First title destined for e-distribution slate is Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno. Company will be on hunt for suitable titles at the AFM.

Following the success of its VOD-only release of Welcome to New York earlier this year, Wild Bunch is poised to launch Europe’s first pan-European e-distribution operation.

Taking inspiration from the innovative models of US distributors such as RADiUS, A24 and the IFC, the e-distribution operation will propose films either directly to different VOD services, or when legislation allows, simultaneously via VOD and in theatres.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if the release of Welcome to New York had not been a success and we weren’t convinced of the potential of this market,” said Wild Bunch co-founder Vincent Maraval.

Aside from the performance of Welcome to New York, which clocked some 200,000 downloads in six weeks, the company is also basing it plans on the results of the European Commission’s media chronology experiment last year.

Participating under the Speed Bunch banner, the company experimented with the release of Ken Loach’s Spirit of 45, releasing it via VOD, and theatrically where possible, in five European territories simultaneously in September 2013.

Maraval said the new digital distribution operation would focus on “event movies”, where the release could be boosted by a festival premiere, particular subject matter or fan-base.

“We don’t have a name for it yet. It might simply be Wild Bunch e-Distribution,” he said.

Acquisitions planned at AFM

Wild Bunch and Wild Side acquisition agents Agnes Mentre, Jerome Rougier and Laurent Campagne, who will be on the ground at the upcoming AFM, will be on the hunt for four to five suitable titles for the new digital distribution slate in addition to their more conventional pick-ups.

The first acquisition for the slate is Eli Roth’s rainforest horror thriller The Green Inferno, which is expected to be given a VOD and limited theatrical release in the US this autumn, after distributor Open Road Films ditched a wider theatrical release planned for September at the eleventh hour.

“It’s the first film we’ve acquired with this strategy in mind although I don’t know if chronologically it will be our first release,” said Maraval.

He added the company was also in discussion with two other French distributors, one of them the French arm of a US studio, for three other French titles.

“They would like to benefit from our services and all the accords we have already negotiated with the platforms,” he said.

The company also intends developing partnerships with creative companies, including US entities, to finance or co-produce movies destined for digital distribution.

Pacting with UK’s Altitude

Initially, Wild Bunch plans will roll out the e-distribution strategy in its existing network of distributors in Germany (Wild Bunch Germany and Senator), France (Wild Side and Wild Bunch Distribution), Italy (Bim) and Spain (Vertigo).

But the company has also extended the plan to the UK through an agreement with Altitude and would eventually like to offer its e-distribution services to other European distributors.

French chronology laws

For now, France cannot be included in any simultaneous day-and-date plans due to the country’s strict media chronology laws stipulating a four-month window between theatrical and VOD releases. Maraval is convinced, however, that the law will be eased in the near future.

“France is going to change. There was a study last week showing that, in the US, VOD/SVOD revenues are going to eclipse TV revenues. I don’t think France can eternally close its eyes to this market,” said Maraval.

“Today in France, the VOD market is the only hope for independent distributors. Either we let them exploit this market or we don’t have independents,” he continued. “The day-and-date won’t be long in coming to France.”