The 4th edition of Festival Lumière, which harbors the first and only classic film market in the world, included a round-table on “Heritage films: promotion, marketing, communication – what means, what challenges?” moderated by film executive and journalist, Anthony Bobeau.

The round-table encompassed various topics, including “Distribution of Heritage Films,” with Malavida’s Anne-Laure Brénéol and MK2 Films’ Victoire Thévenin; “Communication, Media Relations and Print Press,” with Gaumont’s Ariane Toscan du Plantier and Studio Ciné Live’s Thomas Baurez.

Anthony Bobeau started by emphasizing the growth of classic films in the European market, citing the example of France, where 126 classic films were released in 2014, 140 films in 2015 and forecast to attain a record level in 2016.

He added that whereas in the 1980s, certain classic films could secure 100,000 or 150,000 spectators in France, the classic film market is now smaller but can still generate significant admissions. 

In 2015 the biggest re-release of a classic film in France was Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” with 26,000 admissions, followed by William Friedkin’s “Sorcerer” with 17,000 admissions and Carol Reed’s “The Third Man” with 15,000 admissions. All three films had extensive marketing campaigns.

Malavida’s Brénéol and MK2 Films’ Thévenin spoke about their recent successful re-releases – Bo Widerberg’s “Joe Hill” (15,000 admissions) and Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “The Decalogue,” respectively.

Brénéol said that Widerberg is an important auteur, but his film, “Joe Hill” had been more or less forgotten and had never previously been distributed theatrically in France.

The project required a complex process of restoration and above all resolving the complex web of film rights. The Swedish Cinematheque supported the process, and the film was screened in Cannes in 2015.

Brénéol explained that it’s very important to have a dedicated press attaché and develop a targeted media campaign, including press screenings and careful presence in film festivals, since widespread use of advertising is not commercially viable.

The posters are carefully designed, to give a modern appearance to each classic film released. Each release is also accompanied by a pedagogical dossier aimed at film buffs, film students and in many cases schoolchildren.

One of the areas where Malavida has been able to build a new audience is classic films for children. She cited the example of recent re-releases of Czech and Polish animation shorts –  “Ferdy the Ant” and “MinoPolska 2” and the forthcoming December release of “Alice Comedies,” featuring the first films directed by Walt Disney between 1924-26, restored by Malavida, including an original soundtrack, including electric guitar.

For releasing films theatrically, there are screens dedicated to classic films in Paris. Outside Paris, Malavida has developed growing relationship with cinemas, in particular those dedicated to arthouse films.

When possible Malavida invites the respective directors and have received support by other directors, such as Olivier Assayas, a great fan of Widerberg, who presented several screenings of “Joe Hill.” Christophe Honoré will accompany the release of Ivan Passer’s “Intimate Lighting.”

Thévenin explained that whereas MK2 Films still has screens in Paris, it is no longer directly involved in theatrical distribution France and primarily works with Diaphana for the distribution of its films, including Kieslowski’s “The Decalogue.”

Thévenin explained that this was the 20th anniversary of “The Decalogue,” which is constituted by 5 films, encompassing a total of 10 one-hour episodes. He noted that over recent years the series has not been re-released or screened on TV, and therefore presented an interesting opportunity.

One of the main goals associated to the re-release strategy was to emphasize the contemporary relevance of the set of films, and to attract a younger audience unfamiliar with Kieslowski’s works. One of the main target audiences was students and schoolchildren. The series was re-released on June 29, at the end of the academic year, thus enabling the films to remain in cinemas, both in Paris and several screens outside Paris, during the summer. A total of 19,000 admissions have been recorded to date.

One of the key challenges for the re-release was to create new texts, a new poster and trailer and art materials emphasizing the modern relevance of the project, complemented by press screenings and a press kit.

Marketing was developed in coordination with a French PR agency. Links were established with local media and also with religious organizations, given the subject matter of the film.

Special screenings were organized, accompanied by debates with philosophers, social theorists and theologists.

Thévenin also emphasized the importance of social media, in particular the Facebook page. She also explained that due to the complex rights situation, a VOD release of the series is not yet possible.

In the second part of the round-table Gaumont’s Ariane Toscan du Plantier explained hos to create events associated to classic film re-releases. A few years ago Gaumont changed its strategy and has increased its number of film restorations. Until 2013-2014 the restoration strategy was primarily focused on DVD releases.

On the occasion of Gaumont’s 120th anniversary in 2014, which marks Gaumont as the world’s oldest film company, the decision was taken to start releasing classic films theatrically, while maintaining DVD releases, with around 60 new DVDs of classic films released per year.

This theatrical release strategy has been accompanied by a policy to release classic films in key international festivals and markets, including the Lumiere festival in Lyon, and La Rochelle.

With an annual budget of approximately 3 million euros ($3.3 million), Gaumont has so far restored 400 movies out of its 1,000-title library.

Recent classic film releases include Jean Jacques Annaud’s football drama, “Coup de tête” starring Patrick Dewaere, that was released during the Euro 2016 soccer championship.

Gaumont’s biggest restoration project in 2016, is “L’Atalante,” by French director Jean Vigo. This will be the third time that this film is restored, but on this occasion will be a 4K restoration, having previously been restored in 2K.

Toscan du Plantier emphasized that major French classics have enjoyed considerable theatrical success in France, citing the recent example of the 1966 classic La Grande Vadrouille – one of France’s all-time biggest box office hits and a regular TV favorite – which was re-released by Studiocanal in a restored 4K version in July 2016. Classics that Gaumont has in its catalogue and aims to release theatrically include Georges Lautner’s 1963 French-Italian-German comedy crime movie, “Les Tontons flingueurs.”

Gaumont has also restored and released films from other countries, resulting from former co-productions, in particular re-releases of classic Italian films such as Vittorio De Sica “Marriage, Italian-style.”

Toscan du Plantier recognized that VOD is also an important new window for classic films, in particular via the new service LaCinetek, launched in 2015, as a joint initiative between producer Alain Rocca, president of UniversCiné (which specializes in VOD platforms) and the directors, Laurent Cantet, Cédric Klapisch and Pascale Ferran.

Studio Ciné Live’s Thomas Baurez then talked about the French film magazine, which has both print versions and an online version. The magazine is primarily dedicated to new releases, but Baurez explained that around 25% of the magazine’s coverage is dedicated to classic films and plays an important role in building audiences for re-released classic films.