Picl and Medialoc have been at the forefront of innovative distribution models for European arthouse films

As a result of various trends in the European audiovisual sector in the past decade, amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, arthouse cinemas and distributors have completely changed their view on digital film distribution and digital audience engagement. But even beyond the pandemic, virtual cinema is here to stay.

Picl and Medialoc have been at the forefront of testing and experimenting with ‘other’ distribution models for European arthouse films, with praise of the sector due to considerable success in audience engagement. However, during this testing phase, it became clear that, while many cinemas made a huge leap in experimenting, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to virtual cinema.

Technology that works in one country may not be the right approach in another. The same goes for marketing, both by distributors and cinemas: best-practices in selling online views and how this compares to theatrical view, differs per country.
The REACH’M project aims to improve hybrid audience reach and engagement for European arthouse films by cinemas. The project’s ultimate goal is to create a sustainable business model for hybrid releases of European arthouse films, with a country-sensitive approach.

  • The relationship between European arthouse cinemas and their audiences is key. More than any other release window, arthouse cinemas are the gateway to European film. Therefore, the convergence from offline to online should take the curating role and local presence of cinemas as a starting point;
  • The value chain of arthouse film distribution is completely different from mainstream film distribution. Traditional distribution works for commercial films with big marketing budgets, but not for the large majority of European arthouse films, which benefit most from tailormade and flexible distribution models. It therefore makes no sense to keep using the same sequential release windows for mainstream as for each European arthouse films;
  • Simultaneously offering films online will increase, widen and diversify the audience of local arthouse cinemas, rather than weaken it. Film audiences are often unable to go to the cinema due to geographical distance, inconvenient screening times, because the film they wanted to see is already out of cinema circulation or because of physical limitations;
  • Local arthouse cinemas are best at providing an interactive meeting space focused on film and its context. Today, this space could also be accessible from home using new digital, hybrid technologies and it is logical for physical cinemas to extend their audience capacity in this way to the online realm.
  • Increased insight into metadata on audience preferences can benefit local arthouse cinemas and distributors. Due to dispersed online systems, cinemas are currently missing out on benefitting from valuable data pools. Gathering and analysing metadata can help to better streamline release windows, create a curated online/hybrid film offer, take into account local preferences and set up targeted marketing.