After world premiering Abel Ferrara’s sex scandal pic Welcome To New York in an unconventional way at the Cannes Film Festival last May, French powerhouse Wild Bunch is launching Europe’s first “e-distribution” company. The aim is to acquire four to five titles during the upcoming AFM which will be released via different VOD services throughout Europe, or — laws permitting — simultaneously on VOD and a small number of screens. Contrary to Netflix, which entered several European markets in mid-September — and recently said it would exclusively stream both St Vincent and The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby with no theatrical window in France — Wild Bunch films won’t be limited to one platform. Instead, co-founder Vincent Maraval tells me they will be available via such providers as iTunes as well as Canal Plus’ VOD service and Netflix where available. The idea is to capitalize on the films’ marketing campaigns which will be structured as if they were for a theatrical release — although they’ll be able to also benefit from TV advertising which is a no-no for movies that go out in theaters. The first film acquired for the service is Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno with a release date pending.
Back in Cannes, Wild Bunch unveiled Welcome To New York and simultaneously put it out on several VOD platforms including iTunes and its own FilmoTV. Due to an increasingly contested windows system in France, movies can’t go out on VOD until several months after their theatrical release, so Wild Bunch made a guinea pig out of Welcome To New York, controversially bypassing theatrical distribution and seeing 100K downloads in the first 10 days. The company now says it is looking to follow in the footsteps of such U.S.-based distributors as Radius-TWC, A24 and IFC with an alternative way to release films in an effort to widen audiences and economic prospects. Screens are increasingly precious in Europe, notably in the UK and France where any given week may see as many as 15 films vying for theatrical play. At the same time, VOD is really coming into its own — especially with the launch of Netflix with whom Maraval sees complementarity rather than competition.
The territories covered by the new digital distribution division, which does not yet have a name, include France; Germany, via Wild Bunch Germany/Senator; Spain, with Vertigo; and Italy with Bim. The UK will also be a play thanks to an agreement with Altitude. Wild Bunch also says it’s looking to offer the service to other European markets and to partner with U.S. companies to finance and co-produce movies that are specifically eyed for e-distribution.