Cinemas in Belgium are open for a week now. So we asked Stephan De Potter, Co-CEO at Cinéart, how was the distribution managing.
Cinéart has existed for more than 45 years in Belgium. It is integrated at the BENELUX level, and it handles the rights acquired on an exclusive basis, whether in cinemas, VOD, pay or free TV, and platforms.
For the reopening in France, distributors discussed a lot about a "quiet period" that would offer a second chance to films cut off in October. Do Belgian distributors have such a discussion?
It was mentioned, of course, but without really believing in it. We realised cinemas in Belgium would reopen three weeks after France, it became very complicated to start with a blank week. We would have had to delay by an extra month all the films, especially French ones, which generally have to be released very close to the French release. So this prevented this idea of a blank week.
Were the re-released films well received by exhibitors then?
Yes, they were even in demand for some of these films. In our case, we brought out Albert Dupontel's Adieu Les Cons, which had had a phenomenal start to its career and had stopped after six days in Wallonia and five in Brussels. There was, therefore, a real gap to fill, and the film was exceptionally eagerly awaited. We also had access to all the initial theatres for the movie.
We must say that the economic situation is terrible. Generally speaking, June is one of the weakest months in terms of cinema releases. There could not have been a worse time to restart activity in cinemas. Add to that the excellent weather and the European Football Championship, the start-up figures are pretty low. Even though there are some fantastic films currently showing. I'm thinking particularly of Nomadland - which is also available on Disney+ - and Drunk, which is released in Belgium for the first time and is not scoring as well as expected. The public is solicited from all sides, and we are somewhat suffering the consequences.
However, there are still 15 days to go before the summer holidays, which are also a particular time for distributors. Will you then change your mind about these 15 days?
No, there is no time to wait for a better time. There are dozens of films waiting to be released since October, we have no choice. And this choice will be further complicated by the postponement of Cannes. Indeed, the films that will just come out of the Croisette will be released in July and August and put even more pressure on the movies currently waiting to be released. So it's impossible to change our release strategy at the moment. We will have almost one release per week.
Next week, you will even release two films...
Indeed, we have Le Discours, an intelligent French comedy by Laurent Tirard and Notturno, the documentary by Gianfranco Rosi. So we have two proposals and two opposed audiences. We are careful not to compete with ourselves.
You have nine films selected for the Cannes festival, congratulations! Is this edition going to have particular challenges for you compared to previous editions?
It's going to be a weird edition! Many people won't be physically present this year. So it's a real question of what the festival will look like. I'll be there from the 5th of July, but I don't know yet what my schedule will be. Traditionally I spend the first few days of the festival making appointments with international vendors and partners. But I will have seen all these people via Zoom 15 days before for the film market. So I hope I won't have so many appointments, it will leave me more time to go and see films.
On the other hand, the line-up is almost complete until March 2022, so we are not necessarily looking for new films. It's exceptionally tight with us, and I think with other distributors too.
I can imagine that it must be very frustrating! For once, you have the time to see more films but cannot offer them a mid-term release date.
Yes, but the pleasure of seeing films is still what drives me. I don't need to negotiate a movie every time I leave the theatre, even if I liked it a lot! (laughs)
For us, Cannes is one of the hardest and most challenging festivals. This year, even if our prospection will still be extremely limited, the selection will be unique. Some of our selected films, such as The Restless by Joachim Lafosse or Les Olympiades by Jacques Audiard are very strong. The selection represents the best of the last two years and is the promise of a very qualitative Cannes. This quality will, too, be unprecedented.