Key executives: Philip Knatchbull, CEO, Curzon; Damian Spandley, director of programme and distribution sales, Curzon; Louisa Dent, managing director, Curzon Artificial Eye; Jessica Woodward, head of operations, Curzon Home Cinema; Sam Howlett, programmer, Curzon Home Cinema
Business model: TVoD, PVoD
Subscription costs: £285 ($398)/year gives users five credits each week for use in Curzon cinemas or to rent titles via the platform; £11.99 ($16.70)/title (PVoD) and £3.99 ($5.60)/title (TVoD)
Territories available: UK, Ireland
Annual turnover and/or subscriber base: Undisclosed
Most watched film title on platform in 2021: My Donkey, My Lover & I (dir. Caroline Vignal)
Already very active both in distribution (via Curzon Artificial Eye) and exhibition (via its chain of boutique cinemas), Curzon was well placed to launch into the digital space, which it did with Curzon On Demand in 2010, rebranding as Curzon Home Cinema in 2013. With Covid-19 forcing cinemas in the UK and Ireland to close temporarily, the digital platform seemed positively prescient: Curzon Home Cinema’s revenue has tripled over the period of the pandemic, compared to pre-Covid levels.
Although annual membership of Curzon is available at a price, Curzon Home Cinema is essentially a TVoD service, with the emphasis very much on PVoD — new premium-priced titles, often distributed by Curzon itself. “What I eventually want to happen is the PVoD, as far as possible, to replicate what we’re programming in the cinemas,” explains CEO Philip Knatchbull. “Everything that’s happening is just a stepping-stone towards that.”
More mainstream films, which currently play in Curzon sites such as London’s Victoria, Colchester and Knutsford, “should be on the service”, he adds. “I have always said, quality doesn’t have to be arthouse, it can be mainstream as well. Our cinemas reflect that already, and I hope the streaming side of it will replicate that.”
This chimes with Knatchbull’s goal of “reducing the reliance on Louisa [Dent] and the distribution team to provide films for Curzon Home Cinema” by increasingly doing deals with other distributors.
When Knatchbull joined Curzon 15 years ago, he saw his competitors as rival independent distribution companies such as Momentum Pictures or Tartan Films. “But now it’s more Mubi, Netflix and Amazon,” he says, adding, “I do think it’s a seller’s market for content at the moment, and MGs [minimum guarantees] are going up. So we’re being very cautious. What I don’t want to do is step in and knowingly buy a film I can’t make money on just because we need that film.”
Curzon CM, Curzon’s new development fund with partners Madman Entertainment and Cineart, will help fuel the distribution pipeline. Curzon, which was acquired by Cohen Media Group in December 2019, has no immediate plans to expand its VoD platform internationally, although Knatchbull advises that Curzon Home Cinema is built in such a way to “scale easily” and the US would likely be the first port of call.