Greek Distribs Seeking The Mythical ‘Sure Thing’

Greek distributors all agree on one thing: General audiences’ tastes have changed drastically in the last few years and it is almost impossible to pinpoint a “sure thing” when buying.

“The Sheltering Sky,” which did uneven business elsewhere, was a big hit here; “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” a smash in the States, had only lukewarm sales.

“We’re having a difficult time finding films that appeal to general Athenian audiences,” said Zinos Panayiotides of Nea Kinisi, which will be repped at AFM by partner Peggy Davalis-Micropoulos.

‘Rambo’ out, thinking in

“To appeal to our audiences today, films have to have something to say,” stressed Alexander Spentzos of Spentzos Films. “‘Rambo’ films are out, while creative films are in.”

Spentzos stresses the importance of proper promotion, as seen in the success of its release of “Home Alone,” one of the season’s hits which sold more than 195,575 tickets in Athens as of its sixth week of release. “Greeks would normally classify ‘Home Alone’ as a children’s film, and those never work here,” he said.

Spentzos credits a massive publicity campaign, incorporating benefit performances and tv spots, with creating a sense of anticipation that caused viewers to flock to the wickets as soon as “Home Alone” opened, causing SRO screenings on its opening day and many afterward.

“We’ll be buying fewer films than usual at AFM, and our main thrust will be finding product that can be held over, in line with our new distribution policy,” said Spentzos, who will attend AFM with brothers George and Spiros.

Multiplex as Parthenon

Pentalis Mitropoulos of Prooptiki will go to AFM without predicting whether his company will be buying more or less than last year. “It depends on the product available and the prices,” he said. “We will probably all be scrambling for the few films that have potential.”

Mitropoulos will be handling more features this year since Prooptiki will handle Orion for the first time and Columbia/Tri-Star is increasing its production.

According to Mitropoulos, “Multiplexes will be springing up in Athens within the next few years with the aid of foreign investments. I’m devoting 100% of my time to upgrading my distribution network.

“If someone else wants to invest in multiplexes, I’ll act as the distributor. Investment on this scale is for the big boys. I’m not a technical person.”

“We distribute fewer films each year,” said George Michaelides of Elke, who will attend AFM with Manos Krezies, head of Home Video Hellas. “Business is terrible; indies are dead here. Even ‘Total Recall’ did less than expected – as well as ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Dick Tracy’ – but we won’t lose our shirts on them. Only ‘Pretty Woman’ did as well as expected – 226,000 tickets after eight weeks.”

Distribs in Athens report about a 40% drop in sales compared with the previous season.

Michaelides was a pioneer in cinema renovation, sinking money into the downtown Opera and Radio City cinemas and upgrading them four years ago by installing Dolby stereo and new seats.

“Going to the cinema should be a special affair,” he said, “some thing we didn’t accept until recently. People have a right to expect comfort in theaters to justify higher prices [ now between $3.80 to $4.50, more than triple since deregulation of cinema prices in 1985].

Michaelides once again proved himself a trendsetter by being the first to install popcorn machines in a number of his cinemas in Athens and Thessaloniki, proving that what is known in other parts of the world is true in Greece as well – popcorn can boost admissions. Other enterprising cinema owners and leasers plan on following suit.

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