Lumiere Fest: DVD Sales Remain Core Business of France’s Classic Films Distributor Malavida

Distribbery’s co-managers offer their take on the business

Malavida was founded in 2004 by current managers Anne-Laure Brénéol (acquisitions/theatrical) and Lionel Ithurralde (administration/DVD). It began primarily as a DVD publisher and DVD distributor, and since 2010, has increasingly focused on theatrical releases. It currently has a collection of 170 films collection that has been built up at the pace of 15 titles per year.

Brénéol began as a film director of short films and feature documentaries, complemented by work with theatrical and DVD distribution companies. Ithurralde has worked primarily for DVD publishers, and created France’s first independent DVD collection at the start of the Gallic home video market.

Since 2010, they have increasingly focused on theatrical releases of their classic titles in France, which they consider to be a tough market due to high P&A costs and the narrow window available for Eastern and Northern European titles.

One of their main 2015 releases is Bo Widerberg’s “Joe Hill” that screened this year at Cannes, in the Cinema de la Plage sidebar, and is now screening at this week’s Lumière Film Festival in Lyon. They have also diversified into television programming, including classic Czech children’s series “Ferda the Ant” by Hermina Tyrlova. Their upcoming titles include Gallic releases of films by the late Derek Jarman.

While at the Lumière Fest, they answered an in-depth Q&A about how they view the classic film business.

How did you decide to focus on classic films, and why Eastern Europe and Northern Europe?

We discovered in 2005 that many of the classic Polish titles from the 1960s that we loved (such as the Polish film “The Saragossa Manuscript”) had never been exhibited in France. We therefore started a collection of Polish films that turned out to be a major audience and critical success in France. We then did the same with 1960s New Wave films from Czechoslovakia, by directors such as Menzel, Forman, Chytilova, which was also a big hit. Then we extended to New Wave films from throughout Europe, with many incredible and unique gems, in terms of images and scripts, that were relatively unknown in France.

From 2010 onwards, we realized that theatrical releases of classic titles was essential and necessary to develop our business and drum up greater media interest and enlarge our audience…

Is the competition tough in this segment?

In this segment – films from Eastern and Northern Europe from the 1950s to the early 1970s – for many years we were almost the only distributors in France. It’s been a long-term work to try to rediscover and build popularity for directors and films that were great successes in the 1960s, but are completely forgotten today.

How do you view the classic films market overall, with new complexes being set up in France and other countries?

The current situation is ambiguous. The market seems more important, but in fact, the new screens dedicated to classic films are primarily showing French films, American classics and very famous films only. This means that there’s less place for very good European films with a narrower audience potential.

What are the main revenue drivers for classic films – theatrical, DVD, VOD. pay TV and other TV etc?

DVD, for us in any case, is still the main revenue at the moment, as our catalogue is unique in the world. For example, films by Wojciech Jerzy Has or Bo Widerberg are not available in their own countries!

You publish DVD editions, is this still a viable market for classic films?

YES. Even if France’s DVD market is crashing, 15 % down this year, it still remains our main market. The VOD market is really very little for us, 1% of our total DVD sales, and theatrical release requires major promotional costs, and audiences always flock to U.S., French, Japanese and Italian classic titles, and sorry for anyone we’ve forgotten.

How important is the Lumiere Festival for your business?

Firstly it’s a big honor to be here, as it was to show Bo Widerberg’s “Joe Hill” on the beach in the Cannes Classics selection this year, considering the high quality of films selected. Lumière is a very special festival, very lively, happy, with a lots of opportunities to meet people from different horizons, professionals or film lovers, all of whom are passionate about classic films. We live this festival. Two important things: To have a film selected here is a great way to communicate in one of France’s most important festivals and focus attention on our films.

The Classic Film Market is a way to meet and discuss with professionals from all over the world, and to see some conferences on key current issues (e.g. how to restore films, how to find rights holders). It’s also an interesting way to communicate about our specific way of working and our line-up. This is the third edition, which is now an essential moment for us, very precious.

How did you decide to release the film, “Joe Hill”?

We have worked on Bo Widerberg’s films over the past seven years. It’s a very long-term work – we’ve been dreaming of theatrically distributing Widerberg’s films, including “Joe Hill,” for more than 15 years now…. The film has been beautifully restored by the Swedish Film institute, but we found the perfect rights-holder and material in the United States after many years of searching and lots of headaches!. We have also worked closely with the Widerberg family for many years now.

Yes, France is the film’s only planned theatrical release at the moment, after this year’s projection at Cannes (at Cinema de la Plage) and now at the Lumière Fest. Let’s hope it goes on!

Tell us more about your children’s programming?

We mainly release films made for children – shorts and feature films – rather than TV shows. “Ferda the Ant” is a TV series, but it’s an exception, because there’s a gap of quality between TV series and cinema. In the 1960s, Eastern Europe, on a par with the U.S, was perhaps the best place to find very good programs for children. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia were all countries where the state put a lot of money into children’s programs, and the cinema schools (Lodz, FAMU) and studios were the best in the world for this kind of cinema.

Yes, it’s already a market and will be more and more. Parents are looking for a different kind of cinema for their children. We love Pixar’s films, but it would be a pity if children could only see American films …

For example Pixar’s John Lasseter saw some of the films we’re now distributing, and it’s important for children to see different way of seeing the world. The key fact remains, films made during the 1960s were incredibly good, including for kids…

It requires large and long work to find and select these programs, to restore them and to show them to audience..

But we love it !

Do you have any other breaking news?

 Not at the moment, but please come back to us next year, at Cannes, for example! Nonetheless, we can announce Derek Jarman’s incredible movies will be coming soon, of which we’re so proud!!  And also more classic titles from Widerberg and Uri Zohar – another crazy adventure !!!

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