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.
We speak this month with Michael Stejskal, the manager of the Austrian company filmladen distribution, one of the leading independent distributors in Austria for more than 30 years. Most of the successful Austrian films have been released by filmladen which is also releasing international art house films, childrens films and documentaries. As filmladen was established as art house label, the same team founded a second distribution company, Luna Film in 2003, handling mainly multiplex titles. filmladen also has its own DVD label, edition filmladen.
With Votiv Kino (three screens) and Kino de France (two screens), the team is running two cinemas in the surroundings of the university and together with Cine Center (four screens) it is the shareholder of a third cinema theatre right in the middle of Vienna. Votiv Kino has been ranked number one in the admissions ranking of Austrian art house cinemas for nearly 15 years.
filmladen released big titles such as Fahrenheit 9/11, Goodbye Lenin, Amour, Vick Christina Barcelona, Amélie or Slumdog Millionaire, as well as small titles with art house impact. Its recent acquisitions are: Behind the Candelabra, Les beaux jours, Lee Daniels’s The Butler, Lunchbox, Jeune et Jolie, Nymphomaniac.
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?
Michael Stejskal: Like in other small countries which are connected with another big country speaking the same language, it is pretty complicated to buy Austrian rights separately and directly from the sales companies. Mostly we have to buy the subdistribution rights for our territory from a German distributor, who bought the Austrian rights together with the rights for Germany. And very often we have to buy only the theatrical rights, rarely can we buy the DVD rights and nearly never can we buy television right.
FNE: How competitive is your market for European films (national and non-national)?
MS: Like everywhere American films are dominating Austria. European films reach a market share between 20% and 25%. The market share for Austrian films is very small (between 3% and 5%).
FNE: What kind of films seem to work well with audiences in your market?
MS: There is no big difference to other countries. We have the same hits and the same flops as most of the other European countries. Among the Austrian films traditionally black comedies and documentaries work well, and of course the films of well-known auteurs like Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl.
FNE: What are the major areas that you focus on? (theatrical/DVD/VOD/TV distribution, production, exhibition...)
MS: Most of the rights are only for theatrical release.
FNE: What is your film acquisition policy?
MS: Mostly we are buying international art house films. But we released a lot of commercial titles as well.
FNE: What films have been your biggest hits?
MS: Our all-time-hits are: the Austrian comedy Hinterholz 8, Mr. & Mrs. Smith (through Kinowelt in Germany), the Austrian comedy Die Unabsichtliche Entführung der Frau Elfriede Ott, Amélie, Slumdog Millionaire, Desert Flower, the Austrian documentaries We Feed the World and Let’s Make Money, and Midnight in Paris. Recently we released the very successful Amour by Michael Haneke and the German hit Wetlands.
FNE: What are your upcoming releases and how will you promote them?
MS: Jeune et jolie by François Ozon which we will try to release at a crossover event (not only art house); Lee Daniels’s The Butler which we will release shortly before Christmas, enforcing different aspects of the story in different communities (family drama, yellow press aspects, political drama); Diane which we will promote as big love story; and Lunchbox, a precious drama with an gourmet-aspect.
Mariahilferstraße 58/7, A-1070 Wien, Austria