The Klockworx has distributed around forty French films since the early 2000s. What have been your most successful titles?
It would definitely be The Bélier Family, which I acquired from SND, with which we generated 90,000 admissions. For me, one dollar invested that brings in ten dollars, after you've taken into account the MG [minimum guarantee] and marketing costs, is a success. If it only brings in two dollars, it's a failure. French films do well every once in a while, this was also the case with The Squad, starring Jean Reno. I couldn't tell you the exact number of French films that we distribute each year, but it's on the increase, simply for accounting reasons as the more films we release, the more chance we have to increase our profits, even if it's by a small margin. A few years ago, we were able to gain significant profits from a single film, but now the market has changed greatly. It's now more fragmented, and in order to survive we must step up the number of films we release. It's a little like gambling at a casino—the more you play, the more chances you have of winning, even if the gains are only small. At the same time, the costs remain the same, while the number of distributors competing on the market is increasing. You just have to forge ahead, regardless.
Do you have a particular acquisition policy, relating to specific genres or target audience categories?
No, our slate of films is extremely broad, even if personally I have a particular liking for the film noir genre. Our films can range from a European film costing €10,000 that we release directly on DVD to an action blockbuster starring Mark Wahlberg. If we feel that there's money to be made, we'll take it! The Klockworx doesn't get involved in following specific filmmakers, and we don't have a policy of preferring particular film types.
What is your perspective on the type of people who see movies in Japan? What are their tastes?
It's an aging audience—rather like me! The entertainment industry has undergone rapid changes with the development of digital technology, and "mature" audiences have trouble following these changes. Japanese movie theaters are often located in commercial centers, which are struggling due to the huge rise in online sales. Cinemas are therefore collateral victims of the situation, especially since younger audiences are losing interest in movie theaters, preferring portable devices. So, how can we motivate them to spend ¥1,500 [around €12] to see a film in a theater? The films that continue to work well in theaters are the big-scale Japanese productions—like Toho, for example—and Disney films. This year, these productions have accounted for one half of the turnover of the Japanese theatrical market. If we keep releasing foreign films, including French films, it's for two reasons: our love of films, but also for the fun of the game! However, we are entering into a new business model with the development of the day-and-date strategy. The problem is that in Japan the theaters are owned by Toho, Shochiku, or Toei, and these operators are putting up obstacles that make it hard for us to advance. Films like The Wolf's Call—submarine dramas are very popular as home entertainment in Japan—or Jessica Forever, each at their own scale, would be very well-suited to the day-and-date release plan, such as with a theatrical release on the same day as a VOD release, at the same price. Theatrical release is crucial because of the media coverage it generates. We've been turned down several times by the exhibitors, but we'll keep persevering with it, and we'll end up by making it work. To ensure our survival, we are also thinking about producing content ourselves, Japanese content for Amazon and Netflix. This is one direction that could bring in funds that would allow us to continue our work in broad genre distribution, something that we have no intention of giving up. We love films and we also love to play, there's no doubt about that! But there's another fact to take into consideration: the past will never come back!