On March 31st in Toldi cinema
small room the public had the opportunity to attend a roundtable-discussion about the future and the possibilities of film distribution.
The initiative came partly from Péter Bognár, General Manager of Filmklik who was also the moderator of the professional forum. The starting point was the polemical essay appeared on Filmklik blog called Independent Film Distribution 2.0. Its thesis is that the traditional business model of film distribution is impossible to maintain, because the purchase of the potentially successful films costs too much, and the investment is in all cases risky: the distributors’ have a one-way communication with the audience, with actually no idea of the viewers’ real demands. The number of the tickets sold in theatres reduces year by year, nor can DVD sells balance the loss of income. Bognár said that digital distribution is the solution, as it requires less costs but provides more possibilities.
Péter Bálint, General Manager of UIP Dunafilm and president of Association of Hungarian Film Distributors had a different opinion. In his view, traditional cinema is far from over; he can give account of a growth in the number of viewers between February 2008 and end of February 2009. He thinks that the experience conveyed by the cinema can never be overrated, and therefore, replaced by the kind of entertainment that Amazon offers.
According to András Kálmán, director of Audiovizuális Művek Szerzői Jogait Védő Közcélú Alapítvány (Public Foundation for Author’s Rights of Audiovisual Works) also thinks that traditional cinema still has something to offer, because upon the appearance of digital prints, exhibitors can decide about the programme and this will allow to the diversification and thematisation of theatres. Internet contents can therefore become accessible in the cinema milieu, via public reception.
As to Bognár, however, the real threat concerns rather the independent distributors than the exhibitors. The only obstacle to digital distribution, which is the key to the future, is the lack of contents, as the owners of rights insist on the huge amount of minimal guarantee which yields long-term returns only. Income share would be idealistic, however, producers are willing to accept it on the condition that the distributor can provide a great number of viewers. The only method to achieve this is audience organisation. According to Bognár, film distributors could, with all the possibilities provided by the Internet and the audience organising power of different media, establish a database which maps precisely the national consuming habits: who is interested in what. Once accomplished, it will result in that the final aim, downloading films free, will not seem a utopia anymore. This database of high value will also make it easier for the advertisements to reach their audience, which can promote the creation of free entertainment financed by advertisers and buyers.
Áprily Zoltán, one of the founders of Dazoo.com, stated that a copy of the so-called role model, the American Hulu is unachievable here. Hulu.com is an incomparable phenomenon which functions only because NBC supplies it continuously with contents. Concerning Dazoo, he explained that their video-sharer provides only short films, which would be a nonsense to charge for, as they are accessible free everywhere on the Internet.
In Bognár’s opinion, however, the new business model is going to be accomplished because the big shots like Amazon and iTunes are already knocking on the door. The national independent distributors’ task is to offer alternatives for the movies besides the globalised mainstream and help in giving orientation in the field of supply.