Distribution reports: United Kingdom

Pathe retrains focus on production

The big shift in Blighty has been Pathe’s decision to hand over its distribution operations in the U.K. and Ireland to Warner Bros. and concentrate instead on its English-language productions. The move means that Pathe will no longer acquire third-party films for distribution in the territory, although it will continue to handle international sales for non-Pathe pics through its sales arm.

And while Pathe will retain the services of U.K. managing director John Fletcher and continue to devise the marketing strategies for its pics as well as put up the coin for their P&A spend, the nuts and bolts of booking and invoicing theaters will now be the responsibility of Warner Bros.

While some Brits are lamenting the exit of a major buyer from the challenged market, others are lauding Pathe’s new direction as a potential financing and producing partner outside the studio system.

“As a producer, Vertigo has had a fantastic partnership with Pathe, but as a distributor it means that we now have one less competitor when we’re trying to acquire films,” says Rupert Preston, exec producer at U.K.-based Vertigo Films, which both produces and distributes pics.

Pathe’s decision to focus on production rather than distribution is a testament to how challenging the indie market is in the U.K., even for a company that enjoyed the boffo box office success of “Slumdog Millionaire.”

While the Green brothers’ Entertainment Film Distributors continues to rule the indie roost, other distribs are looking for alternative sources of revenue. Some, such as Optimum Releasing, are ramping up their own production activities as a way to ensure a bigger market share of an already overcrowded territory.

“The business model really wasn’t working in terms of indie distribution,” says Pathe U.K.’s managing director, Cameron McCracken. “We are now in the unchartered waters of the digital age, a period of flux for traditional media with collapsing windows and new exploitation platforms.”

CINEMA STATS:

Total 2008 box office: $1.4 billion

Total 2008 releases: 531

Biggest indie hit: “Sex and the City” ($38.8 million)

Local breakout for 2009: “The Descent 2”

PICKUPS:

  • “Black Dynamite” (Icon)

  • “I Love You Phillip Morris” (E1 Films)

  • “The Infidel” (Revolver)

  • “In the Loop” (Optimum Releasing)

  • “Men Who Stare at Goats” (Momentum)

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