FNE and Europa Distribution are launching a new chapter in our Distributor of the Month section focusing on 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 Greta Akcijonaite, the co-owner and manager at Kino Pasaka, a distribution, exhibition, film education and audience projects’ development company in Lithuania. Kino Pasaka was founded in 2009 as an art house movie theater in the old town of Vilnius, Lithuania. It is still the only private art house cinema in Lithuania, which offers two screens, VOD platform and also distributes films in Lithuania and the Baltic states.
FNE: What impact would the Digital Single Market have on your work?
Greta Akcijonaite: We see Digital Single Market as a challenge that is inevitably coming. It’s a natural change in the industry scene, caused by demand and new habits of the viewers. Although it’s breaking the regular traditional system and the existing business model, we are ready to look for ways to accept it and benefit from it.
On the other hand, it is not something completely new for us – a market with the third highest piracy rate in the world (according to MUSO survey in 2016), most of the content appears online illegally even before the theatrical premiere. We have already been inventing ways to survive and to protect our territory of interest.
FNE: How important is VOD for your business? Does it bring in an important part of your income?
G.A.: We just launched our VOD platform e.kinopasaka.lt in September 2016. It is the first and the only Lithuanian TVOD platform on the internet, so we are still observing what is happening and the impact of it. It’s too early to talk about the income, but we are very happy to admit that overall results have exceeded our expectations. Still we have to improve many aspects of this project so as to become part of the business.
Every week we add more titles and at the moment we have 43 films to choose from. We presented it as an extension of our exhibition activities, as an additional screening room of cinema PASAKA. Quite successful PR activities, with the headlines like “Cinema Pasaka is opening a 1,000 seat screening venue” still generate us phone calls with request to rent it for corporate events. During seven years of existence, Pasaka has built a brand that audiences trust and admire, so we could offer to our loyal fans some added value and also reach those who can’t access the venue physically.
I believe, that the importance of this step is beyond our business. As Lithuania continues to have a significantly lower screen density than the average European country and even less digital screens coverage, we see it as an opportunity to reach out to regions and remote areas (it’s worth noting that in Lithuania broadband is available to 98% of homes, and all connections are fast).
Also, interacting with our audience development project #europeanfilmchallenge, using legal VOD services has become an alternative to piracy, as it gives opportunity to take part in the challenge game and win a valuable prize.
FNE: Where do you see VOD five years from now?
G.A.: Well, definitely it will be there and it will be extensive. I start realising that five years from now is beyond my imagination and I am very curious and excited about it. Nevertheless, the present gives a lot of inspiration and we’ll try to manage to reach the future together with the stream and the most advanced of it.
Our nearest future goal is to build a big VOD collection of great new titles, fill the gaps of the past, offer classic cinema, ensure diversity and variety of content, good quality and efficient technology. The next step would be expanding to other Baltic states. Of course, we will not have to wait long for the first competitors and it will be another challenge as well.
FNE: How can VOD distribution for independent European films be improved?
G.A.: I believe it’s all about promotion, visibility and demand. As VOD distribution is a growing capacity in general, European cinema has to secure its significant domain in this space.
At the moment for us it’s quite difficult to persuade the local distributors to put their content on our VOD platform due to fear of piracy or still holding on to traditional hold-back windows. With our own titles we mostly do day-and-date releases and in our case this works great. I believe that the independent Lithuanian industry will eventually follow this.
FNE: What was your biggest hit in the last 12 months? Did you use any particular strategy?
G.A.: Our recent success story is building and launching the Internet TVOD platform with great new films altogether. As we are relatively a very small company, working beside major telecommunication and broadcasting companies, going one step ahead of them is a big achievement for us. In this case we enjoy the famous wisdom of It's Not the Big that Eat the Small, it's the Fast that Eat the Slow. I am joking, of course. We are not eating anything.
So far our „bestseller“of two months is 2 Nights till Morning by Mikko Kuparinen, a Finnish/Lithuanian coproduction that was released on day-and-date basis.