The Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, bows Tuesday, again bringing together distributors, exhibitors, streamers, TV programmers, film restorers and festival reps for one of the world’s leading heritage cinema events.

This year’s market looks set for a much more upbeat atmosphere compared to the 2020 edition, which took place right before the pandemic’s second wave that led to months-long cinema closures.

“It’s more about getting back on track,” says MIFC programming coordinator Gérald Duchaussoy. “The impression that we have when we talk to the distributors and rights owners is that they are very motivated to make it happen, to make it move once again. I’m not saying it’s easy, but frankly we feel a lot of very positive energy when we talk to them.”

It’s a very different vibe compared to last year, when the market took place under very difficult conditions, he notes.

The situation nevertheless remains difficult for heritage film distributors, with some releases still being held back in view of the current market situation, but things appear to be slowly stabilizing as more films make it into theaters, Duchaussoy says. “Heritage film distributors keep on pushing.”

Indeed, some recent releases have been well received, among them Iranian director Mohammad Reza Aslani’s 1976 gothic family thriller “The Chess Game of the Wind,” which Carlotta Films released in France this summer.

Banned in Iran in 1979 and for many years presumed lost, the film was restored by L’Immagine Ritrovata for Cineteca di Bologna and The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project.

The film is one of the projects Duchaussoy will discuss with Margaret Bodde, executive director of The Film Foundation, who kicks off the MIFC with a keynote address. The event will also examine The Film Foundation’s work and current restoration projects.

The MIFC will also examine the heritage film market of neighboring Switzerland and the work of the Cinémathèque Suisse, considered one of the 10 most important film libraries in the world for its scope, diversity and quality of its collections.

As part of its Swiss showcase, the market will screen Jean-Louis Roy’s 1967 Cold War spy drama “The Unknown Man of Shandigor” and Fredi M. Murer’s 1985 “Alpine Fire” (pictured), about a brother and sister on an isolated mountain farm who become increasingly intimate.

In addition to mainstays like Pathé, Studiocanal, Gaumont and Wild Bunch, the MIFC is attracting more specialized distributors and streaming platform operators, such as Cultpix, a global grindhouse and cult movie service that launched in Sweden this year.

“It’s important for the newcomers to come to Lyon,” Duchaussoy adds, particularly in view of the attendance of the major distributors.

One MIFC roundtable, featuring Wild Bunch CEO Vincent Grimond and Gregory Samak, managing director of French streaming service Molotov, will focus on the potential of heritage cinema on AVOD.

Discussing the latest in video publishing and the increasing specialization in the DVD and Blu-ray sector will be Dennis Doros, president of the Association of Moving Image Archivists in Los Angeles, and Amy Heller, both co-founders of Milestone Film & Video, as well as Pip Chodorov, head of Paris-based Re:Voir; Gaël Teicher of French production and distribution company La Traverse; and Nils Bouaziz of Paris-based Potemkine Films.

Exhibitors obviously remain a vital component for the industry, especially when it comes to restorations, and the MIFC continues to reinforce the relationship between heritage film distributors and cinema operators, Duchaussoy stresses.

In addition to a panel focusing on the synergies between cinemas and film institutions to promote new releases, MIFC will also offer special screenings for exhibitors and its annual presentation of distributor lineups.

The robust attendance of rights holders remains the MIFC’s strength, Duchaussoy adds, noting that exhibitors come to screen the films and the platforms to buy them. “As organizers, we try to attract the buyers as much as we can.”

The MIFC will additionally examine other timely topics, such as the ecological challenges of film preservation, particularly in maintaining ever bigger energy-intensive digital film libraries amid soaring energy costs.

Also taking part in roundtables this year will be Cineteca di Bologna director Gian Luca Farinelli, Carlotta Films CEO Vincent Paul-Boncour; producer Rosalie Varda; Gaumont’s Jérôme Soulet; Cinémathèque Suisse director Frédéric Maire; and Félix Hächler, head of Swiss distributor Filmcoopi.