FNE and Europa Distribution are launching a new chapter in our Distributor of the Month section focusing on the new trends and challenges of film distribution. In the coming months we will talk with European distributors about the digital single market and VOD, trying to understand how they see the future through these lenses.
This month we speak with Matei Truța, Distribution Manager with the Romanian company Transilvania Film. Founded in 2003 and active on the film distribution market since December 2004, Transilvania Film has released 116 titles in cinemas so far, of which 25 were Romanian titles. The company’s representatives are Tudor Giurgiu and Matei Truța.
Transilvania Film is an ambitious cinema, video and TV distribution company with a series of very select art house titles, including prize winners at the most important international film festivals. Conceived by the same team that has been responsible for the great success of the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF), held annually in Cluj-Napoca, the main goal of Transilvania Film is to offer the Romanian public a wide range of movie titles with an emphasis on the art house segment.
Transilvania Film’s objective is to offer at least one title per month to all movie lovers, with a special view towards the art house, upscale segment. Also, emphasis is put on the acquisition of new and original titles from across the world, with a special focus on European and Romanian cinema.
The company’s recent acquisitions include the Argentinian hit Wild Tales by Damian Szifron, the Cannes Un Certain Regard winner in 2015 Rams by Grímur Hákonarson and the Best Foreign Film at the 2016 Academy Awards, Son of Saul by László Nemes.
FNE: What impact would the digital single market have on your work?
Matei Truța: It is clear that the DSM is a concept with a lot of un-accessed potential as far as the European film market is concerned. The idea of making European content more accessible on a non-national level would benefit everyone. However, it is hard to imagine how this business model would function for distributors without tampering with the territoriality principle or without VOD compromising theatrical.
Most of the time a film will be released in several EU countries without the releases being synchronised. Now, from a distributor’s point of view, if the movie I am considering to buy has already been made accessible to viewers via cross-border VOD, this would undoubtedly diminish the film’s market potential. Ultimately, it could mean deciding not to theatrically release the film at all.
We all know that in order to perform, European film needs a bigger effort in terms of promoting; we know it is difficult to give the film a long run in the theatrical circuit and we know it is hard to reach beyond a niche public. Ultimately, I believe the distribution effort, launch campaign included, is what gets us closer to a bigger audience and better non-national circulation - of course, if done right.
Not carefully controlling the DSM could very well mean the decline of theatrical distribution, thus of strong promotion, and a migration of our audience towards major VOD players, where, implicitly, blockbuster titles will always be more appealing than unfamiliar independent titles.
FNE: How important is VOD for your business? Does it bring in an important part of your income?
Matei Truța: Presently VOD constitutes less than 5% of our annual revenues. This in the context of the VOD Romanian market, in general, being underdeveloped and struggling with piracy. FNE: Where do you see VOD five years from now?
Matei Truța: VOD will definitely have a strong voice in how the future of the Romanian film market is shaped, but I don’t know if the next five years will be enough to see it done. Ultimately, it will come down to correctly addressing a series of problems before the VOD market can grow: piracy and adapting the distributor’s offer to the consumers' need. Problems like these should be always judged taking into account the social and economic context of the territory, implicitly the consumers’ income.
For example, I think VOD in general would greatly benefit by addressing piracy with a viable alternative to piracy (or at least investing in creating one) instead of fighting it.
FNE: How can VOD distribution for independent European films be improved?
Matei Truța: I think the first step would be educating the public to be more open towards European film and accessing the public that is already open. The latter category would in fact already be frustrated by the limited theatrical accessibility of these films.
A smart way to do this to would be using a niche VOD platform that focuses on promoting a smaller number of titles at a time, for a limited period of time. MUBI recently opened in Romania and they seem to know that having a greater number of choices at a time isn’t necessarily a good thing. FNE: What was your biggest hit in the last 12 months? Did you use any particular strategy?
Matei Truța: Our most successful title launched in past year was Why Me / De ce eu? by Tudor Giurgiu (Libra Film), a political thriller based on a true case of political corruption in 2002 in Romania. We had a strong and carefully planned PR campaign that was synchronised with the current local political context; more specifically, the beginning of a stronger Ministry of Justice and of a serious fight against corruption. We’re happy the public responded to it very well.