Lumière Festival’s Classic Film Market Builds on Success

Attendance up 9%, company presence grows 25%, more round tables, more exhibition space

Lumière Festival’s Classic Film Market Builds on Success
Copyright: Institut Lumière / Loïc Benoit

LYON – In 2014, the Lumière’s Festival’s Village, – a picturesque complex containing the Institut Lumière, a modern cinema, grassland, a book/DVD fair – may begin to look like a small town.

Put that down in part to the Festival pioneering Marché du Film Classique (MFC), its –and the world’s – first market dedicated to the business and best practice of heritage film. 9% up in total participants, 25% up in company presence, the 2nd Lumiere Fest Classic Film Market confirms its own consolidation. It also underscores across-the-board growth in the sector, biz trends, and also, and partly because of ramp-up, its growing challenges.

“The Classic Film Market’s inaugural edition aimed to confirm that we could bring the sectors players together in one place, in a festival context, to do business and network,” said the MFC’s Gerald Duchaussoy, its project manager with Lea Welcman.

“Now we aim to build on that base. We would like to welcome professionals from all over the world, grow as a global market, taking in national cinemas whose classics currently may have been forgotten, helping them to circulate around the world.”

For the 2nd MFC, 101 companies will attend from 16 countries, vs, 81 and 13 in 2013, said MFC’s Welcman. Housed in a building across the street from the Lumiere Village, the MFC has enlarged its exhibition space by an extra 35 sq. meters to accommodate 13 exhibitors, and added extra rooms.

Playing at home, and hosting one of the world’s most vibrant classic film markets, France dominates, led by Pathe and Gaumont, both with massive historical libraries and large restoration plans. Foreign companies account for some 25% of attendance. Representing Hollywood studios’ libraries, Park Circus and Hollywood Classics will be in Lyon, as will New York’s Cohen Media Group, repping the 700-plus-title Cohen Film Collection. Further attendees are attendees TCM Cinema, U.S.-France-based Carlotta and Canada’s Elephant.

Participants range far and wide, however, taking in for the first time India’s Ultra Distributors and South Africa’s Gravel Road Ent.

Duchaussoy commented: “We were really excited at companies from India and South Africa getting in contact with us. We talk all the time, for example, about Bollywood, but we need to know if there are possibilities for them to show their classics in theaters, maybe on VOD, what’s the situation of their DVD markets,” Duchaussoy added.

Film processing cos Éclair and Technicolor attended 2013’s MFC. The presence of more tech companies – Filmor Num and Mikros Image, for example – plus transportation outfits – is one main attendance driver, per Duchaussoy.

Distributor ranks have also swelled, thanks to new participants such as Malavida and MC Distribution. In all, maybe 45% of participants are first-time attendees, Welcman said.

That in turn reflects across-the-board growth in the classics biz at large, though from a still niche base.

“The whole classic films landscape has really changed dramatically in the last few years, with VOD and SVOD,” said Liz Mackiewicz at the Cohen Media Group, who sells the 700-title Cohen Film Collection, focusing on Western Europe but expanding to other territories.

Because of restoration, many of these films will now be more widely seen in cinemas as well as on VOD platforms. Hitchcock’s “Jamaica Inn,” beautifully restored in 4K, has already premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year and is also at Lyon’s Festival Lumière, emphasizing the relevance of these festivals reaching a wider younger audience.

“People are very, very curious and this trend gets stronger and stronger over the years,” said Jean Olle Laprune at French VOD film service FilmoTV, a Wild Bunch subsidiary.

There are moves in the theatrical market as well. In France, in a milestone event, Pathe will open Paris’ five-screen Cinéma Les Fauvettes, dedicated totally to classic cinema, in spring 2015.

Focusing its Distributors’ Day, held this year just two blocks from the market – where nine companies will talk an industry audience through their 2014-14 slates – on movies with the potential for cinema release, the MCF has begun to court other heritage film exhibitors, in a first-phase from France.

One essential thing to remember is that the classic films business is still a small market, said Carlotta Films’ Vincent Paul-Boncour.

That said, “All over the world, there is more and more interest in revivals and re-issues in general.”

One driver is the ongoing restoration of classic titles. But as more or more titles come on to the market, this creates its own challenges.

As Carlotta Films’ Paul-Boncour points out, there are now two-to-three-to-four classic film releases in France every week.

So marketing is crucial. Carlotta is creating a dedicated coffee book publishing operation to accompany key releases, the first book being on Orson Welles and Shakespeare, timed to coincide with the DVD/Blu-ray releases by the end of this year of Welles’ “Othello” and “Macbeth.” “The idea is to create something bigger, to have a film in theaters, on DVD/Blu-ray and a book as well,” commented Paul-Boncour.

“It’s not enough to propose a movie. You have to introduce it. You have to make some editorial,” said FilmoTV’s Olle Laprune.

At the Cohen Media Group, Liz Mackiewicz said it was highly useful to “think creatively, out of the box – tying in a title with a programming event such as an anniversary. Thrillers, including film noir, such as Joan Crawford starrer ‘Sudden Fear,’ always work. But buyers want to surround a classics title with an event.”

As the classic film market grows, there seem not less but more to talk about. The MFC’s number of round tables and symposiums has doubled to take in a more general Thursday morning session, Restoring, Managing and Exploiting a Catalog of Classics and a targeted full-afternoon focus on Producing, Directing, Broadcasting Documentaries in Cinema.

“This brings up questions on not only production and distribution, but also the legal issue of how to access rights to archive material, and make a film on film,” Welcman observed.

“The Classic Film market should be a place for meeting and business but also debate, an interchange of ideas, about the future of classic films and how to make things go forward,” she added.