FNE together with Europa Distribution have launched its new Distributor of the Month series. In recognition of the hard work and excellence of European distributors and the common problems they face especially in the transition to digitalization we choose a distributor from each country covered by FNE each month.
We look at the challenges and the successes faced by those distributors who are members of Europa Distribution with a special series of interviews that offer insights that other distributors of European films can benefit from and a platform for the exchange of ideas. This month we focus on Hungary and we continue our series with an interview with Gabor Boszormenyi, the founder and managing director of Mozinet Ltd (www.mozinet.hu).
Böszörményi, talked to Film New Europe about the particularities of the Hungarian market and the current prospects for an art house film distributor. Mozinet distributed Marcell Jankovics’s The Tragedy of Man, which had the best results in the Hungarian art house cinemas in 2011-2012, and is working on the release of Radu Jude’s Everybody in Our Family and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild.
FNE: How does the market in your country differ from other countries? What is specific about the Hungarian market? How is independent distribution doing in your market today?
The most specific might be that the Hungarian market is really concentrated in several ways. The last few years a lot of art house cinemas had to close because of the lack of state support, and IT Cinemas bought Palace Cinemas, meaning that about 90% of the market is now controlled by IT Cinemas. There is also a high geographical concentration on the demand side of the market, which is even more unfortunate. Although Budapest has just 20% of the country’s 10 million population, most of the revenue from distribution comes from the capital, and sometimes with the tougher titles we gain around 70-80% of the income in Budapest, meaning that we can't really reach a huge part of the population. The art house cinemas in the countryside have been losing spectators for years now, which is partly due to the fact that they are facing constant budget cuts and they have reduced dramatically their marketing activities.
The delay in digitalization is also a big problem, the state just started supporting the implementation of DCI projectors and servers in 2011, with a yearly budget of only 350,000 EUR, and most of the small cinemas can't finance the transition on their own. As the prices of 35 mm prints have increased significantly in the last years and it is getting harder and harder to buy used prints, in the majority of cinemas we can show our films only if the world sales agents approve Blu-ray screenings. This is mainly the problem of independent distributors as the majors focus on the multiplexes that are almost completely digitalized.
FNE: How competitive is your market for European films (national and non-national)?
The market of independent distributors is changing rapidly. Although the numbers are falling and you can usually expect much less from a European release than 2-5 years ago, there are new distribution companies appearing and disappearing all the time. A few years ago there were more mid-sized independent companies on the market, but after SPI, Best Hollywood and MOKÉP went out of business, new and smaller companies appeared, just as some mid-sized multinational companies entered the market as well. Because of the high number of participants on the market it is sometimes extremely hard to pick the right timing for a release.
As the revenues come from a relatively few cinemas in Budapest, it is essential to get bookings in these cinemas, but when there are 3-4 different companies releasing European films in the same week in the same cinemas it is impossible to get a good schedule and keep older films on the programme as well. A big problem is the lack of second run cinemas in Budapest: in the last few years almost all of them closed, making the life circle of a theatrical release much shorter than previously.
FNE: What kind of films seem to work well with audiences in your market?
As in most of the countries, the biggest non-national European successes of the last two years in Hungary were Untouchable, The King's Speech and the Iron Lady. These are different success stories of course, but you can say in general that the Hungarian audience is mainly looking for human stories told in a touching way and of course it helps a lot if there is a star in the lead. Looking at Hollywood movies, Hungarians seem to be more keen on children animation and comedies than the average. The biggest success of 2012 has been Ice Age 4, which is still in the top 10, three months after its release.
The art house cinema operators usually look for films with some big name on the credits and some uniqueness that grabs the attention of the audience. Strangely, you can't really profit from the awards your film wins in Cannes, Berlin, Venice or in other festivals; it seems that these don't really bring in the people to the cinemas. The only award that counts is the Oscar.
FNE: What are the major areas that you focus on? (theatrical/DVD/VOD/TV distribution, production, exhibition...)
We only buy films with all rights. As we don't have our own cinema, it would be too risky to put everything on the results of the first week box office and lose all the effort put into a film because of a sunny weekend. It's very rare to recoup the P&A and the MG from the theatrical revenues, so we need the other platforms to keep the company going, but at the same time we need the attention of the press and the marketing of a theatrical release to make our titles worthwhile for the VOD service providers and the TV channels to deal with them.
FNE: What is your film acquisition policy?
We are a relatively small company with a small staff and small operational costs, which means that everyone works a lot, but we don't have to release more than 10-15 titles a year to keep it going, which is really great, because we can be quite picky when selecting the films and we don't have to work on films that we don't like. Of course we have our constant sales partners whose line-up we always check, but we are working with new companies from time to time as well. If we see a good movie that performs well at a festival and is critically acclaimed then we try to go for it. We attend festivals and markets, but you don't have to be everywhere personally to know what's going on; monitoring the press and the hype helps a lot and we see on screeners or Cinando -- about half of the films we buy.
FNE: What films have been your biggest hits?
Our biggest hit of the previous years was The Tragedy of Man, a Hungarian art house animation movie directed by Marcell Jankovics. It is a really exceptional film that was in production for 23 years, and based on a famous Hungarian play. The film is 160 minutes long and both its topic and visual quality are quite demanding, so we decided to screen it with an intermission, meaning that it took a three hour slot in the programming of the cinemas. Because of its length it was quite hard to persuade the cinemas to programme it in the beginning, but the first results were really exceptional, the screens were fully booked and the news was spreading that you can't buy a ticket for this one. In Budapest we screened the film in only one cinema. We thought that having a higher concentration would mean a longer run for the film, and the results are beyond our expectations: on this one print we reached 9,500 admissions!
The film had 20,000 admissions altogether, meaning that it had the best result among the national art house titles in the Hungarian cinemas in 2011-2012. After the release the production company asked us to represent the film internationally too, and it has just started on the festival circuit; it will be in competition in Espinho, Cinanima and Mr. Jankovics will present it at Etiuda&Anima, Cracow.Among the European titles, our biggest hit of 2012 was Les femmes du 6éme étage with 6,000 admissions four weeks after its release, and it's still performing well in the cinemas. We had a really strong line-up of festival winners the first half of the year: Polisse, Sister, Bullhead, Hasta La Vista among others.
FNE: What are your upcoming releases and how will you promote them?
Our next release is Radu Jude's Everybody in Our Family, which is definitely not an easy title to deal with. It will be our third Romanian film after California Dreamin' and Hooked, and we have also published a book on the last decade of Romanian film, which was the first book on this topic in Hungarian. From our previous experiences we can expect no more than 1,000-1,500 admissions for this title, but of course we try to get the most out of it. We managed to get it into the official competition of Jameson Cinefest Festival, Miskolc which is one of the most prestigious international film festivals in Hungary. Radu Jude presented the film there to the public and gave several interviews which will definitely help the release. We expect to have really good reviews for the film as the FIPRESCI jury of the festival awarded it as well. The film will be screened in the beginning of October in Budapest during the Romanian Film Week organized by the Embassy of Romania - this also has a big promotional value, and the premiere will be on 18 October. As it is a smaller release, we focus mainly on the press coverage of the film, advertising in the cinemas (posters, leaflets) and promotion on the internet as well.
Our next big release is going to be Beasts of the Southern Wild. We started the promotion of the film in mid-summer, but the release will only be in January, after the Oscar-nominations are announced. This film was also in competition at Cinefest, and Benh Zeitlin was also a guest of the festival and the international buzz has just started to get local too. It was a tough decision to pick such a distant release date of the film, but we really trust in the power of the Oscars for this title and we want to build up a long promotional campaign. We have to be really careful not to promote the film too intensively when the release is still far away, so that the public doesn’t get bored with the film by the time it is released. We already have some teaser posters and different postcards of the film in a few cinemas and we rely on the great press the film got at Cinefest. We will have a big internet campaign, several posters and CLPs in traffic junctions and subways and ads in papers before the release. I hope that when the people see these advertisements they will already know about this film from the hype that surrounds it.
The company was established as the publisher of a website on film in 1998. It later founded a monthly film magazine (also called Mozinet), and operated two art house cinemas, one of them member of the Europa Cinemas network. Since 2006 Mozinet has been distributing art house films and is also organizing educational programs for high school students. Mozinet distributed among others Hunger, Revanche, Lourdes, Adrienn Pál, The Kid With a Bike, Bullhead, Sister, Polisse, Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Tragedy of Man. It has been a member of Europa Distribution since 2011.
Born in 1980, Gábor Böszörményi has a Master's degree in economy and film history. He is the former editor-in-chief of Mozinet Magazine, former vice-president and president of the Hungarian Federation of Film Associations, member of juries at international festivals (Berlin, Frankfurt, etc.) as representative of Europa Cinemas, FIPRESCI and FICC, independent expert at support decisions of the EACEA and the Hungarian Motion Picture Foundation, and vice-president of the Hungarian Art House Cinema Association.
35/B Kuruclesi ut, Budapest, Hungary, H-1021
Phone: +36 20 3775 915