Virtual Print Fee deals favor studios, Europeans told

LYON, France — European indie film distribs attending the Europa Distribution confab at the Lumiere Film Festival in Lyon, France, which wrapped Sunday, were urged to renegotiate their Virtual Print Fee agreements.

Deals for the VPF, which distribs pay exhibs to help cover the cost of digital conversion, were designed to suit the biz needs of the Hollywood majors, the indies argued, but are ill-suited to their own needs.

Indie distribs, for example, would often use the same 35mm prints for several theaters as part of a staggered release, so savings from digital are less than was assumed in the original VPF deals.

Also, the deal is often signed with a third-party company that supplies the digital system in exchange for a sizeable fee on top of the cost of the equipment.

Laurent Dutoit from Swiss distrib Agora Films told delegates that distribs in Switzerland had negotiated a new VPF deal with exhibs that was fairer, and that had been agreed only by distribs and exhibs, with third-party providers cut out of the picture.

Exhib reps from Spain and France said that they had also renegotiated VPF contracts in their territories, which had produced deals that were far more suited to their biz models.

The third edition of the Lumiere festival, which is dedicated to rediscovering cinema classics and is headed by Cannes topper Thierry Fremaux, wrapped Sunday with a screening of Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s 1990 film “Cyrano de Bergerac.”

Thesp Gerard Depardieu, who plays the titular poet, was in attendance and was warmly received by more than 4,000 local film aficionados.

Depardieu had received the Prix Lumiere on Saturday night in a separate ceremony. The tribute was attended by a host of well-known French thesps and directors, including Fanny Ardant, who appeared alongside Depardieu in Francois Truffaut’s “La Femme d’a cote,” which was screened at the event.

Ardant gave the award to Depardieu together with helmer Bertrand Tavernier, who is prexy of Lyon’s Lumiere Institute, the fest’s parent organization.

“I haven’t prepped a speech,” Depardieu joked, “since I normally just read the lines that are hanging off camera,” referring to the fact that he famously never learns his lines.

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