Contact Film, a well-established Dutch distribution company specializing in arthouse films, is preparing to fold after a 30-year run, Variety has confirmed.
The company, whose past releases include the Oscar-nominated documentary “Honeyland” and Oliver Laxe’s Cannes prize-winning “Fire Will Come,” has ceased acquiring films, said founder and CEO Gérard Huisman, who is retiring this year.
The 70-year-old distribution veteran said he had planned to retire before the pandemic, but had been expecting his board to carry on and its three staff members to keep buying films.
The pandemic, however, created difficulties for the company, which had already been struggling for a number of years, explained Huisman. Because it belongs to a non-profit foundation, Contact Film is not eligible for many subsidies or government loans. The government does cover 30% of employee salaries but the aid hasn’t been sufficient for Contact Film to stay afloat and continue spending money on new acquisitions, said Huisman.
Besides the lack of substantial financial help, Contact Film, like many other distribution outfits across Europe, has suffered from the intermittent reopening and closure of theaters due to the pandemic.
“On a usual year, we try to have about 10 films released per year, but we only had five in 2020, and that’s not enough for us to pay our staffers,” said Huisman. Contact Film has had to reschedule a number of movies several times due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The outfit recently released Saeed Roustaee’s Iranian thriller “Just 6.5” on Dec. 3 but it only played for a week and a half before cinemas shuttered. In roughly six weeks, the movie sold approximately 5,000 admissions. Huisman estimates he could have sold 25,000 more tickets if theaters hadn’t shuttered.
“Distributors and exhibitors had been hoping cinemas would finally reopen this month, but we all fear they will remain shut down until mid-February, like in Germany,” said Huisman. Rather than plotting re-releases when cinemas reopen, Huisman said the company will look to distribute its last films via VOD and DVD.
“We’re proud of our legacy. Over the last 30 years, Contact Film has championed auteurs around the world, including many newcomers — 70% of our acquisitions were first and second films, and many [were from] strong female directors,” said Huisman.
Screendaily was first to report the news.