Keynote Conversation 2 / AFM Opening Session
Elissa Federoff, President of Distribution, NEON
Moderated by Brent Lang, Executive Editor, Film & Media, Variety
On theatrical coming back.
“We know that audiences will come back to movie theatres. That the theatrical landscape will be vibrant again. This is very exciting news about the vaccine because potentially it makes the span of time a little shorter…”
“We’ve always projected we would be back and our movies would be in those theatres. We love the cinema so much. It is the best way to see a movie I truly believe there is no virtual offering, there is no streaming equivalent there’s no digital equivalent to being in a movie theatre with an audience having a completely immersive experience in the dark, no phones, no talking, no distractions and of the audience being a character in that film. That really changes the whole dynamic.”
On how NEON has adapted a pandemic strategy in the short term.
“Over the pandemic we’ve released a ton of films. We’ve released more films than probably the majority of our independent counterparts have. We’ve been buying films, we’ve been producing films. We’ve taken this opportunity to pivot our strategy and release our films digitally and with Hulu.”
“Ammonite, we are releasing this Friday in theatres and then we’re putting it on PVOD on the 4th of December. This is our first PVOD release that we’ve done and we’re really excited about it. Inside this pandemic and inside this award season, this is a highly strategic way that we are releasing this film. LA is not open, New York is not open, San Francisco is not open so we don’t see the theatrical box office at this moment to be the same as it has been in the past and we believe it will be in the future. This has been previously very very successful for us when we released Bachelorette for example or Snowpiercer – the VOD was so robust that it actually made the film just as viable as if we had put it in theatres and spent the P&A. So this works great for Ammonite. We have several other movies on our slate and we would absolutely love them to see them in theatres. We have Gunda, we have The Killing of Two Lovers, we have several other films for next Spring that we have not yet slotted for our release calendar and fingers crossed theatres are back and everyone is going.”
On why they’ve been so active releasing films during this time.
“Independent film has always been a very very difficult business. It’s always been hard to release these films. We’ve always found challenges in the marketplace with theatres even when every screen was open. We’ve always felt the competitive nature of the business. When tentpoles were there, when other independent films were there and we were all vying for our spot. So we’ve always been up against something and it’s never stopped us. We truly want to bring films to people. We want to bring them out when people want to see them the most which is now, when they want to be fulfilled by something. Our films and a lot of Independents are, in some cases, so much more important than the tentpoles because they reach so many different audiences and really specific niche audiences who may not find something in the digital space.”
“We really wanted to stay relevant and bring, buy, and release films at a time when production is struggling, and exhibition is struggling. We want to support artists. So much of this time period has been in doubt and we don’t know when we will ‘get back to normal’. I don’t think we should wait to get ‘back to normal’. We should pivot and figure out strategies that will help us now.”
View on Drive-in Theatres.
“I think what has shifted is that they typically were seen as theatres that only play very commercial films. They haven’t been in the space of anything really different. And now they’re playing independent film for the first time. They’re playing art releases. They’re playing movies from smaller companies and not just the major studios and that’s what has shifted so much about drive-ins. We love having them in our plans. People feel safe. I see them sticking around. I think we’ve opened up both the audiences for Drive-ins and the theatres themselves to think more about independent film.”
On Windows Shifting
“The reality is that multiplatform releases have always been around. We’ve always had then as part of our strategy for certain kinds of releases and many other companies have as well. We’re no stranger to the short window or the multi-platform release. What’s exciting about right now is that the studios are kind of acknowledging it as a way to release a film. NEON is not a company that believes every film is one size fits all – there will always be films for us and for the entire world that will need a very long and thought out release in theatres for 180 days before they go to VOD. We love those. Films like Honeyland. We would have never released that in any other way than a long thought out release. Parasite same thing. But then there have been other films like Snowpiercer that we did a compressed window and we put it on VOD and it was very very successful for us. It made in excess of $10 Million on VOD. And the fact that we can be flexible, I think just opens up many more avenues in our business.”
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