Q&A: Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval Unveils Pan-European Digital Distribution Company

PARIS: Building on its experiment with Abel Ferrara’s “Welcome to New York,” Wild Bunch is launching a pan-European digital distribution company.

Following the footsteps of  TWC/Radius, A24 or IFC Films in the U.S., the Paris-based studio will acquire fresh movies for digital distribution in key European markets where it’s already established: In France (with Wild Bunch and Wild Side) Germany (with Wild Bunch Germany and Senator), in Italy (with BIM), in Spain (with Vertigo). In the U.K., Wild Bunch inked a pact with Altitude.

Unveiled less than two months following the roll-out of Netflix across continental Europe, Wild Bunch’s digital company also plans on being involved in financing and co-producing movies with U.S. partners.

Netflix sparked concerns in France last week when it nabbed exclusive rights to “St.Vincent” and “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” with Jessica Chastain for Gaul, therefore bypassing the sacrosanct theatrical release. Acquiring fresh titles for digital distribution will allow Wild Bunch, like Netflix, to not be subjected to France’s strict windows’ schedule — set at four to six months after the theatrical bow for pay VOD and 36 months for SVOD.

Eli Roth’s “The Green Inferno” kicks off the digital distribution slate. Wild Bunch and Wild Side will be looking for four or five more titles next week at the AFM.

Maraval, who will be on hand at the AFM to spearhead acquisitions with execs Jerome Rougier, Agnes Mentre and Laurent Campagne, spoke to Variety about the digital company’s mandate and goals.

What’s the idea behind this new company?

Vincent Maraval: We’re looking to follow the model of Radius, by making deals with digital platforms in key European markets, delivering innovative marketing campaigns and elaborating the release strategy for each movie.

We’ll be releasing movies day and date wherever we can, including in Italy, Spain and the U.K..

We’re not positioning ourselves as aggregators because we’ll mostly be acquiring movies for ourselves, but we’re nonetheless open to pick up movies for independent distributors.  We’re already in touch with a couple distributors in France.

What prompted you to create this new digital distribution venture now? 

We achieved some groundbreaking work with “Welcome to New York,” negotiating with every single digital service in France and abroad and that work will serve as a basis for upcoming deals. We’re going to leverage our expertise in marketing and dealmaking to give the movies we acquire the best possible exposure.

But do you think there is money to be made with digital distribution in Europe and especially in France where day-and-dating is still forbidden?

Variety recently unveiled a study showing that within the next five to ten years, Hollywood studios will earn more revenues with VOD and SVOD than TV sales; and we believe that even in France where the legal framework still lags behind,  revenues from digital distribution will eventually make up for declining TV sales and will fill the void left by Canal Plus which has reduced its acquisitions of U.S. indie movies.

In the U.S., digital players have rescued independent films by providing them with a viable alternative when traditional specialty distributors like Picturehouse and Paramount Classics vanished. And in a way, we strive to play a similar role in Europe, where independent distributors are increasingly struggling to acquire U.S. movies, have more and more difficulty selling them to traditional Pay TV channels and are faced with skyrocketing P&A costs and faster-than-ever turnover rate in theaters.

Why do you consider your experiment with “Welcome to New York” successful?  

We consider “Welcome to New York” a success because it generated a little under 200,000 sales, which represents approximately the revenues we would have made 400,000 theatrical admissions. And the key is that getting this movie out cost us half the P&A we would have spent if we had released the film in theaters.

On most movies we’ll pick up, our break-even point will range from 50,000 to 10,000 sales; and we’ll aim to spend between 150,000 Euros to 200,000 Euros in P&A for each movie.

What kind of movies are you looking to acquire for digital distribution?

As underscored by the strong performance of “Snowpiercer” in the U.S. (where Radius distributed), the best movies to experiment with digital distribution are the ones you can build an event around, whether they’re genre, cast-driven movies or films or documentaries that have won prizes at major festivals and have been well-covered by the press.

We’re definitely interested in using festivals like Sundance, Berlin or Deauville as launchpads to release movies simultaneously on digital platforms as we did with Abel Ferrara’s “Welcome to New York” during Cannes Film Festival.








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