BERLIN — News on the first day of the Berlin Festival that film – read Constantin Film – had helped drive a 2019 full year profits surge at parent Highlight Communications came as little surprise. Few European movie companies enjoy the robust health of Constantin Film.
Oliver Berben’s presentation on Monday of Constantin Television’s lineup and production philosophy at the Berlinale Series Market is a reminder that Constantin Film not only has some of the most ambitious movie productions coming out of Europe – think Paul W.S. Anderson’s upcoming “Monster Hunter” – but now fires ever more on multiple powerful cylinders. Few senior executives in Europe are in a more privileged position to survey the ever evolving landscape of content production than Martin Moszkowicz, Constantin Film chairman of the executive board and one of the great analysts of bigger company bigger picture dynamics.
In the final build-up to the 70th Berlin Festival, he fielded questions on how the Berlin market was shaping up, twinning theatrical and TV, platforms’ movie interest, the future of theatrical, and the “Parasite” effect:
How has this market changed in recent years? What does that mean for you, and what role does Berlin play for Constantin?
These days U.S. studios hardly ever do deals just for domestic. Markets are going to focus on lower-budgeted or smaller, niche-type movies.
But there is also so much more to Berlin than just the competition and the market. For us, as a German company, Berlin is the most important festival of the year. We take a group of 40 people, and there’s always so much happening: political meetings, industry presentations, networking events and more. So, for us these 10 days are huge in general, and for our company we use it to present ourselves, to buy product if there is any, sell our Films and to talk with friends from all over the world and to network. So, for me the importance of Berlin is unquestionable. Some years the market is better, some years not so. But overall, we try to look at it with an open mind. We don’t go in with a quota we want to fill, we look at films on a case by case basis.
Some predicted streaming platforms as the death of brick and mortar cinema, but would you agree?
You can see in the numbers that successful theatrical movies, once they go to the platforms, do better than everything else. I think it’s always important to take a bird’s eye view, where you see the whole market and what it means. I don’t see this Armageddon that some people have been predicting; it’s just changing. I don’t remember a year, in whatever 40-something years that I’ve been in the business, that there were no changes. There’s always something. When DVD came out everybody said: “Oh my God, everybody is going to watch on DVD, nobody will go go to the movies anymore.” For nearly a hundred years people have been predicting the end of the film industry, and it’s not happened yet, and it’s not going to happen. On the contrary – movies are alive and kicking…
Are new platforms as interested in films as they are in series?
They are interested in both, I must say. There is still definite interest in 100-minute, feature film-type stories. All the services have this problem of series taking up so much of their users’ time that people are sometimes hesitant to get into a series that requires so much commitment. So sometimes shorter and more marketable one-time events are preferable. The streamers are all in the business of building their platforms. They aren’t interested in one specific thing being a big hit. They are interested in getting more subscribers. They are looking for things that make the platform marketable. They want to reach quadrants they don’t already have.
How has that impacted the way producers work?
No company does only theatrical or only TV. Everyone, to some degree, does both. Most producers mix movies and TV. There’s more demand, and we’re billing that, as are most creatives, writers, directors, below the line. They’re all busy, all over Europe, probably the world.
And one way to find potential subscribers is to get high profile content with big media coverage.
Absolutely. Look at “The Irishman.” It’s not one of Scorsese’s best films. But the attention it got with cast and director was outstanding. I think that’s what they were aiming at. So that worked out for Netflix. They wanted to make a splash and make a film no studio would touch, and I think that’s great!
The success of a film like “Parasite” – Could that signal a renaissance of accessible, slightly bigger art films?
I’m not sure if it can be viewed as a blueprint. With “Parasite” you have an outstandingly talented group of artists led by one of the great directors of our time. I’m not sure there are many like him out there who can do similar things. Although I’m sure some will try. I think “Parasite” is singular in terms of pure talent and creativity. I’m not saying it’s impossible for others to do the same, but you cannot just use it as a blueprint and repeat it. It’s so dependent on execution. Without a brilliant director and his team, I’m not sure the same story could have turned out so well.
It’s fantastic for our business though. I think it’s great the Academy Awards selected it. I was not one of those who thought it could win. You hear people say it’s because they there are more Academy members from other countries it will keep being more international, and I say that’s a good thing in general. But I don’t think you can say because of “Parasite” every country will suddenly do huge, high-concept arthouse movies. Good directors will always get their movies made, and there are a handful of the same stature as Bong Joon Ho, and they will get things done.