In the wake of the health crisis, periodic theater closures and health restrictions have accelerated a process that has been seen in the film industry for several years now: the rise of SVoD platforms. Between imitation and fears, professionals try to adapt.
Since the first detention, cinemas have had to comply with various protocols set by the government. This situation has been beneficial for SVoD platforms, which, already expanding, took advantage of the crisis to increase customer loyalty. As for the exhibition, after the second highest attendance level in 53 years in 2019, i.e. 213.3 million visits, we are seeing a recovery momentum throughout 2021. If we refer to the CNC report, during the opening period of the halls, the decrease in attendance is only 23.2% in 2021 compared to the same period in 2019.
Medical restrictions are just beginning to be lifted: it is not yet possible to say whether this decline is structural or cyclical. “From an operational point of view, this is not a disaster, we feel that the problems are more related to health restrictions than competition with platforms,” according to Michel Simongiovanni, director of the Ellipse cinema. However, there seems to be a change in the distribution of entries: “We’re noticing that viewers are perhaps less curious and need to be reassured of what they’re going to see.”, notes David Obadiah, a freelance programmer. He adds that “many films are no longer in theaters today”. Operators have been able to adapt to various health restrictions and must now take into account the growing role of platforms in the lives of the French. The goal is to deal with this newcomer; but, for Michel Simongiovanni, “Coexistence is compatible with cinemas”. However, adaptation strategies need to be developed. David Obadia, for example, is organizing more one-off events to attract the public – his wish would be to find a virtuous solution that allows viewers to discover great films that only air on platforms under the optimal conditions offered by the cinema.
At the national and European level, governments resist the protection of European authors. Between the SMAD and TNT decrees and the chronology of new media, a complete restructuring of French and European laws is dusting off a situation in which the film industry seemed frozen. Media Timeline, for example, allows Canal and OCS to stream movies six months after they were released, up from eight months earlier, and Netflix 15 months instead of 36 months.
The European directive of the SMA decree allows European authors to obtain legal protection and ensure reinvestment in the audiovisual creations of each country. In France, the transfer of the SMA directive should allow for an investment of 20% of platform turnover in French production, of which 80% for the audiovisual sector and 20% for cinema. Which in the long run could be between 250 million and 300 million euros, according to Karim Mottalib, CEO of the Film and Cultural Finance Institute. This additional money should make it possible to finance various projects. “Intelligence in France is about getting the platforms involved and getting them to invest”– emphasizes the director of distribution of KMBO Gregoire Marshall.
For the founder of the production company La Chambre aux frescoes, Thomas Schmitt, the situation remains encouraging: thanks to the arrival of platforms, “there are several counters, so a variety of customers and opportunities”. But this extra meter is much better received by manufacturers than by distributors because SVoD drives prices down. “Platforms can buy a lot, but not expensive, which prevents films from being profitable. » However, Gregoire Marshal, far from fatalism, adds that“you must live with the times, we must think about a different distribution logic”.
On the way to a talent drain?
The platforms also allow new talent to meet their audience. This is, for example, the case with director Anzhe Basterga. After receiving a prize at the Cognac Festival in 2007 for a film of his own production Kingpinfilmed with Nicholas Lopez, were noticed by Netflix, which gave them the opportunity to film the series of the same name. “For me, working with Netflix is like going from amateur to professional sports! » The platform really allowed them to get support worthy of major studios, without limiting them in the artistic vision of the project: “They always go in the direction of the artist, you just need to be able to impose your choice. » International success Kingpin on Netflix today allows artists to enjoy real professional credibility. If the big platforms manage to bring certain outsiders to the fore, their ability to “steal” certain talents that have emerged from the classical scheme sometimes seems to be condemned. However, as Thomas Schmitt points out, this logic is already found in other industries. “The danger is that we, as a small independent manufacturer, will find ourselves without money, but all the work of the government, in particular the CNC, allows you to control the situation. »
In addition to American platforms such as Disney+, Amazon Prime or Netflix, the offer is complemented by other small and medium-sized structures. This is the case of the French platform Tënk, founded in 2016, which saw the emergence of platforms as a solution for broadcasting creative documentaries. “We will find the same typology as the productions, platforms of all sizes will coexist”, according to Jean-Marie Barbet, founder of Tënk. Thus, these more modest platforms should allow works to exist and meet with a diverse international audience. “It is important that all platforms do not operate on the same economic model. The goal of private platforms is often to raise money and increase consumption. We, our goal is to have a social and political dimension, to show different points of view, and not to force people to consume. There must also be community platforms to be able to continue to play this role.”Thomas Schmitt recalls. This diversity also counters the phenomenon of job standardization seen in American leaders.
If the future remains uncertain, especially with the imminent arrival of new American platforms in France, industry professionals are ready to fight to bring unique works and experiences to the public. One thing is for sure: the massive development of this new form of distribution allows for card shuffling and, at times, making room for new talent.