Body representing 125 independent distributors across Europe will also discuss future of the Media Programme and examine cinema-on-demand distribution schemes.

The sixth Europa Distribution annual conference opens on Thursday (Oct 18) in the French city of Lyon, where Thierry Frémaux’s [pictured] heritage-focused Lumière Festival is hosting the event for a second year.

Some 70 independent, European distributors and 20 international speakers from 26 countries are due to attend the three-day meeting.

The meeting will kick off on Thursday evening with a discussion on the distribution of heritage films in the digital age at the Villa Lumière, the former home of Lyon’s cinematography pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière which is now a museum and institute preserving their work.

Cannes Film Festival director and Lumière Festival chief Frémaux will introduce the debate touching on a topic close to his heart.

Speakers will include the UK’s Fabien Riggall, creator of the hugely successful Secret Cinema venture, which racked up $1.1m in ticket sales with a six-week London run of The Third Man earlier this year, Jean-Fabrice Janaudy of Paris-based distributor Les Acacias, which will re-release Jean Renoir’s 1952 classic The Golden Carriage at the end of October, and Loïc Magneron, founding president of sales company Wide Management, which holds the rights to classics such as Jean-Luc Godard’s 1962 Vivre sa vie and Lumière Festival-screener Max Ophuls’ Lola Montès in its catalogue.

On Friday morning, the conference will tackle European politics and the future of the Media Programme with contributions from Paris-based sales agent Daniela Elstner of Doc & Film, Sasha Wieser, CEO of Vienna-based EastWest Distribution, and Jakub Duszynski, head of acquisitions at leading Polish art-house distributor Gutek Film.

A session in the afternoon will look at innovative business models and new experimental distribution schemes. Media and entertainment consultant Ricardo Torres will talk about how to optimise digital rights amid the proliferation of new digital distribution channels and Sarah Calderon of The Film Agency will look at day and date release strategies on both sides of the Atlantic.

A final session will examine three new cinema-on-demand schemes where cinemagoers choose the titles they want to see at their local theatres. Speakers will include Thomas Cauchon, programmer of the French la Septième Salle initiative dreamt-up by producer Tom Dercourt of production house Cinéma Defacto, and Marieke Jonker of Amstelfilm, organiser of the We Want Cinema venture in the Netherlands.  

The Europa Distribution meeting is unfolding against the backdrop of the Lumière Festival’s packed programme of heritage screenings and master-classes – this year featuring a talk with veteran actor and long-time Ingmar Bergman collaborator Max von Sydow.

The fourth edition of the Lumière Festival opened on Monday with a gala screening of a restored version of Jerry Schatzberg’s Al Pacino and Gene Hackman-starrer Scarecrow, which won Cannes’ Palme d’Or in 1973.

The opening night guest list would not have looked out of place in Cannes. French director Guillaume Canet introduced the film to an audience featuring Monica Bellucci, von Sydow, Jacqueline Bisset, Lalo Schifrin, Tim Roth, Agnès Varda, Mark Cousins and Nicolas Winding Refn.

Upcoming highlights of the public-focused festival include a marathon music and cinema night on Friday, screening American Graffiti, A Hard Day’s Night, This is Spinal Tap and Walk the Line back to back.

British director Ken Loach will be in attendance on Oct 20, in the company of his screenwriter Paul Laverty and producer Rebecca O’Brien, to receive the fourth honorary Lumière Prize previously awarded to Clint Eastwood, Milos Forman and Gérard Dépardieu.

The festival closes on Sunday with a matinée gala screening of Michael Cimino’s restored, new 216-minute cut of his 1980s epic western Heaven’s Gate in the presence of the director and lead actress Isabelle Huppert.

One of the worst box office flops in history when it was first released in 1980, Heaven’s Gate has staged something of a comeback in recent months thanks to the restored, re-cut version, screening at the Venice and New York film festivals to belated critical acclaim.