FNE Europa Distribution: Distributor of the Month. Bulgaria Emil Simeonov, PRO FILMS

    FNE Europa Distribution: Distributor of the Month. Bulgaria Emil Simeonov, PRO FILMS Emil Simeonov

    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 Bulgaria and we continue our series with an interview with Emil Simeonov, the managing director of PRO FILMS

    Simeonov talked to FNE about piracy and the lack of cinemas, but also about the new generation of Bulgarian filmmakers who, with their small budget films, have achieved higher box office returns than most of the studio films.

    He also announced that the distribution company he founded with Vladimir Petrov seven years ago is preparing to launch a VOD platform by the end of 2012. In 2012 PRO FILMS is also moved into production and released Rapid Response Corps with a very good response in the cinemas.

    FNE: How does the market in your country differ from other countries? What is specific about the Bulgarian market? How is independent distribution doing in your market today?

    I think all the markets differ from one another but at the same time they have a lot in common. The market in Bulgaria differs from the market in UK or Germany mainly by its potential. Bulgarian box office for one year is less than the UK box office for one week for instance. On the other hand Belgium and Hungary are not much bigger markets than Bulgaria, but their box-office results are a few times higher than the Bulgaria’s. And here is the second difference: the accessibility of the cinemas. There are a lot of towns in our country with more than 50,000 inhabitants and no cinemas. Not even a single screen. In 1990 we had more than 3,500 screens in the whole country – every small village had its own cinema. In 2010 there were approximately 120-124 screens, 95% of them located in the three biggest cities in the country.

    Speaking about the similarities, the audience wants to watch movies – it doesn’t matter if they want big studio hits or small independent films. The people want entertainment, they need it and they will find it one way or another. Unfortunately, in Bulgaria that usually means illegal downloads. I know it is not a local problem, it is a worldwide problem. But please keep in mind that Bulgaria was recently ranked the third country in the world with fastest internet. Ten years ago I was often asked by my friends, “We’re thinking of going to the cinema to watch the movie N. Is it worth the time and the money?” Now I am asked all the time, “We’re thinking of downloading the film N. Is it worth the time?” This is a dangerous change of the way the people here think in general about cinema-going and the value of the films.

    That is why independent distribution becomes tougher and tougher each year. We have extremely fast internet, absolutely no regulations on the illegal download (no matter films, music, software) and 130-135 studio releases per year in a market with 140 screens. And just for the record - we have only seven art house screens in the country.

    FNE: How competitive is your market for European films (national and non-national)?

    Actually, any European film could be quite competitive on our market, but only if at least one big international star is involved – preferably a star in a leading role or at least in a big role in some Hollywood hit or TV series. It is quite similar to all the other markets, I believe.

    A new wave of young Bulgarian filmmakers emerged in the last three - four years, shooting independent films, some of them commercially targeted. These new directors and producers did something that was unthinkable before: their small budget films achieved higher box-office than most of the studio films. This is something no one even imagined five years ago. What happened is that all these young producers got fed up with the old system of governmental subsidies, old relationships and “favors” and started to shoot films with their own money - money obtained by loans, friends’ help, etc. Some of the most successful films in the last two years were produced with budgets of less than 200,000 EUR and sold more than 60,000 tickets. Having in mind the sales of tickets for Bulgarian films a few years ago – approximately 3,000 - 4,000 per film with a budget of 600,000 - 700,000 EUR – this is a giant leap for local films and for the young producers, directors, scriptwriters...

    FNE: What kind of films seem to work well with audiences in your market?

    Comedies. Big budget hits. Comedies. Animation. Comedies. Animation.

    FNE: What are the major areas that you focus on? (theatrical/DVD/VOD/TV distribution, production, exhibition...)

    We are still focused on theatrical distribution, though lately we are mostly focused on animation. And comedies.

    In fact, the DVD market in Bulgaria is gone. It simply doesn’t exist anymore, except for animation. That’s why we are working on our own VOD platform, which should be launched by the end of this year.

    Our latest focus is on production and it may soon become our main focus. We produced our first film in 2012 – Rapid Response Corps – and it worked very, very well in the cinemas. Now we are working on the sequel.

    FNE: What is your film acquisition policy?

    We always want to buy good films at a reasonable (for us) price.

    FNE: What films have been your biggest hits?

    We have had plenty. Unfortunately, we have had a lot of flops too. Some of our first successes were La marche de l’empéreur”, Pan’s Labyrinth, Der Untergang. Recently, Winx3D – A Magical Adventure and The Skin I Live In. The biggest success so far we had with two Bulgarian films – Footsteps in the Sand and our own production Rapid Response Corps.

    FNE: What are your upcoming releases and how will you promote them?

    In our release schedule we have A Royal Affair, Love is All You Need, Gladiators of Rome, The Hunt, Shadow Dancer, the new Almodovar`s film for the next spring, Niko 2, Thor 3D The Legend of Valhalla. None of those films is similar to the others (excluding animation), so we always try to find some new methods to promote our releases.



    Founded by Emil Simeonov and Vladimir Petrov at the beginning of 2005, Pro Films released theatrically more than 50 independent films so far, most of them European films. PRO FILM produced its first feature, Rapid Response Corps, in 2012 and now is working on the sequel.

    Simeonov’s professional experience in the cinema industry started as a booking coordinator in 1997. In 2002 he was promoted to Head of the Programme Department of the biggest exhibition company in the country at that time. He left his position in the end of 2004 and founded the distribution company PRO FILMS in 2005.



    PRO FILMS Ltd.

    29A, Slavyanska str.

    1000 Sofia, Bulgaria

    Phone: +359 2 4837 610

    Fax: +359 2 822 36 81