In these COVID-19 times, and especially during the lockdown, the sector of cinematographic distribution has been one of the most affected.
To learn more about the situation experienced by the sector in these last months, Zenit interviewed Filomeno Martinez, Founding Member and President of the “European Dreams Factory,” a distributor born in 2008 to bring films to Spain that transmit an enriching message.
Spread from it are family films with positive values, given that, as they themselves point out on their Website, “we want to create a difference in the world of cinema, with a theme that at the street level has already been called by a new name: ‘Cinema of values.’”
Outbreak of the Pandemic
Filomeno said that, given the news about COVID-19 that was arriving, before March 14, the day in which a state of alarm was proclaimed in Spain, ”we already foresaw that we would end up closing down.” In the “European Dream Factory” at that moment, we found ourselves preparing the premiere of the film “Unplanned,” scheduled for March 23, and organizing Eduardo Verastegui’s trip to Spain to present the film in several cities of our country. Obviously, we had to suspend the planned premiere.”
The businessman describes this moment as “very harsh” for the cinematographic realm, given that “the closing of cinemas obliged the different hall management companies to organize ERTES (temporary suspension of contracts) given the total lack of activity.”
Adaptation to the Situation
This exceptional situation obliged the distributor to adapt to it. “We planned to launch three additional titles in the following months. After assessing the situation, we decided to postpone to September the premiere of “The Divine Mercy,” planned for the month of April, explained the distributor.
Moreover, “with Jose Maria Zavala, Director of the film “Wojtyla, the Investigation, we were assessing the best option for the premiere of his film, which was fixed for the month of May.”
Finally, we “took the decision that same month to premiere it online, and on digital platforms, because we wanted to offer the public the possibility to enjoy a film thought out to celebrated the centenary of Saint John Paul II’s birth, which would be fulfilled on May 18.”
The public’s acceptance of “Wojtyla, the Investigation “was very good,” said Martinez. “On one hand because there was a great desire to see Jose Maria Zavala’s documentary; on the other, because with the cinema halls closed and people confined to their homes, an online premiere was good news for a spectator and the only alternative for us as distributors.”
In addition to this premiere, which took place on May 8, “we also had an online premiere in June, which we had coincided with the Thursday before Corpus Christi Sunday: the Italian film Bread of Heaven, winner of the best film award last year in the Mirabile Dictu festival.”
Enjoy the Big Screen
Despite the good reception of premieres via streaming, Martinez said that these “were due to the exceptional circumstances in which we found ourselves. I believe that, in a film’s commercial course, each thing has its time.”
For him, “the ideal is to enjoy cinema on the big screen and then, respecting the windows of projection, make it reach the public in different formats: online, DVD, video on demand, pay televisions and free TV broadcasts. No format is incompatible with another; however, the foreseen times for each of the windows must be respected and always offer the possibility of seeing premieres on the big screen.
Reopening of Cinema and Premiere of “Unplanned”
On June 26, once the de-escalation process had ended in Spain, the cinemas opened their doors again. In regard to this event, Filomeno said: “to reopen the halls implied extra but necessary work, to offer spectators a safe place, following the measures adopted by the sector in regard to the sanitary protocol.”
In addition, “the occupation of the halls has been organized so that a safe distance is respected and the marked capacity limitations. Added to these difficulties is the lack of a product because American companies have postponed the great premieres planned for these months in the United States and Ibero-America due to the pandemic.”
Martinez also clarified that the films with more pull on billboards since the opening of the cinemas are those of animation and Spanish comedies.”
In this period, “European Dreams Films” premiered “Unplanned” last July 3, “with a very satisfactory result, despite the anomalous situation we are living.”
Optimism Despite the Consequences
In regard to the recovery of the sector, the distributor said that it ”will take some time, but the different companies are prepared to face the challenge and ready to put all means to return as soon as possible to the desired normality.”
Martinez also believes, from the point of view of the exhibition, that the most positive experience of these times of coronavirus that humanity is experiencing ”has seen to witness the strength and excitement of the sector, together with the public’s desire to return to the cinema halls. It has been the small flame lighted, which enables us to be optimistic despite <the fact> that the consequences of the pandemic have been frankly negative for many companies.”
“From the point of view of distribution, the lockdown and pandemic have implied growth in the consumption of religious cinema and of values, through the different digital platforms specialized in the cinema of values, etc. ”
At present, those working in distribution are “very excited with the premiere of ‘The Divine Mercy,” planned for September 25. It is a Polish production about Saint Faustina Kowalska, on the devotion she spread and the universal impulse that Saint John Paul II gave it. We have received thousands of e-mails of people interested in the film.”
In October, they also hope to premiere “The Anonymous Artist, an “enchanting Finnish film of family and artistic themes, directed by Klaus Haro, author of “The Fencing Class,” a film that was nominated for the Golden Globe.”
And in November, <they hope to premiere> “Anton,” the last film of Zaza Urushadze, who died prematurely in 2019 and was the Director of “Mandarins,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 2015. “Anton” is a film about friendship and coexistence in a Russia convulsed by the Revolution,” he explained.
The businessman commented that he has many more premieres prepared for 2021, “a year in which we hope to be able to recover global health and celebrate the resurgence of businesses.”
“What Really Matters”
Finally, he sends a message to spectators to support distributors such as his, which offer “Cinema of values,” both in times of coronavirus as well as in the moment it ceases to be a danger.
To do so, he takes advantage of the title of a film distributed by his company and directed by Paco Arango, which became the most-watched film in the United States, on Netflix in 2019. “What really matters is that cinema contribute to make us better persons. Therefore, when a distributor like ours is “committed” to bringing to Spain titles with universal values which inspire that desire in the spectators, it’s worthwhile to bet on those premiers, to support them with massive assistance to cinemas and infect many with that taste for human and transcendent cinema, which makes us more generous, understanding and solidary because, in the end, “that’s what really matters,’” he concluded.