CANNES–The Transilvania Intl. Film Festival has announced a new SVOD service, TIFF Unlimited, which will launch during the festival’s 18th edition, which bows May 31 in Cluj, Romania.
The service will curate titles from current and previous editions of the festival, while also showcasing other hand-picked auteur-driven productions, presented in partnership with local distributors. It will launch June 6 and be available across Romania.
“With all my colleagues from the festival, we thought we have to do something that will somehow extend the whole festival experience for all the year,” said director festival chief Tudor Giurgiu (pictured), whose latest feature, “Parking,” opens this year’s fest. “Yearly we are receiving emails from the public who say, ‘Oh, I missed that Russian film that won the audience award in your festival. Where am I going to see it?’ And I say, ‘Sorry, I don’t know where you can see the film, because it’s gone.’”
The problem isn’t limited to movies that are screened during the festival, which unspools this year from May 31 to June 9. Giurgiu noted that arthouse and indie films in Romania also quickly vanish after brief theatrical runs. “There’s this fairly big amount of titles, great titles, with important pedigrees, with festival awards and so on, and if the timing is not right, you will lose them,” he said.
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Transilvania follows in the footsteps of festivals like Rotterdam and Goteborg, which have also launched VOD platforms to complement their brick-and-mortar offerings. But the need to utilize new technologies is particularly pressing in Romania, which suffers from the lowest rate of screen penetration in the E.U. Romania has nearly 50,000 inhabitants per screen: twice the number of neighboring Hungary, and roughly five times the number of cinephile France.
During the Communist era, Romania’s theatrical industry flourished, with some 450 cinemas operating around the time that dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was executed in 1989, jumpstarting the country’s transition to democracy. Those numbers have dropped precipitously in the years since, with around 100 cinemas operating today.
There has been a cautious revival of late, powered largely by the construction of more multiplexes. Total box office has been steady in recent years, and the 13.3 million total admissions across Romania last year was just a small decline from the previous year’s modern record highs.
Yet those numbers largely reflect the influence of Hollywood blockbusters, which accounted for the nine highest-grossing films in Romania last year. (The tenth spot was claimed by Corin Hardy’s “Conjuring” spinoff “The Nun,” which was lensed in Romania.)
Auteur-driven films struggle to reach an audience. “There are more cinemas, but there are more multiplexes,” said Antoine Bagnaninchi, of leading indie distributor Independenta Film. “A lot more screens than before, but there are no more arthouse cinemas.”
For now, festival organizers hope TIFF Unlimited can help fill that gap. While the SVOD platform will launch locally this year, Giurgiu said it “would not make sense on a 10-year basis” to limit the service to Romania.
“At the beginning, we would like to see how it would grow, what will be the response from the market, and how we can expand,” he said.