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In a move that sparked surprise across the European indie film sector when it was announced late in the day on Friday Jan. 14, Mubi, best known for its arthouse streaming platform, has acquired hugely well-respected European sales company The Match Factory and its production arm Match Factory Productions.
Financial details weren’t revealed, but the deal turns the dial up on a recent spending spree at Mubi — founded by Turkish entrepreneur and former Goldman Sachs banker Efe Cakarel in 2007 — that last year saw it become arguably the most aggressive shopper of indie titles at film festivals. From the Cannes 2021 lineup alone, it acquired the likes of Palme winner Titane and opener Annette, plus Bergman Island, Lamb, Benedetta, Unclenching the Fists, Great Freedom, The Worst Person in the World, and several others.
Buying an entire company whole is a sizeable step up from landing film rights, but the Match Factory lends considerable firepower to Mubi as it continues to expand outside of its core streaming business, something it’s been quietly doing for the last few years.
Alongside streaming, it has been operating as a theatrical distributor in both the U.K. and U.S., where it’s been building up teams of experienced execs. Former Amazon film head Jason Ropell, as chief content officer, alongside overseeing all licensing, programming, acquisitions and distribution, also now leads the push towards producing in-house content, like Mia Hansen-Love’s One Fine Morning, Ekwa Msangi’s Farewell Amor and Rachel Lang’s Our Men. Match Factory Productions — behind Cannes titles Prayers for the Stolen and Memoria (also both picked up by Mubi) — certainly supports that effort.
But it’s the sales aspect of the purchase that pushes Mubi into waters not even traversed by the major streamers, creating a new and potentially extremely viable model in an age where indies are being squeezed out. The streamer/sales combo gives Mubi huge leverage – potentially enough clout to attract big arthouse directors (which, in the case of Jane Campion and Paulo Sorrentino, have been lured to Netflix), alongside the ability to do global deals on its films.
Mubi can now, for example, get in early to snatch rights for its territories on the latest Match Factory projects (it currently has films coming from Andreas Dresen, Lukas Dhont, Christian Petzold, Fatih Akin, Emin Alper and Marco Bellocchio), and let Match sell on elsewhere, taking advantage of the glut of new international streamers. Or as it expands its operations, it could do deals where Mubi takes global streaming rights, with Match selling off theatrical.
Key to the deal is the clear shared tastes of both outfits. Even before 2021’s haul, Mubi has been acquiring Match Factory titles for years, including Pablo Larrain’s Ema and Gianfranco Rosi’s Notturno. Match’s current hit, Drive My Car, Japan’s Oscar entry and the first foreign-language film to be named best picture by all three major U.S. critics groups (LA, New York and the National Society), is exactly the sort of film that fits Mubi’s growing ambitions.
A version of this story appeared in the Jan. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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