CineEurope 2016: Rudolphe Buet, International Distributor of the Year

You transitioned to cinema from music in 2005. Was it a difficult transition or were there more similarities between the two businesses than you expected?

It’s certainly easier to transition to cinema from the entertainment space than from a traditional industry! In both cases, you’re working with people and talent, which comes with its own rewards and challenges in dealing with different sensibilities.

But cinema is much more complex. For a music producer, an album requires creating content around one artist, or one band, for a cost in the tens of thousands. Producing a film requires setting up complex financing and bringing together the right cast, director, and technical team with the goal of getting the chemistry just right. We’re looking at production figures that can be in the tens of millions, and dealing with years of lead time—meaning we need to anticipate exhibitor and audience tastes that much earlier. And releases are less forgiving: an album has an opportunity for success with each new single released. A film only has one shot.

How has StudioCanal evolved in the last 10 years to its current standing in the industry?

A decade ago, StudioCanal was a French company producing French films.  Today, we are a European company with a presence in the top three European markets—and a connection to the opposite side of the world with our activities in Australia and New Zealand. With the addition of a TV series division on top of our film business, we are active across the whole scope of audiovisual production and distribution. Beyond Europe, we’ve worked to build our understanding of the worldwide market. Our reach now extends globally from our L.A. team to our Beijing office, and this has affected our company culture. At our Paris headquarters, we have team members from 15 different countries including the U.S, China, and Mexico, with English as our work language.

StudioCanal seems to have international ambitions, which is apparent by simply looking at the profiles of releases in the last decade. How does this affect your marketing and distribution strategy? 

StudioCanal truly operates simultaneously at a local and a global level, with an emphasis on strong European content. In territories where we distribute directly, our local teams operate with clear autonomy on local productions, even providing the key input for the international distribution of these titles, as the German team did for Heidi and the French team for From the Land of the Moon. When it comes to international films, the importance of individual territories remains clear. In fact, we greenlight our international films on the condition that one of our territories will drive our international distribution strategy, which is why many of our international films are U.K. based, like Paddington, Legend, or our upcoming James Marsh film. Then, our international marketing department, based in both Paris and London, and run by Jane Carter, an Englishwoman living in France, takes the lead. But they continue to work very closely with local marketing teams, whether it’s our own local teams or those of our partners. For Bridget Jones’s Baby, a film co-financed by Universal, Miramax, and StudioCanal, they’re in constant contact with Universal and producer Tim Bevan to set up our global strategy.

What would you say makes the German market stand apart from any other?

Local specificities in audience tastes in Germany underscore the importance of having a local approach to marketing and distribution of our films. More so than abroad, German audiences, especially younger ones, are receptive to U.S. blockbusters, local comedies like Fack Ju Goehte, and 3D offerings. The many local family-entertainment productions such as Heidi or the Fünf Freunde franchise also perform very well. The TV offer is very good and diverse, which means that distributors and exhibitors need to be very creative and distinctive in the ways the approach the cinema audience. Considering on top that Germany is much less centralized than France or the U.K., we need to address very different audiences from Munich to Stuttgart to Frankfurt, and smart trade marketing in each of the main regions is key to success.  

Why is CineEurope such an important event for the industry?

CineEurope is a unique opportunity for European, U.S. studios, and even local distributors to meet with exhibitors from all of Europe. It is a chance for us to share our projects with distributors in one of the core regions of the industry and present our titles to diverse cultures and expectations. By learning from the many exhibitors’ reactions, we can better understand the expectations of our various audiences in Europe. This serves us farther abroad as well: building our multicultural DNA here makes us better armed to tackle distribution in other parts of the world.

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