Locarno Powers Up Industry, Global Attendance

China, Latin America drive 9% delegate spike, VOD focuses much industry debate

Ricki and the flash Movie Review
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

LOCARNO – Digital; the world cinema revolution. Forging a new global movie landscape, these paradigms look set to pump up attendance and drive discussions at Switzerland’s 68th Locarno Fest’s Industry Days.

Three days out from the world premiere of Meryl Streep-starrer “Ricki and the Flash” (above) which opens the 68th Locarno Fest Wednesday night, 1,142 industry pros had signed up for this year’s Industry Day, which run Aug. 8-10. That’s 9% up on the last year’s final delegate total, and 26% higher 2013’s final count.

Put these attendance hikes down to several factors. Film fests’ functions have evolved dramatically this decade, in synch with industry needs. There are few better cases in point than Locarno. Nadia Dresti, Locarno’s head of international, originally launched its Industry Days in 2010 to allow producers and sales agents to screen all the films in Locarno’s major sections over just three days. Unspooling in the Swiss Alps, beside one of its southernmost lakes, enclosed by steep-back mountains, the Industry Days focus allowed professionals to go about their business without blowing a huge hole in the summer vacation.

An industry program to attract sales agents and distributors also lures producers and their films. Switzerland has the biggest national presence at 2015’s Industry Days. But France and Germany provide most of its sellers and buyers and, in 2015, a remarkable badge holder presence of 145 and 93 professionals respectively, remarkable for a high summer event. (Italy had 71 delegates by Sunday, the U.K. and U.S. both 30).

Since 2010, however, the film industry has faced the biggest revolutions – the dominion of digital distribution, the growth of local industries from Beijing to Bogota – since the birth of sound. Festivals have come under an imperious necessity to not only explain these changes to their industries but launch initiatives to accelerate their involvement in new market opportunities.

And nothing succeeds like success. Locarno’s critical mass of industry participants have persuaded ever more to attend.

A “big part” of 2015’s industry spike can be attributed to attendance from Latin America – 61, led by Brazil (18) and Mexico (14) – and China. That in turn reflects new industry programs, tapping into key growth regions for film around the world. At 62.4 million, for instance, 2014 admissions to Latin American films plummeted a hefty 16.9% vs. 2013, but is “way up” on tix sales before 2012, per the European Audiovisual Observatory’s “World Film Market Trends,” its annual report published at Cannes. At 477 movies last year – again using stats from Latin America’s eight highest-profile territories – production levels doubled 2006.

Backed by film agencies and export orgs – Cinema do Brasil, Colombia’s Proimagenes, Mexico’s Imcine and CinemaChile, one new initiative, “Match Me,” sees 14 filmmakers from Latin America’s new producer/director generation taking informal one-to-one meetings on new projects or productions. Some have already attracted deals.

An independent initiative, EAVE’s Puentes workshop, Europe-Latin America’s premier co-production training initiative, returns to Locarno after 2013 for the second leg of its 2014-15 program. Mixing new, up-and-coming and pace-making producers and directors from both sides of the Atlantic, who redefining co-production practices between Europe and Latin America. Fest-heads from Mar del Plata, Morelia, Guadalajara and Valdivia look set to attend. “The Latin American corner has got a bit bigger, which we love,” said Nadia Dresti.

The key growth market of course is China, whose gross box office rocketed from $1.5 billion in 2010 to $4.8 billion last year, nearly half that of the U.S ($10.4 billion) and nearly three times that France ($1.77 billion), in 2014 for the first year in modern times, the world’s third biggest theatrical market.

Connecting independent producers from China and Europe, another new and indie – program Bridging the Dragon will celebrate at Locarno the second session of its inaugural year, having already unspooled in Shanghai. Locarno’s 2015 six pix-in-post showcase First Look, its former Carte Blanche – focuses on Israel, which has doubled production levels in five years and in 2014 punched one of its best domestic market shares ever: 13%. Open Doors targets the Maghreb –Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya. In Morocco at least, with three movies topping 2014’s box office charts, local films punched a remarkable 29.2% share, after 40% in 2013.

Another new initiative at Locarno’s Industry Days, the pilot Alliance For Development connects potential co-production partners from France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. It rolls off established Italy-France and Italy-Germany co-development funds, as well as a third co-development incentive line to be launched this year between France and Germany.

For Dresti, there are obvious synergies between the programs, Puentes and Bridging the Dragon producers or sales agents may well want to meet Match Me! Participants, and vice versa, she added.

But China, Latin America, Israel and Morocco merely underscore a conundrum. Local industries are building in much of the world. Market share for European films in the E.U. leapt last year from 26.2% to 2014’s 33.4%, per the European Audiovisual Observatory, the highest level since it started to calculate European market share in 1996.

Yet – and it’s a big yet – the EAO calculates that U.S. subsidiaries’ revenues have risen from €31.8 billion in 2008 to €40.1 billion in 2012.

Vibrant local industries are not only squeezing international returns on U.S. indie fare – one problem faced by Ryan Kavanagh’s Relativity- but for arthouse releases as well. “Less and less films are seen in the traditional way. Everybody has to face this. If you produce films, you have to accept that many, maybe the majority, will only be seen abroad on VOD,” Dresti said.

VOD, indeed – its keys, opportunities and challenges – such as the potential danger of a Single Digital Market, according to Europe’s film industry – threads much, near most industry panel discussion at this year’s Locarno Fest.

Work tables at Sunday’s StepIn, the Industry Days’ now traditional think tank, will analyze differences in release strategies in the U.S. and Europe, and marketing films from their first fest screening to multi-platform release. Talks form a platform for exchange of ideas, Dresti said. A Saturday panel will address exactly that themes, focusing on Swiss films’ VOD distribution at home and abroad.

The debate comes as a specter is haunting Europe – the European Commission’s enthusiasm for cross-border access – a film/TV good available in one state should be available in all others – framed in its Digital Single Market plans, which will be analyzed at StepIn Also, some very early first statistics are in, which suggests the still nascent state of Europe’s film VOD biz.

According to an EY analysis for UniFrance, in 2013, French films’ domestic TVOD and SVOD revenues reached €61 million ($67.1 million), 5% of Gallic movies €1.23 billion box office gross in France. Digital sales count for under 5% of producers’ export revenues. As the European Audiovisual Observatory’s Andre Lange observes, far more statistics are needed on VOD for any informed debate to take place. Its industry also needs as a matter of urgency best practice cases, strategic analysis, think tank input. Taking place over three days in Summer, the Industry Days can at least point Europe’s industry n some of the right directions.



After a pilot edition, Locarno launches its first fully-fledged Industry Academy, a training facility for distrib, sales, exhib and program execs running through to Aug. 12. Speakers and tutors include slightly more seasoned execs from companies that have combined artistic risk, bringing on new talent and commercial success: Denmark’s TrustNordisk – think Lars von Trier – or France’s Memento Films, the sales company on two Cannes Palme d’Ors – “The Class” and “Winter Sleeo” and one of Locarno’s biggest hits of recent years, “Short Term 12.”

2 pm Edward Norton introduces “Fight Club.”

2 pm Open Doors Screenings kick off with Moroccan Leila Kilani’s 2011 “Sur la planche,” about Morocco in the throes of modernization. They run throughout the festival.

9:30 pm Opening chords: A world premiere, Jonathan Demme’s Meryl Streep starrer “Ricki and the Flash” opens the 68th Locarno Film Festival. Edward Norton receives a Locarno Excellence Award Moet & Chandon


EAVE’s Puentes Europe/Latin America Co-production Workshop culminates its 6th edition at Locarno over Aug.6-10. Some of its projects will most certainly screen at A-list fests from next year.

Sold by Pyramide Intl., Catherine Corsini’s “La Belle Saison” bows at Locarno, the second of nine Piazza Grande world premieres. Others include Lars Kraume’s Beta Cinema’s “The People vs. Fritz Bauer,” picked up for France and Switzerland, George Schwizgebel’s “Erlkonig,” one of two Swiss film in Piazza Grande with Lionel Baier’s “Vanity,” and “Floride,” from France’s Philippe le Guay, director of two accessible arthouse hits; “Service Entrance” and “Cycling with Moliere.”

Also global bows: “My Internship in Canada,” from Philippe Falardeau (“Monsieur Lazhar”), a Films Distribution title, Sergio Machado’s favela music class drama “Heliopolis,” sold by Films Boutique, Austrian Elizabeth Sharang’s serial killer portrait “Jack” and, made entirely using 3D models, “The Final Passage,” an uninterrupted journey through the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave.


9:30 pm Leopard Club Award given to Andy Garcia in a Piazza Grande ceremony


Beginning of Locarno’s three Industry Days, running Aug. 8-10. Other novelties include an Alliance for Development

10:30-12:30 am Classic & Alternative Distribution, a masterclass from Sarah Calderon, organized with Puentes. Scuola Universitaria Professionale (SUPSI)

11: 30 Kudos ceremony for the 8th Doc Alliance Selection Award, taking place for the first time in Locarno, with seven docu features in the running. Hotel Belvedere

1:30 pm Conversation with Andy Garcia, hosted by Variety’s Peter Debruge

2:30 -4:30 pm A double Step In Ch bill First, A panel discussion on the visibility of Swiss films on Swiss and international VOD platforms, in partnership with Festival Tous Ecrans (FTE) and Swiss Films. Session includes a case study of Spain’s VOD platform Filmin.

4:30-6:30 pm    And then a session featuring Birdley VR project. Michel Zai, CEO of Somniac,s will present this Swiss milestone

6:30 -8 pm Industry and Open Doors Happy Hour, co-hosted by the SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Europa Distribution

9:30 Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck” plays Locarno’s Piazza Grande with lead Amy Schumer, on fire after its $81 million cume, and counting, and co-star Bill Hader in attendance.


10 am-4:30 pm Locarno’s Industry Days full StepIn, its annual think-tank, takes several bulls by the horns, addressing the distribution of arthouse films in Europe and beyond in an Internet age. Morning mini-workshops segue after a networking lunch to an open discussion.

11:o0 am Conversation with Catherine Corsini, Cecile de France, Philippe le Guay

6:30pm-8 pm Second Industry and Open Doors Happy Hour, co-hosted by the SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and EAVE


2:30 – 5:30 pm Women in Industry: Spotlight on Success Stories   On the panel agenda: Is funding women’s projects well worth the money Do films made by women tell new stories, or do they tell the same stories in a new way? What was the path to success from a personal perspective?

6:30pm-8 pm First Look Award ceremony brings down the curtain on Locarno’s Industry Days. Announcement made at the Industry and Open Doors Happy Hour, co-hosted by the SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and ACE.

11 pm Ticino Film Commission party, celebrating filmmaking in southern Switzerland

8 pm Screening of “Heaven’s Gate” as Michael Cimino receives an Honorary Golden Leopard


12 pm Open Doors Awards ceremony

2:30 pm -4 pm Swiss Film Talk Variety’s Peter Debruge, The Hollywood Reporter’s Boyd van Hoeij and Indiewire’s Anne Thompson discuss “Wonderland,” “Vanity,” “The Day the Sun Fell” and “Above and Below.”

9 pm Presentation of Open Doors with Anurag Kashyap’s “Bombay Velvet” playing Locarno’s Piazza Grande


9 pm Ticino Cinema Award presented to actor Teco Celio (“Three Colors: Red”)


9:30 pm Walter Murch receives a Locarno Vision Award Nescens


4:15 pm Walter Murch master-class


10:30 am Locarno Fest director Carlo Chatrian talks to Marco Bellocchio , winner of a Moet & Chandon Excellence Award.

5 pm Independent Juries Awards Ceremony, featuring the Ecumenical Prize, Europa Cinemas Label, FICC/IFFS Prize, Junior Jury Awards, Semaine de la Critique kudos, and Pardi di domani parallel awards

9 pm  178 features and 87 shorts later, the Locarno Officila Awards Ceremony, followed by “The Violin Teacher,” from Brazil’s Sergio Machado.