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Studies & Market Reports

25 February 2014 à 10:44

UniFrance's activities focused on foreign theaters

Unifrance is paying close attention to the changes brought about by digital technology, which impose new film distribution models.

Whether related to theaters (projection), distribution (material and marketing), or delivery platforms, one of Unifrance' missions is to accompany French films in this development, by building ties with the distribution/theater operating sector so as to:

  • Maintain and preserve its position in the arthouse sector as the latter adapts to  new standards and the demands of contemporary society and evolving services;
  • Secure a position in multiplexes which demonstrate their limitations in terms of programming diversity;
  • Accompany new forms of film distribution directly with theaters or, parallel to theatrical releases, on VOD platforms. 
In order to meet these objectives, for two years now UniFrance has implemented activities with theaters abroad, namely:
1 - Supporting the distribution of French films in foreign theaters in collaboration with distributors, or directly with theater operators in the case of films that have not been picked up for theatrical release.
2 – Promoting the idea of film diversity during theater operator conferences, professional meetings, and to international institutions.


1 - Supporting the distribution of French films in foreign theaters

1 - 1 Building ties with multiplexes

  • Negotiating directly with multiplex operators.
  • Setting up mechanisms (financial and other), expanding the place granted to French films, and promoting improved programming of content.
  • Attracting a new audience.

- UCI in Italy. In 2013, the release of 5 films in theaters operated by the UCI chain for a minimum run of two weeks. Trailers, billboards, and Internet communication conceived for the operation. French film festival in UCI sites in June. In 2014, the contract is renewed for 10 films over 9 months.

-  Ciné 13 (Gulf Film) inUnited Arab Emirate. One of the screens of the Ibn Battuta Mall Grand Cinemas in Dubaï showcases a new French film every week. This arrangement is planned to be extended to Abu Dhabi and Lebanon in 2014.

1 - 2 Direct aid to independent theaters

  • Bringing tailored support to independent theaters that specifically focus on French films or are the only outlet in a city or in a specific zone.

- Zawya in Cairo (Egypt). The launching of the theatrical exploitation of independent films in Egypt after a presentation of the initiative made during the Panorama of European Films. Concerns 4 films.

-  Verdi in Madrid and Barcelona (Spain / Madrid-Barcelona). Supporting the once-monthly screening of a French film, which has not been picked up for local distribution, in two theaters.

1 - 3 Promoting French cinema in multiplexes

  • Distributing information within multiplexes in the form of trailers, brochures, posters, and Internet banners.

- CGV Mars Group in Turkey: Screening a trailer announcing the French films to be released within the coming 3 months.

 1 - 4 Direct distribution through theater chains

  • Bringing together rights holders and theater operators with the aim of distributing films not picked up by local distributors.
Taking advantage of digital technologies to expand the range of French films on offer.
  • Attracting new audiences in zones where French films are not currently released.
Proving the commercial potential of French films within the perspective of classical distribution.

 -  Galaxy in the USA: Proposing during a 15-day period, 4 times a year, 6 French films not picked up for release in a network of 20 to 50 screens located in 30 theaters of the Galaxy chain. UniFrance put sales agents and Galaxy in touch with other and supported communication. Shared box office revenues (40% for the rights holder). Launch planned for the summer of 2014 .

Arthouse network in Shanghai (China). Setting up a program of 5 French films to screen in 10 theaters, with 2 sessions per day (12pm and 8pm) in April 2014.Unifrance selects the films after an agreement with theater operators. (An event organized with support from the committee for the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and China)

Specticast (USA and Russia): reprising films of MyFrenchFilmFestival offered to a network of 900 screens. To date, 150 sessions in the USA, 400 in Russia. Further development possible for content programming.

- Emerging Pictures (USA): Simultaneous release of films in forty American cities. This operation has been running for four years in conjunction with the Rendez-Vous With French Cinema à New York


2 - Promoting French films with international theater operators

2 - 1 Participating in theater operator conferences

  • Being present at conferences during panel discussions or slots dedicated to French film (films or trailer screenings).
  • Promoting French cinema through brochures distributed to participants, advertisements in trade magazines, hosting stands.
  • Supporting the presence of a filmmaker or lead actors to present a film and organize debates about French cinema.

International conventions: CinemaCon (Las Vegas – March); Vista (Argentina - April) ; CinéEurope (Barcelona – June); ShowEast (Florida – October); CineAsia (Hong Kong ​ – December).

National or sector based conventions: Italy (Arthouse: Mantua - Générale: Sorrento / Rimini), Russia (Kinoexpo: Sotchi / Moscow / St Petersburg); China (MCon: Beijing); Switzerland (Locarno Trade Show); USA (Sundance: Art House Convergence); Europa Cinemas Network Conferences 

2 - 2 Hosting by Unifrance

  • Invitations to operators and distributors to UniFrance films' events.

- Unifrance Rendez-Vous in Paris: Since 2012, invitations to fifty European and Quebec operators; certain specific zones targeted (Amérique du Sud, China)/ (in 2013: roundtable discussions about theater operating and distribution; in 2014 a visit to the Balzac cinema).

2 - 3 Building ties with institutions

  • Developing awareness among film institutions in the international sector of the need to encourage programming diversity.
Organizing or participating in professional roundtables.

-  Europa Cinemas: participation in annual conferences (Athens in 2013).

-  CICAE - Confédération internationale des cinémas d'art et d'essai (Venice): participation alongside other European institutions in this European arthouse theater operators conference.

-  FNCF - Fédération nationale des cinémas français: Deauville congress, presentation on theater operating trends around the world (2013).

2 - 4 Disseminating information about French film industry professionals

  • Encouraging the development of French theater operators abroad.
  • Creating a listing of foreign operators based on the distributors' model. 

-  Discussions with the IFCIC - Institut pour le Financement du Cinéma et des Industries Culturelles about the possibility of a loan guarantee against a share of investments by French theater operators as they set up abroad (construction or taking over existing theaters).

Carrying out a study about theater operating around the world (multiplexes versus arthouse cinemas) and the state of the programming of French films in foreign theaters.

Financial and strategic issues

Activities focusing on theaters around the world represent an opportunity to mobilize an indispensible link in the dissemination and distribution of French films at a time when digital technologies are radically changing the film distribution landscape. The cost of these ventures is directly taken care of by UniFrance. It is not a question of randomly developing ventures, but, inspired by initiatives that have already been developed, of basing them on conclusive experiments so that they lead to commercial perspectives that no longer rely on UniFrance's support. The presence of French films in multiplexes, the back up of arthouse theaters, the contact with new partners who create new film distribution models, and the exchanges with professional and institutional representatives about the need for programming diversity in theaters are so many pressing and immediate issues that must be dealt with now if we are to avoid disappearing for good from certain markets. 

Author : Gilles Renouard

Latest update : 14 April 2016 à 10:44 CEST

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