From Co-productions to ‘Co-distributions’? Re-evaluating Distribution Policies for European Film: Policy and Practice

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.


Drake explores the under-researched relationship between European film production and distribution, and examines a range of European policies designed to support film distribution, including digital and video-on-demand (VOoD)/Over-the-Top (OTT) distribution. Significant focus has been placed on understanding production in European cinema; however, there has been a lack of scholarly analysis of distribution. The article offers an analysis of MEDIA programme support for distribution, presenting data across participating countries, and highlights differential forms of subsidies for pan-European film distribution. It concludes with an analysis of two recent European initiatives to support cross-border digital distribution: Walk This Way (WtW) and The TIDE Experiment, and considers how alternative forms of distribution across national boundaries (‘co-distributions’) might reach wider audiences through a combination of traditional and digital distribution platforms.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... Yet, the promotion of European cinema is still receiving a lot of public support. There are several subsidy-structures on both European and national levels (de Vinck, 2009;Liz 2016;Drake 2018). The European training platform TorinoFilmLab launched their audience-design programme in 2011 to provide financial support and consultancy for arthouse producers determined to disseminate their films outside the classic distribution channels (Richter and Thiele 2018). ...
Full-text available
Focusing on one representative case study-the Danish film literacy initiative School Cinema (Med skolen i biografen)-this article investigates how film education can make European arthouse cinema more sustainable in both cultural and industrial terms. The analysis has shown that one successful model builds on a collaboration between the cultural sectors and the market players where the former ones propose the content and reach out to the target audience, while the latter ones provide the infrastructure and technology. School Cinema gathers both stakeholder groups in Denmark. The cultural sector is represented by the Danish Film Institute, municipal education departments, schools and regional centers for education. The market players in this constellation are Danish distributors and exhibitors which provide rights to the films and secure the screening venues. According to the School Cinema's concept, students see films in cinemas and discuss their themes, dramaturgy and visual language afterwards in class within multiple school subjects. Yet, this program does not only have educational and cultural goals. As this article demonstrates, building on the exclusive distribution data and one expert interview, School Cinema also contributes to the European audience-building project in an industrial sense.
Full-text available
This article examines how emerging digital technologies have disrupted independent film distribution practice in the United Kingdom. The article uses the value chain concept as the framework to examine changes in audience consumption habits and to explore emerging business practice, as a result of new technology. The article argues that film distribution is shifting from a supply-led to a demand-led market. In this way, independent distributors can now break away from the rigid singular value chain that dominated the industry, and adopt bespoke release strategies that are tailored to the individual needs of each film. This arguably marks the beginning of a fundamental shift in the relationship between key segments in the film value chain by allowing independent distributors to create a more attractive product by conducting their business in response to consumer demands, as opposed to rigid market-driven conditions.
Technical Report
Full-text available
Digital technology, the new forms of distribution and consumption of works, piracy, increasing saturation of screens, the arrival of new economic players - these are some of the elements that are transforming the cinema landscape. The European Parliament has launched a programme of experiments to transform these threats into opportunities, with a view to improving the circulation of films in Europe. These experiments, conducted by several players in the European film industry, gave rise to several film releases using innovative sequences of distribution windows, and with a multi-territorial approach. While the number of spontaneous experiments has increased over recent years, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom, and concerning simultaneous theatrical and VOD releases (Day-and-Date), VOD previews (ultra-VOD) or exclusive VOD releases (Direct-to-VOD), the experiments launched by the European Parliament also strove to include a multi-territorial dimension so as to encourage the simultaneous release of films in several European countries.
Purpose With film sales markets becoming increasingly popular events where the film business gathers several times each year, I argue in this paper that they should be understood as events where important gatekeeping process are taking place. That is to say, sales markets are the point where important decisions about films are made, where sales agencies negotiate access to international markets, and where they exert influence over the sort of access given to specific films. Design/methodology/approach Drawing on qualitative methods such as participant observation and interviews, I develop a case study of the European Sales Market (EFM) in Berlin. I analyse value creation processes at the EFM, focusing specifically on the disposition of exhibition space and the importance of film screenings. Findings Drawing on literature about tournaments of value, I demonstrate that sales markets endow films with significant values, exercising a powerful role over the process of enabling cultural flow. I also demonstrate that there is a symbiotic relationship between the EFM sales market and the Berlin International Film Festival, providing a context from which films can generate attention. Originality/value I provide new insights into film sales processes within sales markets, and the role of sales agents in influencing such processes. I argue that sales markets exert an important influence over gatekeeping by creating social and cultural hierarchies that impact on the sales process of films.
The audiovisual sector plays a central role in European society. Its relevance has two dimensions: the economic, since film and television are cultural industries, and the social and cultural, since they are also common elements of everyday life. The audiovisual industry belongs to the cultural and creative sector, which makes a significant contribution to the EU economy, creating around 3.3% of the EU’s GDP and employing 6.7 million people (European Commission 2012: 2). The EU records the highest TV viewing figures globally, produces more films than any other region in the world and is home to more than 3,000 online video-on-demand (VoD) services (European Audiovisual Observatory 2014a). The sector also makes an invaluable contribution to Europe’s cultural diversity, unlocking its tremendous creative potential. In terms of the size of the market, the EU has 500 million citizens, 28 members states, 3 alphabets and 24 EU official languages. Against this background, digital technology is reshaping the entire audiovisual system. This technology is therefore transforming broadcasting, programming, production, delivery and payment systems, and it also has an impact on cultural issues. All of this increases the complexity of the European audiovisual space.
The evolution of the European film industries since the Second World War goes hand in hand with the gradual set-up of a multi-level film policy framework. At the European level, the MEDIA programmes (now part of Creative Europe) and the Eurimages fund form its most prominent elements. As the film sector in Europe is in the midst of a digital transition, their further articulation will contribute to how future borders in this sector will be shaped. At the same time, the evolution of these policy instruments has to be situated within borders of their own: those between different policy-making levels, as well as those between sometimes conflicting policy objectives.
Film Distribution in the Digital Age critically examines the evolution of the landscape of film distribution in recent years. In doing so, it argues that the interlocking ecosystem(s) of media dissemination must be considered holistically and culturally if we are to truly understand the transnational flows of cultural texts.
In recent years, there has been an upsurge of pan-European institutions, both from within the European Union and outside it, aiming to support European cinema. This article questions what it means to be a ‘European film institution’ in the contemporary film industry at a time when economic, political and cultural turmoil in the wake of the financial crisis affects this identity. The institution studied, the European Parliament LUX Prize, raises questions concerning the role of cultural support mechanisms in the European film industry, the value and the meaning of a shared European culture, and the film medium’s role in the building of a European identity. This article argues that pan-European film initiatives such as the LUX Prize have emerged as a quite distinct space where the negotiation of European cinema and European identities is particularly salient.
As research on transnational cinema makes clear, films do not easily coincide with national borders, but ‘link people or institutions across nations’. While Britain’s strongest transnational links are with the US, it has also developed production partnerships with its European neighbours. Each year, British film companies lead-produce about 15 co-productions with other Europeans. But why do British filmmakers work with European partners, and what are the implications of these partnerships for their film’s cultural identity and its box office performance? Through analysing a sample of recent UK/European co-productions, this article suggests most British film companies work with other Europeans for financial rather than creative reasons. At the same time, UK/European co-productions are more ‘culturally European’ than other categories of British film (i.e. domestic and inward investment features). While this does not necessarily boost their popularity with European audiences, the bigger budgets and better distribution links which co-production enables means UK/European co-productions on average perform better in Europe than UK domestic features. Co-production is therefore a useful strategy for getting British films made and circulated within Europe, though this strategy is also thwarted by a UK film policy orientated towards attracting higher value US inward investment features.
Shadow Economies of Cinema examines how films travel through time and space, both inside and outside established circuits of audiovisual trade. Combining industrial and cultural analysis, this book looks at distribution circuits from across the Americas, Africa and the Asia-Pacific, and explains how they shape film culture in their own image.
The Palgrave Handbook of European Media Policy
  • Karen Donders
  • Caroline Pauwels
We Are Colony: Digital VOD Distribution for Independent Film
  • Philip Drake
  • Michael Franklin
  • Deborah Sathe
  • Sarah Tierney
  • P Drake
Film Production in Europe-Production Volume, Co-production and Worldwide Circulation
  • Julio Talavera
Distribution and Marketing in Contemporary Hollywood
  • Philip Drake
  • P Drake
Dissemination of European Cinema in the European Union and the International Market
  • Josef Wutz
  • Valentin Pérez
  • J Wutz
European Audiovisual Observatory
  • Christian Grece
An Overview of Europe’s Film Industry
  • Ivana Katsarova
Call for Proposals EACEA 28/2015: Summary of Selected Projects
  • Creative Europe
Distribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digital Future of Film and Television
  • Michael Curtin
  • Jennifer Holt
Trends in the EU SVOD Market
  • Christian Grece
European Digital Initiatives Offer New Paths for Distributing Indie Films
  • Peter Caranicas