Three-nation region does splits


From some angles, the Benelux market exists as a whole, with films such as “Apocalypto” seeing territory-wide success. At other times, the market seems fragmented, with pics working only in French-speaking Belgium, Luxembourg or the Netherlands. Distributors keep the faith, and even those not working across the region have alliances that hop borders. The most significant recent change in the landscape is the expansion of the Netherlands’ A-Film. It put a foot down in Belgium a year ago, and in May 2007 hooked up with powerful French shingle Wild Bunch. Among the new indie labels, Imagine Film and Brunbro also are finding their space in the Benelux market with small, quality slates.

Independent Film Distribution
Rachel Van Bommel, managing director
B.O.: Netherlands (to Oct. 3): $10.8 million; Belgium (to July 3): not available
Top pic: “Zoop in Zuid-Amerika” $2.3 million (NL); “Firmin” $1.9 million (BE)
In brief: Crowdpleasing imports, such as “The Reef” and “Saw III” and strong local product. Top pics in 2007 are local, but both kid’s adventure “Zoop” and boxing comedy “Firmin” curiously failed make an impact across the border.

Jan Kouwenhoven, CEO
B.O.: Netherlands (to Oct. 3): $10.6 million
Top pic: “Hairspray” $2 million (NL)
In brief: Focuses on U.S. and Anglo imports, with the occasional foray into local production and international arthouse fare. Usually third in the Dutch market to A-Film and Independent, box office to date promises a bumper year for RCV, built on successes with “Hairspray,” “Next” and “Fracture.” Partners with Kinepolis Film Distribution in Belgium.

Benelux Film Distributors
Jan De Clercq, director BFD/Lumiere; Carolyn van Liefland, director BFD/Inspire
B.O.: Netherlands (to Oct. 3): $6 million; Belgium (to July 3): $3.2 million
Top pic: “1408” ($1.3 million, NL), “The Good Shepherd” ($1 million, BE)
In brief: Joint venture between Filmworks and Inspire Pictures in the Netherlands, and Lumiere in Belgium. Grabbed a healthy 3.4% of the Dutch market in its first year, 2006, a less impressive 1.9% in Belgium. Things look better in 2007, thanks to U.S. pics with cross-region appeal.

Pim Hermeling, CEO; Erik Engelen, managing director (BE)
B.O.: Netherlands (to Oct. 3): $6.2 million; Belgium (to July 3): $1.8 million
Top pic: “Apocalypto” ($1.2 million, NL; $862,000, BE)
In brief: No longer the unchallenged giant it once was in Holland, A-Film is betting on greater regional reach. Its first nine months in Belgium are impressive, built mainly on cultish imports such as “Apocalypto” and “Grindhouse: Death Proof,” plus homegrown shocker “Ex-Drummer.” The fruits of its deal with Wild Bunch have yet to emerge.

Belga Films
Patrick Vandenbosch, general manager
B.O.: Belgium (to July 3): $5.1 million
Top pic: “Taxi 4” ($2.7 million, BE)
In brief: Oldest in Belgium and still family run, Belga used to be associated with popular French imports. While its top pic, sequel “Taxi 4,” is just that, its offerings has become distinctly transatlantic, from “Babel” last year to “Bordertown” this year.

Kinepolis Film Distribution
Maud Van de Velde, international director
B.O.: Belgium (to July 3): $4.9 million
Top pic: “Fracture,” ($1.7 million, BE)
In brief: Distribution arm of powerful Belgian multiplex chain Kinepolis (itself now spread into Spain, France, Switzerland and Poland), KFD was the country’s top independent in 2006, with a 7.5% market share. Its success is based on picking U.S. winners and nurturing local talent, such as Oscar submission “Ben X.” Partners in the Netherlands with RCV.

Eliane du Bois, CEO
B.O.: Belgium (to July 3): $4.4 million
Top pic: “La Vie en rose” ($1.6 million, BE)
In brief: Long established Belgian arthouse distributor with double identity according to product. Happy to stand by foreign auteurs and local heroes such as the Dardenne bothers. Busy as ever in 2007, with 31 releases through to June; top pic, oddly, is a conventional Edith Piaf biopic.

Martien Uyttendaele, CEO
B.O.: Netherlands (to Oct. 3): $2 million; Belgium (to July 3): $2.2 million
Top pic: “Pan’s Labyrinth” ($752,000, NL), “The Number 23” ($886,000, BE)
In brief: Belgium-focused distrib pushed further north in 2007, opening an office in Amsterdam in April. First offering from this base, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” paid off. Otherwise its diet of U.S. indies proves rather hit and miss, requiring a large slate to secure a 1%-2% market share.

Cinemien/ABC Distribution
Phil van der Linden & Nicolaine den Breejen, owners (Cinemien); Chantal Krakowski, head of distribution (ABC)
B.O.: Netherlands (to Oct. 3): $3.4 million; Belgium (to July 3): $1.3 million
Top pic: “The Lives of Others” ($2.4 million, NL, $1.1 million, BE)
In brief: Company’s phenomenal success with the German foreign-language Oscar winner has lifted ABC out of the minor league in Belgium, although it does not yet have the weight of Dutch parent Cinemien. For both, slates are European and world-arthouse focused.

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