The Göteborg Film Festival’s 6th Nostradamus Report, titled “Relevance in a New Reality,” was presented at a seminar held at the festival on Friday afternoon. The yearly report is designed to forecast what the coming three-to-five years may look like for the screen industries.
This year’s Nostradamus is in five chapters in which industry experts are quoted and conclusions are drawn by the report’s authors. The new edition demonstrates a continuation and consolidation of familiar industry trends among industry professionals, covering topics such as: the uncertain future of public funding, major movements in the streaming market, the role of cinema in the new value chain, potential paths forward for VR; and the need for a rebooted industry conversation around tech and shared challenges.
“We’ve talked about ‘structural change’ for a while now,” said Nostradamus author Johanna Koljonen. “In the next three to five years, a sector where we will see what the new structures look like in practice is the streaming market. It will be dominated by a handful of tech companies and consolidated majors and how this affects smaller languages and local players is not certain.”
She went on, “The big players keeping their content exclusive to themselves might create new opportunities for others. But the question everyone will have to find answers to is how do you compete when there is always competition that can outrun you, outspend you, and produces content of a very high quality? Only with relevance.”
The professionals quoted in this year’s Nostradamus Report were: Efe Cakarel, founder and CEO of MUBI; Thomas Gammeltoft, CEO at Copenhagen Film Fund; Ani Korpela, director and head of content and application business at Elisa; Ben Luxford, head of audience at BFI; Glenn O’Farrell, CEO at GroupeMédia TFO; Liz Rosenthal, programmer at Venice VR and founder of Power to the Pixel; Sten Saluveer, founder and CEO at Storytek; Åsa Sjöberg, director of content for Bonnier Broadcasting; and Maria Tanjala, co-founder at Big Couch and Film Chain. After Friday’s presentation, a panel discussion was held featuring Eskilsson, Tanjala and O’Farrell.
Chapter one included an unashamedly political breakdown of the trends facing the content industry in terms of public funding. Citing a rise in political influence of populist and “ultra-nationalist” parties, the report points to dramatic effects caused by extreme weather events and climate-caused migration, as well as increased spending in other areas of government – such as defense spending – and expected economic downturn as contributing factors to decreased government funding available for culture and the arts.
The report suggests that: “The industry needs to consider how to prioritize among publicly funded support structures when cuts become necessary. Audiovisual storytelling takes an active role in the defense of liberal democracy and a habitable planet.”
MUBI’s Cakarel had a more capitalist take however, saying: “Money is just one of the inputs. It’s an important one, but it’s not the only one. Good stories will get funding, no matter what the environment is. In the U.S., there is no public funding and look at the stuff that they produce every day. I’m not concerned at all about the supply of great content because of what’s happening at the government level.”
Chapter Two looked at the impact that streaming platforms are likely to have in the near future. It predicts that going forward, the VOD landscape will be dominated by a handful of the world’s largest companies. It also stresses the importance of content exclusivity to these platforms, but that these new windows could potentially create opportunities for independent content and content in more languages.
“A lot of Swedish rights have ended up with the globals. Now even public service companies are co-producing with the internationals to stretch budgets and get more drama hours in,” says Bonnier Broadcasting’s Sjöberg, before warning, “I do question whether that’s where our tax money should be going – these companies don’t pay taxes here or care all that much about the survival of our local stories or the lives of this audience. We’re happy to collaborate with, and buy rights from the public broadcasters for our Nordic SVOD windows; they don’t have to go to a global player to fund local drama.”
In Chapter Three, the report emphasizes the importance that theatrical still has on the film landscape, particularly if exhibitors are willing to embrace change and find alliances in the value chain. The report suggests there is still room for community theaters to exist alongside multiplexes, but warns that neither can support the endangered species that is the mid-sized film. Contributors also praise cinemas that are willing to make movie-going an event, and find creative ways to get butts in seats.
“This is going to be a record-breaking year for ticket sales as well as admissions in the U.K., which is pretty spectacular,” points out BFI’s Luxford: “And we’ve got another study recently with young audiences who are saying that they really like cinemas, because it is the only time in their life now that they don’t look at their phone.”
Technology is the focus of Chapter Four, which suggests that the film industry may be a bit too slow when it comes to adapting to new tech such as blockchain, but that other sections of the audiovisual sector which are less gun-shy about new technology can benefit and strengthen their relationship with audiences.
And, staying with technology, Chapter Five looks at VR and the role it may play in the coming years. And, in addition to forecasting the state of industry economics, availability and advancements in technology, the report raises questions of morality that are likely to become hot-button issues as the emergence of a VR mass market becomes more likely – questions relating to embodied storytelling, and to the capture of biometric data.