FNE together with Europa Distribution (www.europa-distribution.org) 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 Czech Republic with an interview with Premysl Martinek, managing director of Film Distribution Artcam (www.artcam.cz).
Martinek told FNE how digitalization has lowered the market share of Czech films and why his company opened a club, Studio Bela, in the very center of Prague to allow the films to be seen longer than their theatrical run would otherwise allow.
Next year Artcam will distribute the sci-fi romance Vanishing Waves, the first Lithuanian film to find Czech distribution, with a strategy including heavy promotion on the internet, with film also released simultaneously on VOD. FNE: How does the Czech market differ from those of other countries? What is specific here and how is independent distribution doing in your market today? There was one important difference for more than ten years. The market share of local production was around 40%, which is almost the same number as they have in France and other bigger European markets. This is changing right now as digitalization completely changed the state of our cinemas. It is again the same as everywhere - films are "dying" faster at the circuit; lots of cinemas have become focused only on mainstream films. All this is supported by the fact that the state film fund provided about 120 million CZK for digitalization but the cinema owners did not need to follow any conditions on thier programming. They can do whatever they want and the result is that we kind of destroyed the net of municipal cinemas that are still financed by the state but behave like multiplexes. This means that the market share of Czech films is lower now and that independent distributors have a pretty hard position facing bigger players. FNE: How competitive is the Czech market for European films - national and non-national? Our market is very competitive in terms of local productions - of course only the ones with strong commercial potential and that is the same for European films. In terms of arthouse, independant and auteur films, there are just a few companies that are dedicated to help them reach local audiences. It is kind of easy for Artcam to pick up award-winning films in Cannes and Berlin and be the only one who wants them. FNE: What kind of films seem to work well with audiences here? It seems to me that people are happy with blockbusters, violent films, local comedies and "nasty" films. Our most successful titles from last year are Apollonide and KLIP which worked definitely better than The Kid with a Bike, for example. On the other hand I feel that people are interested in films that have some kind of additional value, like Just the Wind, where you can address a public that is not only interested in films but also in the social issues. People here also like new projects such as Opera in Theaters or Secret Cinemas. FNE: What are the major areas you focus on? Theatrical, DVD, VOD, TV distribution, production, exhibition…? We are trying to be focused on every license that we hold. The first step is theatrical release that helps us to promote our films a lot but in terms of incomes is not as good as it was a couple of years ago. The DVD market is also kind of dead in our territory but we are trying to have all our titles available on DVD - but again it is not giving us any special income. TV licenses are very crucial for us but we have just one channel that is buying our type of films and it is always complicated to deal with them. VOD is starting but we are very active on VOD platforms - simultaneous releases, etc. We've started to run a film club in the center of Prague in order to have a place where our films can be screened longer than on the regular circuit. And we also started to work in production and we are running a project called InVitr0 that should be helping young talents to reach more audiences through several platforms. FNE: What is your film acquisition policy?
When I started to work for Artcam in 2008 we were trying to buy films that could have some strong potential. We fought for a new Woody Allen film, for example. Then we found that this is not the right way because we had to promote films that we did not like so much; we were trying to catch general audiences with small promotional campaigns. Now we are selecting films that we really like or we really feel that Czech audience should have a chance to watch. We are also considering possible partners in film festivals or human rights organizations (Just the Wind). We are acquiring around eight films each year so it is always a hard decision and also hard job to promote - for example, the first feature of a Serbian director - so all our films have to be somehow strong in terms of artistic vision and we have to like them. FNE: What films have been your biggest hits? The films with biggest admissions were Persepolis, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Antichrist, White Ribbon, Whatever Works, Enter the Void and A Separation. But we are more happy about the films that surprised us with admissions numbers when we expected it would be hard to succeed with them - like KLIP, Apollonide, Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. FNE: What are your upcoming releases and how will you promote them?
It is again a mix of very different films. Next year we will start with a Lithuanian sci-fi romance, Vanishing Waves. It’s the first Lithuanian film to get Czech distribution and we will try to promote it, especially on the internet. Our partners will be webpages and discussion forums focused on the sci-fi genre. We will also do a simultaneous VOD release of the film. Than we will have the new Czech documentary Fortress, which won the main prize at Jihlava IDFF and focuses on a little state between Ukraine and Moldovia, unrecognized by UN, the EU and supported by Russia. For this film we will cooperate again with the biggest Czech human rights organization, People in Need, and especially with their film festival, One World. They will help us to promote the film regionally. In February Michael Haneke’s Love and Carlos Reygadas’ Post tenebras lux from the Cannes competition will compete once again for Czech audiences. We love Haneke's films but we feel that Reygadas’ film is more about the freedom of art and that was crucial for us when we bought it before it won best director prize in Cannes. Film Distribution Artcam
Film Distribution Artcam is a fully integrated distribution company focusing on independent and arthouse films in the Czech Republic. The company, based in Prague, was established in 2000 by producer and director Artemio Benki, who also runs the prestigious production company Sirena film.
Artcam has released so far almost 100 titles, such as Buena Vista Social Club, Mulholland Drive, Oldboy, Coffee and Cigarettes, Antichrist, White Ribbon, A Separation and Apollonide. Artcam is sells DVD, TV and VOD rights for its titles and secures a large impact for the films on local market.
The company was been awarded best foreign film in 2005 for Invasion Of the Barbarians at the domestic film awards Cesky lev (Czech Lions).
The company has a team of highly motivated and professional staff, and cooperates with cinemas all over Czech Republic, primarily with the theaters in Prague and Brno. Since March 2012 it has its own film club, Studio Bela, in the center of Prague. Artcam also helps Czech directors to develop their new titles and to reach the international market. Film Distribution Artcam
Rasinovo nabrezi 6
128 00 Prague
Tel.: +420 221 411 619
Fax.: +420 221 411 699