Gil Santos • Distributor
by Vitor Pinto
15/09/2009 - Cineuropa: When was Ecofilmes created and what is the company's philosophy?
Gil Santos: Grupo Eco is composed of Ecovideo, a company founded in October 1984 to distribute video in film clubs. In the early 1990s we decided to expand our activities to film and created the theatrical distribution branch, Ecofilmes. Then we also created a video distribution company, Prisvideo SA, focused on direct sales. Grupo Eco then enlarged its activities to the distribution of video games under the Ecogames label. We quickly became market leaders in this sector, and we still are. With all these different branches, Grupo Eco is today one of Portugal's top companies in the audiovisual sector.
Our philosophy is based on long-term partnerships. We do our best to respect our deals and to maximize the results of the intellectual proprieties we represent. As for theatrical distribution, in the last few years we have been releasing about two films per month, trying to balance between (mainly European) auteur-driven titles and (mainly US) mainstream titles.
Which European films did you recently release and what are your latest acquisitions?
In 2009 we have released several European films such as The Wave [trailer], This Is England [trailer], Flame and Citron [trailer], The Young Victoria [trailer] and Broken Embraces [trailer, film focus]. We will soon distribute Antichrist [trailer, film focus], Lucky Luke [trailer], El Camino de Santiago, John Rabe and Unmade Beds [trailer] [trailer].
What are the biggest challenges the distribution sector is currently facing in Portugal and what are Ecofilmes’ challenges in particular?
I believe the greatest challenge is to achieve a financial balance, in the film distribution branch particularly. Reaching that balance is complicated since DVD piracy can be devastating and we are going through a period in which people's buying power has been reduced due to the current financial situation of the country and the world in general. As a result, the benefits of video, cinema and TV business have considerably decreased.
The introduction of alternative channels of distribution – already underway – is also a big challenge, but with its slow progression it won't be able to make up for the above-mentioned losses in short run.
We are also open to potential partnerships with European companies (Iberian ones in particular), both in the film and video game sectors, as long as it is a win-win situation.
Is the distribution of Portuguese titles part of your plans?
We have already distributed some local titles, but experience showed that producers tend to focus more on companies that are simultaneously distributors and exhibitors. Exhibition is a sector of the film business we have decided not explore.
What are your expectations in terms of participating in the San Sebastian initiative European Distributors: Up Next!?
It seems to me that these sorts of events are quite positive since they allows for the debate and comparison between different perspectives in European cinema, which, despite its positive evolution, can clearly be improved in several aspects.