An increasing bottleneck in the European exhibition sector — especially in France — sees as many as 15 theatrical releases a week, giving few movies the chance to separate themselves from the crowd, build and play out. French sales, finance and distrbution powerhouse Wild Bunch is eyeing a solution. In October, the company said it was launching Europe’s first “e-distribution” company to acquire titles for VOD release throughout Europe (or day-and-date with theatrical where laws permit) to bring movies to the widest possible audiences. The first film Wild Bunch acquired for the scheme was Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno. It’s now dated that pic for the 4th quarter of this year and set the rest of its slate, including a series of films produced by Jason Blum.
The first release under the new e-Cinéma service is Mikkel Nørgaard’s Danish blockbuster The Keeper Of Lost Causes. That’s the first film in the Department Q franchise which has led the local box office for the past two years. Lost Causes will go out on VOD only via such platforms as iTunes, Google Play, Orange and Wild Bunch’s own FilmoTV, and will be available via all of France’s internet access providers, reaching more than 80% of homes as of March 27. In a twist, Wild Bunch will then release the second film in the franchise, The Absent One, on April 8, but only in theaters — ideally capitalizing on online buzz generated by the first film.
Wild Bunch says it wants to “offer real theatrical films an alternative distribution model with the objective of creating real events of the films and getting them to the widest possible audience.” The current slate is for France only, although the company says it will quickly be in a position to exclusively release one film per month in the territories where it has distribution — Germany, Italy and Spain.
The other films on the 2015 VOD slate include Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s horror comedy What We Do In The Shadows for release this summer; Ramin Bahrani’s hit festival drama 99 Homes in September; James Corden-starrer One Chance this fall; and Sinister 2 in the 4th quarter. That horror pic will kick off the relationship with Blum which sees Brad Peyton’s Incarnate e-released by Wild Bunch in early 2016.
Wild Bunch had first experimented with an e-Cinéma release in May 2014 when it bypassed movie theaters to distribute Abel Ferrara’s sex scandal pic Welcome To New York on several platforms. There were 100K downloads within the first 10 days. Netflix then entered the market in September and quickly said it would release St Vincent and The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby without a theatrical window. Wild Bunch doesn’t see the streaming service as competition, however, and previously said it would work with the company when possible.