Web makes fests a virtual experience

American Film Market 2012

A buyer who couldn’t make it to Cannes this year confides that he didn’t mind, because he could watch everything in his office on Vimeo and track the instant reaction on Twitter far more effectively than by loitering outside press screenings hoping to catch a friendly critic.

The Web has changed the dynamic of buying and selling films to such a degree that it’s hard to remember how things were done even a few short years ago, before an entire world of information, data and opinion was available with a tap on a touchpad.

“I’m always surprised when every time there’s a market — Berlin, Cannes, the AFM — they talk about record attendance, because there’s less and less reason to go,” says Danny Perkins, CEO of Studiocanal U.K.

Filmmakers might not be delighted that buyers are weighing their painstakingly crafted masterworks on laptops via links to sites such as Vimeo, Cinando and Festival Scope. But is this really worse than the old days at markets such as Mifed, for example, when films were displayed in small concrete boxes on screens little better than a bedsheet tacked to the wall?

“In a weird way, Vimeo is better than going to a market screening with people walking in and out,” Perkins suggests.

“Markets with real screenings in theaters are still very important,” says Audrey Delaney, senior VP of marketing and acquisitions at Lightning Entertainment. “But the flipside for many movies is that they are not going to be theatrical internationally, so it’s a fair reflection to watch them on a computer, which is closer to TV where they will end up.”

On the other hand, Protagonist Film CEO Mike Goodridge says, “We’ve found that a lot of our buyers still prefer to get screeners. One buyer said to us, ‘my boss will lose interest if he watches on a computer.’ ”

Goodridge commends Festival Scope for being, as its name suggests, a congenial showcase for auteurs. “We put Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘What Richard Did’ on there, with his earlier films ‘Adam and Paul’ and ‘Garage.’ ”

Among other B2B Web tools, he rates Filmtrack, which tracks distribution agreements. Delaney recommends Slated, a site for development projects looking for financing.

Studiocanal U.K.’s home entertainment chief John Rodden cites Amazon as “a brilliantly useful as a research tool for information about titles from competitors. If you’re doing a list of comps, Amazon makes suggestions of what else people who like this film are buying.”

FilmNation has designed its own Web platform to communicate with its buyers, and where all the foreign distribs of the same film can share info. “When you’re buying a movie from us,” says Glen Basner, “you’re also buying the service we provide.”

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