent product from the beginning, based on the fact that the US market dominates 85% of the offer. “It’s a tricky struggle to get rooms, and if they’re on top of half the occupancy it gets even harder,” he points out. Her bet scheduled for June, ‘The Illegal Woman’, moves to October.
Terms warn of the great danger posed by the village cinema, from the inside, the original version (V.O.), is the one that suffers the most. “I’ve heard voices from cinemas that don’t have it clear at all. Cinemas inside malls will be able to pull it off, but others are suffering a little more,” he says.
No festivals to buy
Another concern for those engaged in choosing films to show is the lack of platforms on which to sniff them. The absence of the Cannes Film Festival is most notorious by programmers. “What will we release in 2021? I’m very worried, what attractive titles for the public we can have,” says Enrique Costa d’Avalon. A worry that everyone shares, and that leads them to wonder which ‘Parasites’ or ‘Los miserables’ will be on duty next year.