Day & Date article 2: Where there’s an advantage there’s a disadvantage too by Birgit Heidsiek

Feedback from Distributors and Exhibitors

“I am interested in experimenting and gathering date from day-and-date experiments to see if VoD release affects theatrical releases at all”, says Jakub Duszyński, artistic director of Gutek Film that participates in the MEDIA-supported initiative EDAD (European Day-and-Date). “We are waiting for a first film to agree on.”

According to the Polish distributor VoD is still small in terms of revenues in Poland. “Theatrical release is a major force behind each business structure of our release”, underlines Duszyński. “We need to determine if VoD affects theatrical at all but at the same time with limited access to screens with smaller art films we need to find platforms which would expose this films to audiences. Can theatrical releases promote VoD releases? Can VoD releases promote theatrical window?” , wonders Duszyński . “This has to be determined through experimentation.” The distributor is interested in starting day-and-date experiments with films which have limited access to cinema screens because they are not commercial enough for many exhibitors. “Films which can attract well defined audiences”, he concludes.

“The only reason to do day-and-date is to increase revenue for everybody – distributor itself, sales agent and producer”, remarks Daniel Goroshko, head of acquisitions and business affairs at the St. Petersburg-based distributor A-One Films. “We expect at least the same sales figures and for some films even growth. I really believe that VoD in our country is kind of replacement for home video which is totally dead at the moment.

The Russian distributor believes that people who watch films on VOD are not the very same who watch the films in theatres. “But both of these groups find all the information on the web which is the main marketing tool for us. So we try to create buzz online by targeting both groups.” In that sense VoD promotion also supports theatrical and vice versa.

The disadvantage of the day-and-date release is that the film will be pirated very quickly. “The level of piracy is so high in Russia that the film will be pirated anyway sooner or later.” Therefore A-One Films tries to generate as much as possible with the day-and-date and VoD release. “If the film has a great cast we always get a big MG from the VoD operator. We do day-and-date for all the films but for some films which have the potential to generate online buzz – it works better.”

“Most exhibitors are afraid of day-and-date releases. It was hard to find theaters”, admits Marieke Jonker, CEO of the Dutch distributor Amstel Film. “Fortunately, we didn’t see any difference in admissions for our releases ” On the other hand there were not a lot off extra revenues from VoD either. “It seems that arthouse lovers in the Netherlands haven’t found the VoD platforms yet.” She hopes that there will be an increase when the customers know their way to VoD.

“Theoretically, a small niche film should have more advantage from a day-and-date release. This film could reach out online to their widespread niche fans.” But Jonker is convinced that huge Hollywood releases gain more profit and are having even more admissions as a result of the online generated buzz by day-and-date releases. She sees it happen that very small titles will disappear from the big screen on a daily base. “The majors can demand day-and-date releases, independents are far more dependent on their relationships with exhibitors and programmers. In my opinion this trend can only be reversed when exhibitors simply accept this type of releasing films for all films, and not only from the majors.”

However Dutch arthouse exhibitor Henk Camping sees the day-and- date release as competition which is not in favor of the cinemas nor of the cinema experience. He expects a disadvantage regarding the financial results. “With the day-and-date release there is no reason to respect the old financial terms in which distributors and exhibitors share the box office more or less on a 50/50 basis. ”The audience will know about a film but will never experience cinema at home. It is going to be a change for worse interims of quality!”, warns Camping who considers the cinema as the one and only place where the audience can see film the way it is meant to be seen: “On the big screen and in a social environment that is bigger than the ‘Media Markt’ home screen. It sounds better in the concert hall and it looks better in the cinema. – For the French: C’est le cinema qui fait le film!”

In Germany there are also some critical voices who don’t see a benefit in the day-and-date release. Torsten Frehse, CEO of the Berlin-based distribution company Neue Visionen, outlines that illegal streamings already destroyed the theatrical window so that the day-and-date realease has become reality. “Legal offers will have a hard time because they require a fee. Day-and-date models could only make sense if the films can be protected from piracy.” The German distributor doesn’t expect to generate more revenues with the day-and-date release than with the traditional distribution chain. “We will see that the distributors who participate in these strong subsidized pilot projects will only choose films from the third row which are not designed for a profitable theatrical campaign and audience expectation.”

In Great Britain Artificial Eye is  releasing some of its slate simultaneously theatrically and via Curzon On Demand (eg: Le Havre, Lore, etc…). “These films are finding their ways to audiences in our cinema in Bristol but I think it’s far too early to really gauge the impact of day-and-date on theatrical distribution on the basis of a handful of experiments”, résumés the programme developer Madeleine Probst. “We are in a period of experimentation and negotiations around more flexible terms and models of practice that respond to audiences’ demand and behaviours and to the digital environment we inhabit. We’re trying to find ways of playing titles longer and thinner. Rules need to be re-imagined and new opportunities embraced for all involved to have a business model and a sector that works.”