“We won’t be able to be alone to face either the studios or the platforms”
Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
Carole Scotta • Distributor, Haut et Court
Carole Scotta, co-founder of Haut et Court and co-president of the Reunited European Independent Distributors (DIRE), analyses the current crisis and evaluates recovery options
On the occasion of the special (online) edition of the ARP Film Meetings, we meet with Carole Scotta, co-pilot of Haut et Court (where also work Caroline Benjo, Simon Arnal, Barbara Letellier and Laurence Petit) and co-president of the Reunited European Independent Distributors (DIRE). Founded in 1992, Haut et Court has accompanied in distribution and production countless big names of world cinema (Lanthimos, Cantet, Ade, Kawase, etc.), operates also in the TV series sector (Les Revenants, The Young Pope) and exploits four cinemas in France (notably the Louxor in Paris).
Cineuropa: With the health crisis and this new closing of theatres in France, what is your analysis of the situation?
Carole Scotta: We will not expand on the current slump, but we can of course regret that the question of cultural establishments was not put to a different regime. Even though I know that the Minister of Culture fought back, it is still infuriating to think that movie theatres are put in the category of risk areas even though they are not and that no COVID case has been identified in them. They are only talking about restaurants and bars, hair salons and flower shops, as though cinemas and theatres didn’t exist. This raises a more fundamental question: what do we consider to be a basic necessity? Clearly, culture isn’t thought to be one. The debate about bookstores has just illustrated the extent of this absurdity. Now, considering the contamination rates, we are not going to be rebels, but it is true that we are getting the impression that we don’t exist.
The situation is however very different from the one we went through in the spring, because theatres were going to reopen in a period that is rather poor in film offerings, whereas this time, if all goes well, we will reopen completely or partially around Christmas time and we know how rich the month of December is in terms of releases. Also, when cinemas had closed last March, everything had been deprogrammed and the Cannes Film Festival not taking place had obliterated a certain number of releases. Now, all these films are dated, therefore we will have to reopen with these films by reserving the required space for the filmmakers whose careers have just been stopped mid-flight. There will be a lot of work around the regulation of the market. The 10-12 screen cinemas will be able to absorb the volume of releases, but it will be much more complicated for establishments of less than 7 screens.
How serious is the financial impact of the health crisis for French distributors?
We rode the storm during the first phase and we were met with problems as soon as cinemas reopened when we realised that certain films were not working at all anymore. However, other films, such as My Donkey, My Lover and I [+see also:
film profile], did rather well by taking advantage of a market that was restarting and of the lack of competition from American studio films. All this doesn’t help diversity at all because for films that had more discreet releases, it is extremely complicated and I think that amongst the smallest distributors, there will be some damage. In fact we are trying, syndically, to see what are the holes in the racket of what has been proposed by the government, to try and save those who go through, for example the films that make their entries over longer periods of time with animations and who were deprived of that with the curfew, or more generally the films that have suffered from the shape that cinemagoing has taken these past few weeks, which relied each week on only one or two films. Because there is less curiosity amongst spectators when the context is one of caution.
What will be the consequences for the financing of French cinema productions in the future?
The distributors who will have released French films generating some support, or even some enhanced support considering the recovery plans, will be able to reinvest in some MGs. So, for those, it should be fine. For others, it will be more complicated. But if we negotiate well with the platforms, their arrival in the French ecosystem, which should be in January 2021, will maybe create a little breath of fresh air, even if there are some questions that remain to be clarified, and all this only if we can make them enter the media chronology. Otherwise, some oeuvres will be made directly and exclusively for certain platforms, which will still allow actors, directors, crews and producers to keep working. What is also important and on which we have fought hard, is the definition of an independent producer, so that the producer can keep some rights and not only become a representative working for a simple commission, a premium and nothing else.
With the extreme difficulties of the year 2020, the French cinema industry has demonstrated a great capacity for resilience.
Yes, because we see what is happening elsewhere, and we have still managed to hold on thanks to our national production and our co-productions. We have proved that we have a rather sustainable ecosystem. Yet I am nevertheless worried about what will happen in some other European countries. If some cinemas close indefinitely, if local markets are very weakened, we won’t be able to be alone to face neither the studios nor the VOD platforms. Because our system also depends on international talents. We participate in the financing of their works and they have to be able to continue making their films at home.
What is the main priority according to you?
For France, that the movie theatre market recovers because it remains infuriating to go back into lockdown just when the market was truly starting again thanks to films like Bye Bye Morons [+see also:
film profile], DNA [+see also:
film profile], Another Round [+see also:
film profile], etc. In the long run, the hope is that an attractive offer for audiences will allow theatres to find again the rhythm that they had before. But it is also that France isn’t alone in the world because we hear very preoccupying echoes from our Italian, German, English and Spanish neighbours. As a result, the arrival of platforms also has to be, as all inventions, an additional media, and not one that takes all the space. Because I kind of have the impression that some spectators have turned away from theatres to the benefit of platforms during lockdown and didn’t go back to cinemas since: one must therefore hope they do go back.
What is new with Haut et Court?
We will try to keep Wolfwalkers [+see also:
film profile] by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart for a release on 16 December because it truly is a Christmas film. We need to find a new date for Gagarin [+see also:
interview: Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Tr…
film profile] by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh and we will put up again the poster for Another Round by Thomas Vinterberg as soon as cinemas reopen. As for TV series, we just launched Possessions on Canal+ and No Man’s Land, available for now on the arte.tv platform, will be broadcast linearly and in clear on Arte in November. Finally, for film productions, Memory Box by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige will be released in the first semester of 2021 and we have several other productions and co-productions in the pipes.
(Translated from French by Manuela Lazic)
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