Discussing the challenges and opportunities in a landscape radically altered by the COVID-19 lockdown, Richard Lorber of U.S. distrib Kino Lorber said Monday that his company was quickly transforming into a media and technology company due to the focus on its Kino Marquee virtual theatrical exhibition initiative.
Speaking at a Cannes Marché du Film Online conference focusing on how independent streamers are responding to the crisis, Lorber said Kino Marquee had in the past two and a half months generated nearly $700,000 in ticket sales from 13 films. Half of that revenue is going to its partner theaters, which currently include 400 screens, all independent and arthouse cinemas as well as small arthouse chains, he added.
Launched in March, Kino Marquee enables movie theaters shuttered by the outbreak to continue to offer films to their audiences and generate revenue while also allowing moviegoers to support their local theaters.
Kino Marquee’s first screenings with theaters all opened with Cannes’ prize-winning Brazilian film “Bacurau,” by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho.
“We’ve had much more engagement from the theaters for virtual screenings than we were ever able to achieve with physical for the simple reason that most of the arthouses in the U.S. are small [theaters] with probably no more than three or four screens at most, some still have one or two. But suddenly, a world of screen scarcity has become a world of screen plenitude — and the theaters have literally unlimited screen space.”
Looking ahead, however, Lorber said it was unclear how his new business would develop, but noted that the new direction was altering the company.
“This is all still changing and evolving very rapidly. We’re still in the early days of virtual cinema but there are exciting possibilities. We’ve realized ourselves that we’ve moved from being a film distributor to being a media and technology company and that’s going to affect our business overall in the next five to 10 years I’m sure.”
Also taking part in the panel were Olle Agebro, head of acquisitions at Swedish SVOD platform Draken Film, originally launched by the Göteborg Film Festival, and Jaume Ripoll, co-founder and editorial director of Spanish arthouse streaming service Filmin.
Agebro noted that in response to the crisis, Draken launched an initiative to donate half of the revenue from new subscribers to independent Swedish arthouse cinemas for a six-month period. Initially starting out with just a handful of cinemas, the initiative has grown to now include more than 100.
Draken saw its number of subscribers more than triple during the pandemic, Agebro noted.
Draken recently premiered such films as Hlynur Palmason’s “A White, White Day” and Agnieszka Holland’s “Mr. Jones.” It has seen particular high viewership for classics, particularly works by Agnès Varda, as well as for more recent titles, such as last year’s Cannes screener by Céline Sciamma, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Agebro added.
Filmin, meanwhile, has attracted big audiences with “Bacurau,” Ripoll noted.
Filmin has generated additional business by hosting five Spanish film festivals that were forced to go online, including the D’A Film Festival, DocsBarcelona and Asturias’ Festival de Cine LGBTIQ.
The platform enjoyed particularly strong success with Xavier Dolan’s Cannes film “Matthias & Maxime,” Ripoll added.
“I think the film made more admissions in the first week on our platform than any previous Xavier Dolan film in cinemas in Spain, which is a huge success.”