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AFM: Constantin’s Martin Moszkowicz Discusses International Indie Market

As CEO of Constantin Film, one of Europe’s biggest producers and distributors, Martin Moszkowicz arrives at AFM on a winning streak. His high school comedy sequel “Fack ju Goehte 3” opened Oct. 26 and grossed more than $18 million, by far the biggest start at the German box office this year. We spoke with Moszkowicz to get his take on the business.

What’s the state of the international theatrical marketplace right now?
A few U.S. titles perform substantially, or over-perform, but the vast majority don’t do as well as they did in the past. We at Constantin have upped our domestic German-language production heavily over the last 10 years. In the old days, we’d need at least 10 or 12 movies a year from the independent market. Today we buy whatever we can get for a [reasonable] price, and if we don’t, there’s not much harm to us.
Also, foreign distributors are financing a big chunk of independent films made in the U.S., but a lot of these mid-sized movies are not getting a huge theatrical release
anymore — which is another big threat to the independent model — and they often aren’t released
with an worldwide theatrical plan behind them.

Any examples of this?
With one movie we bought recently, we were trying to push [the U.S. distributor] to do an Academy run in December, because it would make total sense to have it out in February or March around the Academy Awards. It was impossible to get them to it. Without such a push, the movie’s going to be extremely difficult to market in our territory. It doesn’t make sense for all the distributors who put up a lot of money. That wasn’t an expensive film, but if you buy a big movie for $5-8 million, you need this huge P&A push out of the U.S. that has a worldwide footprint in order for the movie to perform theatrically.

What’s your experience been as a buyer at the markets?
There are only a few “must-have titles” that everybody agrees are fantastic, which is not different than it was 10 or 20 years ago. It’s just gotten more complicated, because there’s more product out there and it’s harder to get movies cast. We see that all the time now: movies are sold with a certain cast and then people drop out. At least in Germany, I’ve seen distributors give back movies because some of the elements didn’t come through. And over the last three years or so, there are lots of films geared towards Asia that don’t necessarily work well in Western Europe.

What effect are Netflix and Amazon having on the marketplace?
I think [having them] might be helpful at some point, because we are producing English-language movies and looking for different outlets to release them. As a producer, if there is an OTT service that gives you the money to get a movie made, you welcome it. But as a distributor, I don’t like it. There are some sales agents who’ve sold a big chunk of their slate to Netflix and offered distributors whatever was left—meaning theatrical, maybe some free TV rights. I don’t know how to make that work on any given movie. I need to have the possibility that maybe I overspend on P&A, then make money back on video or streaming or free TV. If I don’t have that, I have to cut my P&A, which means that the theatrical performance of the picture goes down. It’s a downward spiral. I don’t know how you get out of that. If I get a movie and push it theatrically to be a big success, and I don’t get the fruit of that, so to speak, it’s a big problem.

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