The Locarno Film Festival, which is Europe’s preeminent event dedicated to indie cinema, is moving into the vintage cinema space, just as streamers are snapping up library titles in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Swiss fest’s Locarno Pro industry component is launching Heritage Online, a first-of-its-kind platform that will serve as a database of film titles that premiered prior to 2005. The idea is to become a business facilitator between rights holders and streaming platforms.

The platform will be open to private and public archives and institutions, besides sales companies and producers and will feature a virtual screening room.

“It’s a necessary tool for professionals that fills a gap in the market at a time when there is more demand for this type of product and not enough information about it,” says Heritage Online project manager Markus Duffner.

Each company on the platform will have the opportunity of highlighting some twenty titles and trailers for which rights are available, and also post information on their entire libraries.

Given the circumstances “it’s a sort of ‘Back to the Future’ says Locarno Pro’s recently appointed new chief Valentina Merli, who adds that the idea is “to provide new distribution opportunities.”

While Locarno cancelled this year’s physical edition due to the coronavirus outbreak, organizers are holding a digital event called Locarno 2020 – For the Future of Films where selected directors will present works-in-progress and also pick their personal favorite titles from previous Locarno editions which will screened online.

Locarno Pro will also have a digital side that will run August 7-9 and include pitches and presentations of different types of vintage film libraries made by 36 companies from around the world. There will also be a panel on the vintage cinema market.

Next year, Heritage Online –  the ultimate goal of which is “to put world film heritage on today’s screens,” according to a Locarno statement – will become a permanent component of the fest’s informal market.

Merli said Locarno Pro’s Heritage Online initiative will be different from the market components at events dedicated to classic cinema such as the Lumière Festival in Lyon, or Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato, in that it specifically targets streaming platforms and has less constraints in terms of the range of product on display.

Heritage Online will kick off in early July. Rights holders can subscribe either via a basic tier, which allows them to offer a selection their library titles, or a premium subscription, which gives them access to the online screening room where potential clients can view selected titles for up to a year. VOD platforms will be able to access Heritage Online free of charge. From 2021 on Heritage Online will offer annual subscriptions. Access to the platform will be free with accreditation to Locarno Pro.