Wild Bunch has eschewed a theatrical release in France and opted for a VOD launch for Welcome To New York. Abel Ferrara and Gerard Depardieu will hit the Croisette for day-long event on fringe of Cannes Film Festival.
In a groundbreaking move for a French film company, Wild Bunch has announced it will release Abel Ferrara’s upcoming Welcome To New York via VOD in France, bypassing a theatrical launch.
The controversial picture, starring Gerard Depardieu in a role inspired by the downfall of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn in 2011, is one of the most anticipated films in France this year.
Yet because Wild Bunch has elected for a VOD launch, the film will not now screen in theatres. Under France’s strict release window legislation, there must be a four-month window between a film’s theatrical release and VOD release.
“We’ve wanted to experiment with online distribution for some time and Welcome To New York – which is one of the most anticipated films of the year in France – seemed a perfect opportunity,” said Wild Bunch co-chief Vincent Maraval.
“Up until now, people have experimented with smaller films but we said if we really want to know the true potential of online distribution, we needed to try with one of our strongest titles, otherwise we’ll never know.”
“We don’t like the term VOD and prefer instead Ecinema. The promotional campaign, costing some $1m, will be on a par with a theatrical one, even bigger. We’ll be doing posters, trailers and TV ads. It will be a proper release, a bit like how RADiUS brought out Bachelorette in the US.”
Welcome To New York will also be promoted on the front pages of all the platforms carrying it, making it visible to some 20m potential viewers every day.
“If the results are good we won’t stop there. We will create a company like RADiUS, called Ecinema,” he added. “Today we have the biggest cinema theatre in the world and it’s called the internet.”
Maraval said that releasing directly onto the internet would also cut costs.
“Last year we spent €1.8m ($2.48m) in VPF fees to release our films,” he said, referring to the activities of subsidiary Wild Bunch Distribution. “Rather than spending the €1m on p&a, we’ve just got advertising.”
The picture will be released in France on a variety of platforms – including Wild Bunch’s FilmoTV, iTunes and VOD offerings run by telecom companies Orange, Free, Bouygues and SFR – during the Cannes Film Festival at a price of €7 ($9.67) for France-based customers.
“It will be released everywhere, absolutely everywhere,” said Maraval.
The company is also planning a day-long event in a cinema in Cannes aimed at both professionals and the public, which will be attended by Ferrara and Depardieu.
“In the evening the film will go online,” said Maraval.
Festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux told Screendaily he had not ruled out including the film in Official Selection. He is due to see a final cut next week. [See separate Fremaux interview here.]
“Wild Bunch as a company adores Cannes and will work with Thierry which ever way it goes,” said Maraval.
Beyond France, Wild Bunch is working closely with buyers to coordinate a simultaneous release of the film in their territories where possible.
“In Germany, Italy and Spain they’ll do a day-and-date release. In the United States, IFC will release it simultaneously on VOD and in the theatres too – but later,” said Maraval, adding Canada (Remstar) and Benelux (uMedia) were also on board.
“France is one of the only countries in the world where it’s against the law to show it on VOD and in the cinema at the same time,” said Maraval.
“We think the French media chronology laws are completely idiotic. They were created prior to the internet age and are completely anachronistic. The only people benefitting from these laws today are the pirates. Everyone is a victim. Everyone says it’s there to protect the broadcasters and Canal+ but even Canal+ is a victim – it used to be known for its premieres but today nothing it shows is fresh – it’s all been pirated,” said Maraval.
Wild Bunch originally announced its VOD strategy with respected French newspaper Le Monde on Thursday evening (17).
Co-chief Brahim Chioua told the newspaper: “We’re not asking that all films come out in the theatres and on VOD simultaneously. In the US, where everything is negotiable, the chronology is in reality practically the same as France but there are particular cases, where the rights holders agree to do modify a release.”