Distributors Wild Bunch, ARP and Artificial Eye have secured nearly €2m from the European Commission (EC) to support simultaneous multiplatform releases – a scheme that has drawn criticism from cinema-owners.

Wild Bunch received €500,000 for its Speed Bunch project to work with Wild Bunch Distribution, Wild Side, Filmonline, Elle Driver, Wild Bunch Germany, Italy’s BIM and Spain’s Vertigo.

Meanwhile, France’s ARP was awarded €800,000 for its TIDE project in collaboration with Europa Distribution (with 25 distributors from 17 countries), Italy’s Fandango, France’s Urban Distribution and WIDE, the UK’s Goldcrest, and the French digital distributor/marketer Under The Milky Way.

In addition, €695,500 was allocated to UK distributor Artificial Eye’s EDAD project which will be operated in collaboration with Poland’s Gutek Films, France’s Rezo Films, Germany’s The Match Factory, Spain’s Golem and the Benelux’s Cinéart.

Simultaneous release

The €2m scheme will cover around 20 arthouse films released in Germany, France, UK, Poland, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

It will support and assess the benefits of releasing feature films via different platforms on the same day; in other words, a simultaneous release in cinemas, on television, through video-on-demand and via the internet.

Commenting on the initiative, Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: “The film industry in the US is increasingly adapting to new models of distribution.

“It is essential that Europe also tests all the possibilities to see how we can ensure diversity and profitability in a competitive market.”

The three key objectives are to:

  • improve conditions for the circulation of European works throughout the EU;
  • increase and expand the global audience for European films;
  • inform markets and local authorities of changes likely to improve complementarity between distribution media.

Strong criticism

But ahead of its launch the scheme has been the focus of criticism from cinema-owner trade organisations.

In a joint letter to the EC last month, UNIC, CICAE and Europa Cinemas declared that this support scheme for day-and-date releases was “unbalanced“ and “may even have the potential to harm the film and cinema industry in the medium term.“

“A cinematographic work can only generally be successful – and reach audiences – if it is exploited according to a sophisticated release schedule (the ‘media chronology’),” the associations said.

“As only a theatrical release enables a film to receive unparalleled levels of publicity - and meet initial consumer demand - films are usually launched in cinemas.

“We strongly believe that this arrangement works to the benefit of European citizens and consumers, and of the entire industry, and recommend that the European institutions trust the market as well as their colleagues at national level to do what is best for each European territory.”