The International Classic Film Market (MIFC), part of the Lumière Festival, celebrated its tenth anniversary on Tuesday with a special anniversary gathering of industry experts to assess the situation and go over the main challenges facing the classic film business.
The director of the festival, Thierry Frémaux of Cannes, MK2 CEO Nathanael Karmitz, Sandra den Hamer of the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, Frédéric Maire of the Cinémathèque Suisse, Davide Pozzi of the Italian restoration firm L'Immagine Ritrovata, and MIFC director Juliette Rajon were among the attendees.
Each participant had five minutes to respond to three questions about topics such as the role of streaming services in the distribution of classic movies, reaching out to younger audiences, the availability and distribution of heritage films internationally, their legal and economic status, technological advancements, accessibility, and sustainability.
Conclusions recognised patterns, such as the heritage industry's expansion, and key issues for its future: the function of streamers and instruction.
When asked if there has been an increase in interest in classic movies since the MIFC debuted in 2013, Frémaux responded that there had been, but he added, "Perhaps this year more than ever, the goal is not simply to attract people back into theatres to view old films, but to see films full stop."
"One approach to the current problem in filmmaking could be to draw inspiration from the realm of classic cinema, as it is more difficult to draw audiences to old movies than to new ones. We've had to go get them with film libraries, theatres, festivals, and DVDs, so maybe distributors might take a page out of our book," he added. "We know how to accomplish that.
The quick growth of streamers has fundamentally altered the audio-visual world, said to Karmitz, who founded Mk2 Curiosity during the epidemic, an AVOD platform of carefully selected cinematic curiosities that he referred to as "the reverse of Netflix."
There has been a fundamental paradigm shift: Demand now drives our work rather than offer. Despite the abundance of options, the offer is inadequate. Traditional media, such as theatres, DVDs, and linear television, are redefining themselves and reclaiming a key position in fostering a passion for film and tradition. He emphasised the value of transmission and attracting younger audiences, saying that streamers haven't understood their roles as curators and conveyors. "The old channels need to collaborate with these new digital technologies to get people back into theatres," he added.
Sandra den Hamer stated that "at the Eye Film Museum, we feel that the education [of younger audiences] is one of our main jobs" in reference to the issue of education and inclusiveness, which is crucial to the Lumiere Festival, whose motto is "Cinema for All."
In light of this, the film museum assisted in the creation of a curriculum designed to teach kids between the ages of 4 and 18 about filmmaking in the classroom.
Regarding the function of platforms, den Hamer expressed appreciation for the chance they present to connect with a larger and younger audience: "During the pandemic, film libraries all built web portals. We have a far larger audience than we had anticipated on our Eye Film Player, and 64% of users are under 34, so it's an entirely different demographic than in the theatres," she gushed.
In the past ten years, thanks to digitization, Frédéric Maire, who is also the president of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), has welcomed a larger circulation and distribution of historical film. He also applauded the efforts of festivals that focus on classic movies, such Lumière and Il Cinema Ritrovata in Bologna, but he maintained that streaming services have a duty to transmit film history.
In its sidebar "A Permanent History of Women Filmmakers," Maire praised the efforts of historic cinema distributor Carlotta in promoting lesser-known directors like Kinuyo Tanaka and cautioned against the temptation to exclusively restore works by prominent filmmakers, simpler to distribute.
"You must have the confidence and curiosity to explore elsewhere for movies that you are unfamiliar with. According to me, the audience is also interested in seeing more diversity on platforms and in theatres.
Davide Pozzi agreed and identified two key issues for the film restoration industry: the duty of film restoration labs to find underappreciated treasures in need of restoration "that may not end up in Cannes or Venice but will still find outlets on some platforms," and the significance of maintaining the technology to protect film reels alongside digitization.
In her closing remarks, MIFC CEO Juliette Rajon noted that the market's attendance figures had increased from 100 to nearly 500 attendees in ten years, the majority of whom are regulars who use the market as a vibrant and committed forum to share and discuss the issues facing the heritage film industry.