Senior producers and distributors took to the stage at the Zurich Summit to debate the future of film distribution.
With the rise of streamers, the breaking of theater windows, and the closure of cinema halls during epidemics, they emphasize the need for flexibility when planning the best way to release movies.
Danny Parkins, CEO and founder of Alicia Film Group, says: “Much has changed. There is flux. It needs to be flexible. Because if something is as rigid as the old drama window, it’s just breaking.
Perkins added: “It’s very difficult to see, but there are definitely opportunities for distribution.”
The panel, hosted by CAA agent Maren Olson, also debated how independent financiers and distributors can compete with the resources and reach of global streamers.
Lotrene, co-founder of Totem Films, feared power would be concentrated in the hands of streamers. “It’s a more exclusive situation,” he said. “The worst thing that can happen to any industry is that there are a lot of people selling projects, but buyers are few and far between.”
Dan Steinman, vice president and COO of W0 West, said it was important to find out which movie was best suited for drama or streaming. He said that while 30 West is strongly leaning towards dramatic releases, it’s important to let content strategies determine. “If a movie can be a theatrical success, it should go to the theater.”
Complicating matters, he noted that sometimes actors involved in a project don’t want it to be released dramatically. “Things have been the opposite of the way things have been until recently … they won’t have the pressure to open the weekend for all sorts of reasons.”
This is an echo of earlier comments by Michael de Lucar, chairman of MGM Motion Picture Group at the summit, who said that some directors have chosen the streaming route for the same reason.
Robert Wallack, president of AC Studios, anonymous content, supported the issue. “The biggest change that has happened in the last one year is now filmmakers say they’re going to go to Streamer rather than face the pressure of actual release.”
The panel also debated the challenge of releasing a film while smashing theater windows.
Steinman said a “huge problem” is combining U.S. and non-U.S. distributions for the film. With the windows breaking in about 90 days to a few weeks, the major European regions needed to finance the film are having a hard time tying up with small U.S. windows.
“It means it’s hard to finance a film like this,” Steinman said. “It often means, by default, you go to streamers. So it’s a kind of confusion – it’s an economic problem. This is a joint action problem. And I think it’s our responsibility to solve that in the next year or two. ”
Perkins again emphasized the need for flexibility. He said that traditionally, the US release strategy and P&A spending would help raise the standard internationally for the film. “But, in a world where movies like ‘Dun’ date, all bets are off. You can’t rely on a window in a picture.
He said international distributors also face time challenges in building campaigns for films if days and dates are published in the states. “Traditional issues no longer apply. How fast can you figure it out … and how can we find the specialty of this movie and sell it to a British audience?
Wallack said: “Right now we are waiting for the drama. Whatever it seems, we are not going back to 2019.