BERLIN — Germany’s distribution market remains fluid three years after the Neuer Markt crash but local distribs such as Constantin and Tobis have powered on, taking up some of their fallen rivals’ slack.
Constantin has benefited from its distribution pact with leading German web RTL, while Tobis has gone against the grain and continued to pre-buy carefully selected titles, which last year included Oscar winners “The Pianist” and “Talk to Her.”
On average, local distribs are paying 9% of the budget for films in what is still very much a buyer’s market.
“We are very conservative,” says Tobis topper Kilian Rebentrost. “Producers have to be more open, more transparent with us — that’s a key element in our contracts. We have always been careful with our money, even when we were part of StudioCanal, unlike many of the public companies that behaved as if they were spending other people’s money.”
Rebentrost says the strict game rules have kept Tobis from the fate of some former rivals whose spending habits ultimately drove them into the ground.
The disintegration of Kinowelt and Helkon led to the formations of smaller operators such as Ottfilm and Solo Film, which also have helped plug some of the holes in the market.
Sales to broadcasters have dropped by as much as 50% in some cases. The squeeze is mainly due to the collapse of Kirch Media, which has disrupted acquisitions activity at ProSiebenSat.1. Cheap reality programming also has been to blame, stealing former film slots. And concerted efforts by pay TV service Premiere to turn a profit has forced prices downward.
As for the DVD/vid market, it’s still dominated by the majors. But one feisty local distrib giving them a run for their money is RTL Group’s Universum Film (formerly known as BMG Video). Thanks mostly to local hit comedy “Manitou’s Shoe,” Universum nabbed a 9.5% DVD market share for first quarter 2003 — just a hair behind Buena Vista and way ahead of Paramount.
The bankruptcy and resurrection of Kinowelt (a big DVD/video distrib at one time) and the financial difficulties of fellow home entertainment distrib VCL Communications has opened up some opportunities for a few smaller players, such as Sunfilm Entertainment, whose current releases include French title “Vidocq” and Japanese pic “Ring 2.”