Magazine article Screen International

MEDIA-Supported VOD Initiative Courts Controversy

Magazine article Screen International

MEDIA-Supported VOD Initiative Courts Controversy

Article excerpt

Windows debate spurred on by exhibition cancellation of titles launch through special VOD programme.

Europe's media chronology debate has heated up as a MEDIA-supported initiative for online avant-premières has courted controversy.

The chain of events came about when Paris-based Eye On Films (EoF) and the VOD platform Dailymotion announced that they were joining forces for exclusive, free presentations on the online platform of two feature films ahead of their theatrical openings.

Brazilian film-maker Marcos Prado's feature debut Paraísos Artificiais (Les Paradis Artificiels) [pictured] was shown Dailymotion's site on October 29 from 22.00, ahead of French distributor Damned Distribution's release on October 31.

And Canadian director Anne Emond's debut Nuit #1, was put online this Monday/Tuesday (November 5/6) via Dailymotion from 18.00 to 06.00 in France and Belgium. The sneak preview was scheduled two days before the planned French theatrical release by Fondivina Films and Belgian release by Coopérative Nouveau Cinéma on November 7.

According to the initiative's two partners, over 6,000 people watched Prado's drama and there were some 400,000 visits to the film's trailer. This showcasing, it was argued, would help boost the word of mouth about the film and benefit the theatrical release.

However, Yohann Cornu of Damned Distribution spoke of "a catastrophe" when a chain of cinemas decide to cancel its bookings of the film for 12 of the planned 15 screens just a day before the release. Speaking to the magazine Ecran, Cornu observed: "The media chronology has been broken, but now it has killed us."

Consequently, Prado's film was only shown at three independent venues from Oct 31: Publicis Champs Elysées in Paris, Le Club in Grenoble and Les Ambiances in Clermont-Ferrand, with the director appearing in person at the Paris cinema on the first day of release.

Speaking exclusively to Screen about EoF's strategy, project coordinator Nawid Sarem explained that the presentation of films for free 48 hours before their theatrical release is "the perfect way to increase their visibility and to support the cinemas. We believe that the promotion of contents on the Internet still has to be associated with free events. People would probably be ready to pay for online sneak-previews of blockbusters, for independent first films you have to find ways to attract your audience without any well-known actors or director."

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Cocq, who is responsible for distribution and new business models under MEDIA Mundus, distribution and new business models, pointed out to Screen that, in the case of Les Paradis Artificiels, "legally speaking, the action promoted by EOF does not constitute a violation of French law (the media chronology starts with the official release of the film in theatres). Therefore, the French distributor could take the file to the médiateur du cinema and ask for an 'injunction' obliging the theatres to respect their commitments. Nevertheless, Damned Distribution is a very small young company and I don't think it will risk going to the médiateur."

"Interestingly, most of the theatres which have decided to cancel the release are multiplexes belonging to the same group," Cocq continued. "I believe that they have been surprised by the scope of the communication campaign surrounding the Dailymotion event and that their final decision has been led by political reasons on a sensitive issue. …

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