LYON – U.S. classic film distributor Twilight Time has pacted with London-based Protagonist Pictures on U.S. distrib rights to a package of Film4 movies.
Announced at the Lumiere Festical’s first Classic Films Market in Lyon, the acquisitions pack a powerful punch, catching a part Film4-driven renaissance in British filmmaking. They include: Four Ken Loach films – “Riff Raff,” “Raining Stones,” “Carla’s Song” and “Fatherland” – the debut features from Neal Jordon (1982’s “Angel”) and Paul Greengrass (1986’s “Resurrected”), anti-nuclear war animated feature “Where the Wind Blows,” Shekhar Kapur’s “Bandit Queen,” “A Month in the Country,” starring a young Colin Firth and Kenneth Brannagh, and Alan Clarke’s “Rita, Sue and Bob Too!”
U.S releases will be half and half, 2014/15, made on 3,000-unit Blu-ray issues.
Launched in 2010 by ex-Warner Bros. exec Brian Jamieson and Nick Redman, a longtime consultant for Fox, Twilight already releases Fox, Sony Columbia and MGM titles.
But “We want to have world cinema, not just American cinema,” Redman said at the Lumiere Festival’s Marche du Film Classique, which he attended with Jamieson to begin negotiating French titles.
In deals closed at the Classic Film Market, the Cineteca di Bolgna, which announced its entry into distribution in Italy at Lyon, acquired Italian rights to “Fantomas” from Gaumont, which has been restored by Gaumont Pathe Archives.
The Cineteca, which has also taken Italian homevid rights, will screen “Fantomas” at its Il Cinema Ritrovata classics film festival next June, then release theatrically.
Also closed at Lyon, France’s Tamasa Diffusion sold a package of five Jean Renoir movies to Spain’s Classic Films Distribution, titles to be disclosed shortly, said Tamasa’s international sales head Laurence Berbon.
Tamasa will also handle distribution in France plus world sales outside the U.S. to Studiocanal’s Ealing comedies collection, she added.
Reel Suspects has taken international on 1931’s “Les Amours de minuit,” co-directed by Marc Allegret, which screened restored at the Lumiere Festival.
With many companies broaching negotiations at Lyon, multiple more deals look set to follow in upcoming months.
The Grand Lyon Lumiere Festival’s first Marche du Film Classique delivered a bold confirmation that a heritage movie market exists, niche but burgeoning, led by Hollywood movies, France and cinema’s greats, and ranging from silent films right down to ‘90s revivals.
In France, 16 classic title releases in 2013 sold upwards of 10,000 tickets through September, per Emma Deleva, at Ecran Total.
“Digital cinema has opened up the market to heavily diversified programming. We are living a Golden Age of classic cinema today,” Park Circus Films’ Van Papadopoulos said in Lyon.
“There is a real international interest now in French classical restorations, not just in France,” added Frederic Gentet, at sales company Reel Suspects, citing its sale of a Carlotta Films-sourced and restored six-film Alain Robbe-Grillet Collection. Kino Lorber bought the U.S., BFI the U.K., Ripley, which carried out the restoration, Italy, Cameo Spain and Donau Film Germany.
Business cut other ways. In the classic films sector, most people know most people. But few people know everybody. And they haven’t always met.
“It was very useful, especially being German. I had the opportunity to meet everybody involved in the distribution of classics in France, which has a huge demand for classic films. As a first edition, it was almost perfect,” said Tilman Scheel, at Cologne-based Europe’s Finest, a pan-European-distributor of European films.
“It’s an ideal opportunity for us to meet those clients who we work with a lot,” said Jack Bell at Glasgow-based Park Circus, a worldwide sales and distribution company which represents 15,000 titles for theatrical exhibition, tapping into studio catalogues.
“People have been very happy to see their profession recognized, come here, meet, exchange ideas, see how the French are handling classic films business,” said Lumiere Festival director Thierry Fremaux.
Lyon, its Festival and Market, can serve to alert companies to the latent upside of titles languishing in their catalogue, he added.
Grosso modo, if the Classic Films Market is anything to go on, three successful business models are consolidating for the heritage movie biz. One, characteristically Hollywood-driven, is based by sales volumes.
Studio deep-catalog U.S. Blu-ray re-issues “is found money, as we say, and it builds up over a volume of titles,” said Twilight’s Redman.
Another model, typically French, melds public and private-sector coin. As Le Film Francais’ Jean-Philippe Guerand pointed out at a CFM debate, average distributor revenues on classic films range Euros 6,000-Euros8,000 ($8,200-$11,000), but a DCP costs a minimum $20,500 So public subsidy is needed to take up the slack and tide a sufficient number of titles into a profit that, however slim, keeps companies in business.
Then there’s vertical integration. The real money is in exhibition, said Jean-Max Causse at La Filmotheque, a classic films theater in Paris’ Quartier Latin, which has one of the highest, if not highest, occupancy rates of any cinema in France. But it also works as a distributor, in order to access the titles it really wants to screen and will do so with passion, added Francois Causse.
Moving into distribution, the Cineteca di Bologna saw its first release, “Dial M For Murder,” ranked 15th in Italian B.O. charts from a Sept. 23 release. In February, Park Circus has moved into direct distribution in France, headed by Van Papadopoulos.
On the eve of the Classic Films Market, Carlotta Films announced the creation of Carlotta Films US. There are few economies of scale in the case of Carlotta, said Carlotta’s Vincent Paul-Boncour, but there is a transfer of knowledge and passion.
But it may well be that that passion is growing with young audiences.
“In France, there’s an appetite among the young generation for the ‘60s. For them, it’s like a golden era, compared to the present,” said French producer Raphael Berdugo, at Cite-Films,
He added: “Young people also want to rediscover classic films on the big-screen because televisions aren’t buying them any more.”
“For us, there’s a sense of discovery. There’s a growing percentage of young film students, young people, who are getting into classic films,” Twilight’s Jamieson concurred, talking about the U.S.
Parallel to this, film authorities around the world are digitizing their classics. Fremaux pointed to the case of Ucrania and India. That opens up the possibility of more attendees next year, he argued, and for the CFM to build for the future.
Scott Foundas contributed to this report