Digital growth is big boost to arthouse fare

After a slow start, Gaul has emerged as a European leader in video-on-demand, with VOD sales rising 61% in just a year to 6 million downloads, according to research group GfK and media consultant NPA Conseil. Movie downloads make up about two-thirds of the French VOD market.

Government-backed film and TV funder Centre National de la Cinematographie has fueled the proliferation of these online platforms by injecting $1.6 million into the digitization and online distribution of French and other European films.

France boasts about 43 such platforms, the largest number in Europe. The two VOD leaders, Orange and Canal Play, feature the largest film catalogs from various French production and sales companies. Last year, Bac Films made 200 titles available to the two VOD distribs. Most mini-majors in Gaul have also developed their own platforms. These include Wild Bunch (with FilmoTV) and MK2 (with MK2 VoD).

“There are loads of VOD platforms in France, but they just promote big-budget films and particularly American blockbusters,” says Loic Magneron, president of Paris-based shingle Wide Management. “These don’t benefit art films.”

Francois Yon, co-partner at distrib company Films Distribution, adds, “The VOD boom in France has boosted local genre films.”

As of September, a quarter of the pics offered on French platforms had grossed more than

$1 million at the local B.O. Downloads of U.S. films have jumped 93% since 2007. Meanwhile, VOD sales of French pics, which make up 46.3% of the films featured online, advanced a mere 20%.

Last year, however, Paris-based producer and distrib Celluloid Dreams teamed with the New York-based Criterion Collection to launch the Auteurs, an online VOD site conceived as an “online cinematheque” to promote foreign, independent, director-driven art films.

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