FNE together with Europa Distribution continues its Distributor of the Month series. In recognition of the hard work and excellence of European distributors and the common problems they face, especially in the transition to digitalization, we choose a distributor from each country covered by FNE each month.
We look at the challenges and the successes faced by those distributors who are members of Europa Distribution with a special series of interviews that offer insights that other distributors of European films can benefit from and a platform for the exchange of ideas.
This month we focus on Austria with an interview with Hans König, who has been the head of distribution at Polyfilm Verleih since 1994. In 1988 he was appointed head of distribution at Filmhaus Stöbergasse, which was later renamed Polyfilm.
Polyfilm Verleih (the shorter version of Filmcasino & Polyfilm BetriebsGmbH) is specialised in theatrical distribution of crossover and art house films including documentaries. It also handles DVD distribution (Polyfilm video) and runs one of the most important arthouse cinemas in Vienna (Filmcasino). Polyfilm releases some 35 titles per year with overall admissions between 350,000 and 600,000. Its market share is between 1.5 and 2.5 %.
FNE: How does the market in your country differ from other countries? What is specific about the Austrian market? How is independent distribution doing in your market today?
Hans König: I don’t think that the Austrian market differs much from other countries. In the Austrian cinemas the market share of homegrown films is quite low (despite great international recognition) and films from Hollywood are dominate, but these are not differences from many other European countries. Maybe I should be more specific: the Austrian audience loves French films – this is perhaps explained by old traditions in Austria. Films from Turkey are also very successful, but not those from Eastern Europe despite the close proximity.
Also characteristic for the Austrian market: the Austrian audience is more open to subtitled language versions compared to Germany despite the fact that almost all films are also available for the audience dubbed in German.
Independent distribution is doing well in the Austrian market particularly thanks to a very good pattern in art house cinemas in our country. But aside from Austrian films the independent sector is based more or less only on theatrical distribution, because everybody can import DVDs in the German version from Germany or buy them on Amazon, and also the TV market is not open for European independent films. Therefore the Austrian independent distributors are forced to release many more films than companies in other countries.
How competitive is your market for European films (national and non-national)?
The market is very competitive especially for non-national European films because many companies are dependent from the subsidies from MEDIA programme.
What kind of films seem to work well with audiences in your market?
As the audience is getting older it seems that more lighthearted films and comedies meet the taste of the public. Also film versions of famous novels are working well. But with the digitalisation of the Austrian theatres there are also more possibilities for theatrical releases of smaller documentaries, and they are performing more and more above our expectations.
What are the major areas that you focus on? (theatrical/DVD/VOD/TV distribution, production, exhibition...)
Theatrical distribution. But our own cinema in Vienna is very important to us because it is like a “home base”.
What is your film acquisition policy?
A mixture of potential with the audience, quality of the films and personal taste.
What films have been your biggest hits?
As It Is in Heaven, Wallace &Gromit, Tiger and Dragon, and recently Rust & Bone, Searching for Sugar Man, Take this Waltz, Arbitrage, Beasts of the Southern Wild.
What are your upcoming releases and how will you promote them?
Our most important upcoming releases are Paulette and Camille Redouble. One of our goals for our future releases is to spend less money on classic advertisement because we think that we no longer reach our audience with this kind of advertising.
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