Here’s an interesting experiment: As it looks to analyze the viability of day-and-date theatrical and VOD releasing, the EU is coughing up over $1M in P&A and marketing costs for the near-simultaneous release of four films in at least five territories each over the next year. The project is supported by the likes of Oscar winning director Michel Hazanavicius, president of France’s writers, directors and producers group, ARP, which is a partner. But the scheme has also met with opposition – notably in France – where the industry is concerned about cannibalization.
The first title to go out under the TIDE Experiment, one of three initiatives given grants by the EU as part of its “Circulation of European films in the digital era” action, is music documentary Viramundo: A Journey With Gilberto Gil. Announced this week, the movie begins its rollout in ten territories in May. ARP’s Lucie Girre explains that the program works like this: TIDE’s four partner sales companies – France’s Urban Distribution, Italy’s Fandango Portobello, the UK’s Goldcrest Films International and France’s Wide – each put forth a title to participate (Viramundo is Urban’s). Distributors from across Europe then decide if they want to join in on the proposed title’s day-and-date VOD/theatrical release with aggregator Under the Milky Way guaranteeing VOD distribution on Sony, iTunes and other platforms. The EU foots the bill for P&A and transversal marketing via subsidy and box office reverts to the rights holders in the usual fashion
The movies proposed do not require an MG so as to enable “total transparency of revenue sharing from the first euro of VOD and theatrical exhibition,” Girre tells me. Among distribs releasing Viramundo are Soda Pictures in the UK and Ireland, Nomad in Italy and Portugal’s Alambique. Three more art house titles are to be chosen as guinea pigs, setting up an analysis by the Independent Pan-European Digital Association of the strategy’s viability for industry pros across the continent. The results could be particularly interesting for places like France and Germany which have ornery windows systems. In France, there’s a four-month waiting period between theatrical and VOD. To get around this, the TIDE Experiment will see movies released first on VOD and then theatrically in that territory.
When the scheme was first approved at the end of last year, France’s independent producers union called the potential consequences on theatrical distribution “disastrous.” A simultaneous or early online release “is the Trojan Horse of a consumerist vision of the sector, to the detriment of its diversity,” the group said. “There’s no need to experiment for long in order to see that an early or simultaneous release only benefits VOD.”
At the time, Hazanavicius responded saying, “This is not opening Pandora’s box, instead it’s a reflection on the choices that are available… Video on demand should be considered with more imagination, and maybe a little less apprehension… We find it stimulating that the most of the industry is seeking to dissuade us from maintaining this course.”
In total, the EU is committing nearly 2M euros ($2.6M) to TIDE and two other related groups experimenting with media chronology, one led by the UK’s Artificial Eye and the other by France’s Wild Bunch.