SPI tries multi-territory rollouts

First pic to be tested is Polish success 'Edi'

PRAGUE — Europeans who love to bemoan the large territorial marketing muscle of U.S. distribbers should look at an experiment under way in four new EU states. Distribber SPI, which operates in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, has begun cross-territory distribution in tandem with lining up its initial co-production credits.

First local pic to benefit from the initiative is Polish critical success “Edi,” which has opened in Slovakia and the Czech Republic before going on to Hungary.

“We’re working first as a co-producer then with a guaranteed four-country distribution,” Ivan Hronec, general manager of SPI for Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, told Daily Variety.

SPI has already established itself as a success on the lively independent distribution scene, but company was looking for a way to tap into the booming local market for films while expanding potential box office draw. SPI model has the distributor taking on a third of the production risk, partnered with local TV stations and the local production company.

Realizing that preeming a film in the competitive markets isn’t enough to guarantee audiences, SPI has created its own “traveling festival,” Filmostrada, which packages a half-dozen films into one event involving a single poster, campaign and image, that moves across the territory. The campaign began last year in Poland, and was unveiled this spring in the Czech Republic. It moves on to Slovakia in the fall, hitting Hungary by the end of the year.

“Our goal is to be firmly associated with a production, not just the distributor,” Hronec said. “The next step is to be the initiator of the production. We’re already taking that step in Poland. In 2005, we will become the executive producers.