Last week, Warner Bros Pictures announced a simultaneous release of all its 2021 movies in theatres and on its HBO Max streaming platform. While some professionals see this as the end of the movie theatres, Lumière's General Manager, Alexander Vandeputte, believes that VOD platforms will never replace cinemas but could generate new audiences.
Lumière is active in film production and distribution, but also in theatrical exhibition. During the first containment of last spring, your company added an extra string to its bow by launching its own VOD platform: Cinema bij je thuis.
Alexander Vandeputte : In fact, before the launch of Cine bij je thuis, Lumière already had a platform dedicated to EST (Electronic sell-through) for the electronic sale of our films, but more specifically our series. More recently, during the first containment, we thought about offering to the public the opportunity to see the films whose theatrical release was aborted. That's how Cine bij je thuis was created. But this decision didn't depend only on Lumière, although distributors had to agree. Hopefully, they did, and the public could discover new films on Cine bij je thuis for 8 euro (this is still the case during this 2nd containment). The fact that Lumière has its own platform is a support to the cinemas that have agreed to participate in our action, this goes by paying them a part of the film rental price.
Why are you convinced that platforms will never eclipse cinema theatres?
A. V. : For me, streaming platforms can cohabit with theatres. At the time of the DVD boom, a new generation of cinephiles emerged. For example, when the 2nd part of The Lord of the Rings released in cinemas, everyone was surprised that the film made more admissions than the 1st part. The reason for this success was apparent: the DVD. Some of the audience discovered the 1st part of The Lord of the Rings on DVD. They liked what they saw, so they wanted to discover the sequel in theatres. If we follow this logic, the platform could very well generate a film audience. However, we should keep in mind that the cinema remains the driving force of exploitation. If James Bond or Star Wars movies were only shown on a platform, it would risk disappointing viewers and be counterproductive. Releasing a film in cinemas means anticipating, provoking the event, creating emotional and economic values. In the specific context of the containment and closure of cultural venues, the platform acts as a substitute for cinemas. But in regular times, we have realised that the platform, "the online offer" so to speak, does not "cannibalise" the cinema theatres. Cinema is the large screen, shared emotion, the event, the Saturday night hangout... This cinema experience is irreplaceable.
Could you, like Warner Bros Pictures, release your next films on platforms and in theatres at the same time?
A. V. : Yes, Lumière could very well consider screening films simultaneously on platforms and in theatres. Everything will depend on the distributors' decision, whether it is a blockbuster or an arthouse film, etc. If we take the example of a niche film that is due to be projected in a few cinemas and require a lot of promotion and marketing work, we could justify to release it on a platform. These are parameters that must be considered and which can guide how the film will be shown. Lumière has always grown as a 360° company. We are a producer, distributor, and have a VOD platform, but we are also exhibitors. It is therefore in our interest to keep the cinema theatres.
What would be the best strategy for a film company to adopt in the coming years?
A. V. : I think it is in our best interest to integrate the two experiences: theatres and platforms. Apple TV, Netflix, and Amazon Prime already know this. Apple TV wanted to release Sofia Coppola's latest film in theatres, Netflix is increasingly looking to release its movies for a few weeks in cinemas, and Amazon Prime does the same with more traditional windows. For practical and economic reasons, the studios will turn to platform experiences, but they will also find a balance with theatrical exhibitions. They need to finance their films, and I don't think the platform attraction will be enough to make a 100 million movie profitable. That is why I am confident that a balance can and will be found. But for sure, our way of working will never be the same again.
Take a look on Lumière's catalog of films on Moonday !