In the Official Selection
Gaza mon amour by Tarzan and Arab Nasser
"We are delighted to present Gaza mon amour in the Discovery strand at TIFF," explains Pape Boye, head of sales at Versatile. "It’s a real privilege to be invited to Toronto this year, which sharpens the curiosity of buyers, especially since the reception of the film in Venice, in the Orizzonti section, was fantastic." Gaza mon amour is the second feature by the Nasser brothers, following on from Dégradé in 2015. A majority French coproduction (Les Films du Tambour) with Germany and Portugal, Gaza mon amour is "an arthouse film, but also a genuine feel-good movie, with a warm, tender side, which makes the difference between other films that can be seen in festivals at the moment. The film has been invited to participate wherever it has been sent, in Europe or the United States." In charge of selling the film from script, Versatile first made sure to acquire the MG in pre-sales, then to find the ideal festival for the launch: Venice’s proposal to show the film in theaters and with an audience had obvious appeal. Although sales are currently in full swing, pre-sales had already been established in Spain, Switzerland, and Brazil, at slightly lower rates, without being drastic. "Those who suffer the full brunt of the crisis are the films that are a little more expensive," says Pape Boye. When it comes to distributors, although Gaza mon amour is clearly arthouse, "we want it to reach a wider audience, not just niche audiences, and the reception in Venice really reinforces this idea." As for the market in general, Boye notes that distributors are looking for films but do not always know how to release them. "There's a lot of envy, but behind it lie a lot of questions. VOD, which has worked well during the crisis, especially in the United States, makes it difficult to know which distribution method will be adopted in the coming months. I would prefer that Gaza mon amour isn’t sold to platforms – it's a film made for presentation in theaters – but we are open to discussion and happy to talk."
Industry Selects section
The Translator by Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf
Everything will truly get underway at TIFF for The Translator, the debut feature by Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf, majority coproduced for France by Georges Films and sold by Charades. Its “virtual” presentation in the Industry Selects section is a decisive first step for its distribution, before the "physical" world premiere that will take place at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, mid-November. Yohann Comte, head of sales at Charades, explains that the film's sales career began in Berlin with the launch of a promo-reel and a poster that were intended to make the film stick in buyers’ memories, thereby leading them to keep track of it up to its world premiere. "There were no pre-sales, as was expected, because it’s a first film, and the location of the action, Syria, may lead one to believe that it is a harsh and arid film." This is not the case, hence the film is being sold as an emotional and dramatic thriller, rather than a political film, which it is not. Distributors, even if arthouse, "should see the thriller aspect of the film as an audience facilitator." For Yohann Comte, the film possesses everything of a "slow-burner": "Sales will take time and will be done through the international festivals where the film will be shown, and via the press generated by these screenings." Theaters, platforms, "anything that can help its distribution suits us, and the thriller aspect can indeed interest platforms." Compte recognizes, in a more general way, that "even though sales have never stopped, there are many more precautions for films whose careers essentially take place in theaters. Distributors tend to release comedies or genre films, which are easier for audiences. But you should never make assumptions about what audiences will like. It's really right now that cinemas in Western Europe are taking stock of the situation, and let's hope that soon it will be same in the rest of the world."
French films in foreign markets
Since June, French films have actively participated in the relaunch of cinematographic activity in different countries. Their presence and the confidence of distributors enabled various markets to rely on quality films at a time when Hollywood titles were deserting movie theaters. For example, in Taiwan (where theaters never totally closed), more French films released in the summer of 2020 than in 2019. In Portugal, Quebec, and Switzerland, more than 20 releases were tallied, with 19 in South Korea, 17 in The Netherlands, and 15 in Germany. Almost everywhere that cinemas have reopened, French films are down compared to the previous season, but their performance has been better than that observed for the market as a whole. In Italy, while the market was down 90% between June and August, the results for French films were down only 27% despite the many shuttered cinemas. In Belgium, the number of spectators was even higher for French productions in the summer of 2020 than in the summer of 2019. In Poland, The Netherlands, and South Korea, the determination of distributors and exhibitors paid off, as these regions were among those who generated the highest box office revenues for French films during the period, ahead of Japan or Belgium.
A summer rebound in cinema attendances
By Vincent Le Leurch
Buoyed by more than 800,000 admissions for Christopher Nolan's Tenet recorded the first five days into its release in late August, the French box office ended the summer on a positive note. In all, since cinemas reopened on June 22, 12.7 million moviegoers returned to movie theaters in France, compared with 40.5 million over the same period in 2019, which was a five-year record. The health measures in force explain this figure, as well as the lack of American blockbusters, which can usually account for up to 70% of market share during the summer period. However, the courageous policies instituted by distributors made it possible to initiate a recovery in cinema attendances, fueled by releases and fresh films, mainly French and European. Thus, the Top 25 of the period lists 14 French and 7 American films, whereas normally, the reverse would be true. French comedies did particularly well. This is the case of Blagues de Toto by Pascal Bourdiaux (800,000 admissions, photo), Tout simplement noir by Jean-Pascal Zadi and John Waxxx (730,000 admissions), and Divorce Club by Michaël Youn (600,000 admissions), to name but a few. These films, combined with those from other countries (outside the US), offered a diversified range of titles that interested French spectators, thereby contributing to the increased attendance figures, which were slightly higher than in other European markets.