Finance forum looks to new horizons

With many elements of the film biz in a state of flux, a broader understanding of developing markets and developing technologies within each of those markets could prove a boon for industryites in the future.

Speakers at the Intl. Film Finance Forum presented by Winston Baker in association with Variety in Cannes, scrutinized U.S. and worldwide sales and distribution strategies on Friday.

IM Global topper Stuart Ford cited markets on the rise such as China, Russia, Brazil and the Middle East — which have escalated thanks to broader micro-economic climates — as being spots to turn to for improved sales.

“These are territories where there is real upside for the first time, perhaps, and they are becoming increasingly important in the league table of territorial sales throughout the world,” said Ford.

The growth in these countries, Ford said, was a slight buffer to those that are still engaged in an economic struggle, such as Spain, Italy and, on a smaller scale, Portugal and Greece.

“DVD is a less tangible stream of revenue in those territoriesthan anywhere else in the world,” said Ford, adding that growth of VOD as an alternative had yet to emerge with any kind of significance outside of the U.K., while broadcasters in some European territories are buying fewer movies.

However, in the case of Italy and Spain, Ford seemed confident that growth would “match up again” at some point — “These things are cyclical,” he said.

Sanford Panitch, prexy of Fox Intl. Prods., noted that while opportunity in the Chinese market is ripe, partly thanks to the increased quota for Western pics allowed into the market, “the big challenge will be for Chinese films to match and echo the market share with so many Hollywood films coming in.”

Earlier this year, China upped the number of foreign pic imports from 20 per year to 34 and since then the rerelease of “Titanic” in 3D has enjoyed a juggernaut perf in the region, kickstarted by a $67 million six-day opening.

But, noted Andrew Cripps, prexy of Imax Emea, “it will be a long time before we see them (China) relax the quota even further.”

Whether video on demand would make up for the declining DVD revenue remains difficult to define globally.

“It depends on the territory — it’s a very country-by-country basis,” said Film District’s Adrian Alperovich. “Will the pot (of revenue) get smaller? That’s the Holy Grail question. I just don’t know.”

The Weinstein Company’s David Glasser added that some territories are content with pay TV and “aren’t going anywhere near” VOD, indicating that some markets will be more advanced than others in this area.

Ford added that while the theatrical experience continues to widen for tentpole movies, he envisages the arena for arthouse and foreign-language pics “becoming almost completely dominated by digital platforms over the next few years.”

Panitch believes this is positive for the independent production sector.

“If you look back over the last four years at the film markets and the types of films and number of films that have found distribution, it’s increasing very steadily,” he said. “Three or four years ago, when you had only traditional windowing available for movies and you had to have a theatrical window that had to be respected, there were movies that just were not getting picked up for distribution.”

Cinetic topper John Sloss, who moderated the panel, noted that “all sorts of creative windows are taking place, and it’s given new life to a lot of movies.”

During the previous panel examining international co-production, Goldcrest’s Robert Jolliffe, Noerr’s Hans Radau and Virgile Avocats’ Isabelle Vendeville examined the benefits and ways to co-produce a pic in Blighty, Germany and France respectively.

Joe Chianese of Entertainment Partners, who moderated the panel, noted that Canada was the “poster child” for co-production.

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