Red Bull, San Seb Unleash Savage

Action sports section bows this September

MADRID — Dietrich Mateschitz, the billionaire owner of Austrian energy drinks company Red Bull, has said that he’d like to spend two days a week thinking up wacky ideas to promote his company’s energy drink.

One Red Bull ruse was sponsoring fellow Austrian Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking skydive last October.

On Monday, however, Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival announced a new joint initiative with Red Bull Media House that doesn’t look heart-in-mouth crazy at all: Savage Cinema, a new fully-fledged section at San Sebastian, which will showcase the latest and best action sports and adventure movies.

This is the first time that a major festival has inaugurated an extreme sports section, said Sophokles Tasioulis, Red Bull Media House head of cinema and international theatrical sales.

For the film biz, Savage Cinema also has wider implications. Red Bull Media House and San Sebastian both crave a cherished but elusive demo: Late-teen or early ’20s males.

Both also want to broaden their demos. For San Sebastian, Savage Cinema reps a targeted generational makeover.

“The idea is to attract to theaters a young public who’d normally watch these films on their iPhone,” San Sebastian director Jose Luis Rebordinos told Variety.

“We can’t grow our core audience much more. We have to attract new audiences, new generations in these tough times when the young aren’t going to cinemas so much (in Spain).”

For Red Bull, Savage Cinema marks another step in its drive to extend its reach beyond die-hard extreme sports fans to the non-endorphin junkies.

Kicking in at San Sebastian’s 61st edition this September, Savage Cinema will feature five to six movies, Rebordinos said. Two will play the big-screen Anoeta Velodrome; all will screen at theaters across the city, like other festival titles, he added.

For San Sebastian, the highest-profile fest in the Spanish-speaking world, satisfying local audiences is more than a job well done.

Like most fests around the world, the lion’s share of its funding comes from local public authorities: the Basque regional government, the Diputacion Foral de Guipuzkoa and the San Sebastian Town Hall. As austerity measures bite into state budgets across Europe, festivals need to demonstrate they serve a broad range of tax-payers. A seaside resort in the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastian already has a big local surfing community. Australia’s Quiksilver, one of the world’s biggest surfwear manufacturers, has offices 12 miles up the road.

Red Bull already organizes — never just sponsors — 1,500 events a year. It supports 600 athletes, per Tasioulis.

But Red Bull Media House craves wider demos.

“Savage Cinema’s goal is three-fold for Red Bull Media House,” Tasioulis said: “To bring extreme sports movies to broader audiences than just extreme sports festivals, showing they’re a film genre that is as creative as other film genres; to bring the films’ directors into contact with the cinema community; and to demonstrate to distributors there’s an audience out there.”

Since its 2007 launch, as part of Red Bull’s diversification from its energy drink core biz, Red Bull Media House has moved into producing and selling internationally ever more ambitious movies, which have begun to play cinemas, such as Curt Morgan’s daredevil snowboarding movie “The Art of Flight 3D” and “Storm Surfers 3D,” from Christopher Nelius and Justin McMillan.

“Flight” opened theatrically in Germany and Austria, “Surfers” in Germany and, this September, in Spain.

Both screened in the so-called Big Friday at last year’s San Sebastian, a double-bill dry run for this year’s full sidebar.
Big Friday sold out its over-2,000 tickets in a couple of hours, Rebordinos said.

In September, Red Bull will also launch “Heroes By Nature,” a once-monthly action sports cinema event at select theaters across Europe, mixing movie premieres and the web-conference presence of their stars.

Red Bull and San Sebastian’s ambitions for action sports’ films legitimacy and business may seem ambitious.

But, Tasioulis points out, San Sebastian was the first festival to embrace big natural history docus, such as “Deep Blue” in 2003, which Tasioulis produced. Before joining Red Bull, he also produced “Earth,” which grossed $127 million worldwide.

“We want to demonstrate extreme sports movies are legitimate films in their own right, comparable to other media product, with an additional marketing power and a built-in fan base, which everybody is looking for in cinema,” Tasioulis said.

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