LYON – QED: In June, Lyon’s Institut Lumiere, run by Bertrand Tavernier and Thierry Fremaux, announced that the 5th Lumiere Festival would also host a first-ever Marche du Film Clasique, a Classic Films Market.
Launched in 2009, the Festival itself was a bold leap in the dark, an attempt to prove that in a festival context there is an audience for classic films. Attendance last year ran at about 80,000.
Unspooling Wednesday through Friday, the MFC now aims to prove there is a heritage films market at large. Attendance figures were tracking late Tuesday at 153 industry professionals. Their mere presence in Lyon in itself suggests some sort of industry and market, however embryonic or nascent, for classic films, plus a large curiosity about what that market could be.
Over half MFC’s participants have not attended the Lumiere Festival before. 80% of companies are French, underscoring not only the Market’s home territory pulling power but the relative strength of the French classic movies market, which can see three-to-four reissues in just one week.
The idea of organizing a classic mart hasn’t been pulled out of hat. According to Tavernier and Fremaux, “Over the years, the idea of organizing a dedicated space and time to professional exchange at the same time as the Festival event has been validated by the ever-growing interest of the economic players in classic cinema.”
Plans were reinforced by digital change driving an ever more dynamic market, they added.
Digital – the digitization of films and theater, plus VOD – indeed ooks like a major talking point at the MFC.
“There is definitely a market for classics and it’s on the upswing. One of it big drivers is digitization. It’s allowing us to work within an economical framework which wasn’t feasible with 35 mm,” said Ariane Toscan du Plantier, at Gaumont.
A 12-speaker mega-panel on A New Economy For Classic Cinema, which takes place Wednesday in Lyon, will attempt to lay out the major contours, scale, opportunities and challenges of the classic films sector.
The Cannes Film Market’s exec director Jerome Paillard will introduce discussions with a short history of film markets.
Among U.S. panelists, Grover Crisp, EVP of asset management, film restoration and digital mastering at Sony Pictures Entertainment, will deliver a master-class on preservation, restoration and re-commercialization; Rialto Film/Film Forum’s Bruce Goldstein will talk about the distribution and exhibition of classic films in New York.
Carlotta Films’ Vincent Paul-Boncour will analyze new issues for theatrical distribution and exhibition, Italy’s Bologna Cinemathecque Gian Luca Farinelli not only restoration but subsequent distribution. Repping two major pay TV bouquets in France, Cine Plus Classic’s Bruno Deloye and OCS’ Guillaume Jouhet will analyze TV appetite for film classics, execs from DVD Classik, Mubi and FilmoTV VOD distribution.
Attendees at Lyon run a wide gamut, from theatrical, DVD and VOD distributors to international sales agents, TV and film archive execs and technical industry professionals.
The MFC’s agenda is equally broad, half way between mart and meet. Its first edition will “lay the foundations for multiple development opportunities, supporting the economic life of classics cinema,” per Tavernier and Fremaux.
Some basic questions confronting European’s classics industry remain simple, such as chain of title.
“Two companies offer Hollywood classics in Europe: Park Circus and Hollywood Classics. With European films, we’re not even close to that. We have a great many different rights holders, It’s always an issue to find out who holds the rights to which films for which territory,” said Tilman
Scheel at Europe’s Finest, which distributes the continent’s classics to theaters in Europe.
So the MFC, which is “really a novelty,” can be “very useful,” helping him chase down rights.
The MFC’s other centerpiece, a Distributors Day, sees 11 companies presenting, with extracts, new old or older movies, which they are bringing onto the market. Distributors at the Day include some of the most important or biggest players in the classics films business outside the U.S.: Shochiku from Japan and France’s Gaumont, Wild Side, Carlotta Films and TF1 DA, and Germany’s Europe’s Finest.
Also talking up their line-ups are Twilight Time from the U.S. and France’s Tamasa Distribution, Cine Sorbone, L’Agence du Court Metrage, Le Cinemathecque Francaise, Reel Suspects and Sidonis.
What is undoubted is the passion of players and enthusiasts for classic films, which reaches fanboy levels.
One section at this year’s Lumiere Festival is A Personal Jorney Through Cinema by Quentin Tarantino. The most recent of its titles bowed in 1996.
A clip was screened at the Lumiere Festival’s opening gala Monday night showing a young Tarantino talking up the films of Jean-Pierre Melville to an incredulous interviewer, explaining how he tried to take elements from such films and make modern movies.
“It’s just amazing the influence that French classics have had on such world-acclaimed directors like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Alexander Payne. They have truly created a halo effect on our film legacy,” said Gaumont’s Toscan du Plantier.
The Lumiere Festival has already had knock on effects on the classic films business in France.
Last year at Lyon, TF 1 screened “The Man From Rio” with Jean-Paul Belmondo, in the run-up to its Blu-ray re-release “We sold 10,000 units, which – for a 1960’s film — is pretty satisfying,” said Nils Hoffet, SVP of operations and production supervisor at TF1 D.A./MyTF1, the homevid branch of top Gallic commercial net TF1.
It now remains for the inaugural MFC to establish just how large the classic film market might actually be.