The potential of social networks as a marketing tool, VOD and digital transition will be key topics at the fifth-annual conference.

The fifth annual Europa Distribution conference kicks off in the French city of Lyon on Friday where it is being hosted by the Lumière Festival, the public-focused film event headed by Thierry Fremaux.

Some 65 distributors from 25 European countries are expected to attend the meeting, a key networking and information exchange for independent players in the increasingly challenging film distribution scene. 

“Europa Distribution started off with 35 members in 2006 and now we are 110 distributors hailing from 26 countries,” said Anemie Degryse of Belgian distributor Lumiere, who took over as co-president of the body in July alongside Jakub Duszynski of Poland’s Gutek.

“The themes of this year’s conference reflect the huge, unprecedented changes that are aking place within the film distribution – from the conversion to digital cinema to the development of new business models on the back of the Internet,” she added.

Topics up for discussion on Friday morning will include innovative new media business models and the potential of social networks as a marketing tool.

Speakers on the panel will include Serge Hayat, founder of the French, participative film financing site People for Cinema, which has recently worked with films such Pawel Pawlikoswki’s Woman in the Fifth and Julie Delpy’s Skylab.

Alongside him will be Arte Cinema chief Michel Reilhac [pictured], Ogilvy digital marketing guru Michael Darragh and Hungarian distributor Peter Bognar of Cinefil-Co.

A second talk will look at the obstacles and opportunities connected with the transition to digital cinema.  

Speakers will include Thierry Delpit of CN Films, the creators of — a web-based tool aimed at helping distributors manage their digital releases. Laura Dutoit (Agora), Régine Vial (DIRECT) and Edward Fletcher (Soda Pictures) will also sit on the panel.

VOD business models and issues such as licences and windows will be on the table for discussion on Saturday with panellists including Frederic Stege (TrustNordisk), Antonio Medici (Bim) and Tilman Scheel of the Cologne-based website, which offers a digital submission service to film festivals as well as business to business transmission options too.

 The conference will take place in the Villa Lumière, the former home of cinematography pioneers Auguste and Jean Lumière, who shot many of their first films in the city such as their 1895 Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory.

Europa Distribution was created in 2006 as a think-tank, lobby organisation and professional networking opportunity for independent distributors.