News / The Network Imprimer
The Network - 07/09/2012
Exhibiting heritage films in the digital age: interview with Vincent Paul-Boncour
Since 2008, Vincent Paul-Boncour has been the manager of a cinema from the network in Paris, Le Nouveau Latina, just a stone’s throw away from the Hôtel de Ville. He is also a distributor and a video editor with Bodega Films, a company which distributes a few dozen auteur films a year, and Carlotta Films, which specialises in classic movies. That’s the role we are particularly interested in talking to him about, at a time when digital and VoD practices are changing and when Carlotta has just, on 15 August, released a landmark of Korean cinema, THE HOUSEMAID by Kim Ki-young, in French cinemas. The film attracted more than 12,000 viewers in the first two weeks of its release – a very respectable figure that is also representative of Carlotta’s work on the French market, which is generally very receptive to film classics.
Do you think the screening of heritage films in cinemas is on the rise?
For several years now, we have noticed renewed interest among the general public in heritage films, whatever way they are exhibited: reissue in cinemas, at festivals, in retrospectives, at film libraries, or on DVD and Blu-Ray. Since the market for arthouse films is in decline, and considering the difficulties that auteur films labelled as difficult or as diversity movies have in gaining access to screens and audiences, we believe the heritage film ‘segment’ is stable in Paris and other large cities, and making progress in small and medium-sized towns, thanks to bodies like the ADRC (Agency for the Development of Cinema in the Regions).
Which classic films stood out for you in recent years, from the economic performance point of view?
It seems to me that there has been a change of the past several years among cinema lovers, as they show more and more interest in rare and unreleased films, and in films from more diverse backgrounds (British, Italian, Japanese films, for example), and in more recent, contemporary heritage films (from the 1970s and 80s), with less interest being shown in the great, especially American, classics. Take, for example, the success in 2011 of DEEP END (50,000 cinema tickets sold in France), a 1970s cult film by the Polish director, Jerzy Skolimowski, which was little shown and little known even among cinema enthusiasts. Or we could mention Jerry Schatzberg’s very rare first work, PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD.
What place do films like that have in cinema programmes?
That varies according to the city, the films themselves, and the type of release. In Paris, a heritage film can go on full programme release in up to 5 cinemas. In other large cities, such a film would be screened up to three times a day. But the programme would vary much more in small or medium-sized towns. We take the approach of offering cinemas our heritage releases in the same way as other weekly arthouse releases and including them in the programme the same way.
Do you think digital technology can aid the exhibiting of classic films, as is the case in the UK?
France is a different country, where, historically, heritage has had an important place. There have been specialist heritage distributors and cinemas for decades. Our wonderful network of arthouse cinemas, which is unique in the world, means there can be real diversity and, in particular, year-round programming of heritage films, not only in Paris but throughout the country as a whole. So digital technology can help in the exhibiting of these films, but heritage films were already very present with 35mm.
Do you work together with any European partners?
We don’t really have partners, but we do have close relations with distributors and DVD publishers throughout the world who do similar work to us, such as Hollywood Classics and Park Circus in the UK, Bavaria in Germany, and so on...
Can distributing these films be profitable?
It’s a difficult and fragile business, like distribution in general. If we do make any profit with a title, it’s usually over the long term, because our distribution work is always long-term.
You have now also entered the VoD sector. If the market for video is in decline, don’t you think that the physical distribution of ‘classic’ films could continue to be an attractive niche?
The market for physical video is in decline, but it still exists, especially for heritage films because people want to own them, like a beautiful book. It’s clear that we need to make sure that the quality is high – both of the physical object and the film... even though it is true that we are seeing a decline in the market all over the world. We are developing VoD as an extension of our work with cinemas, DVD, Blu-Ray and TV, and we see it as complementing those activities. At the moment, the VoD market is still small, especially for heritage films. There is clearly a lack of specific platforms providing access to heritage films in the same way as cinemas, shops, DVD selling sites, where customers can be sure of finding the heritage films they want