Locarno Festival Launches Industry Platform for Classic Art House Films

Locarno Film Festival
The Heritage Online platform aims to bring classic art house films to a global audience online

Heritage Online, part of the festival's Locarno Pro platform, will let rights holders upload their back catalogues and negotiate deals with VOD platforms worldwide.

The Locarno International Film Festival has launched a new industry platform, Heritage Online, to help classic art house films reach a new audience online.

The platform, which will be part of the festival's Locarno Pro digital service, will let rights holders —international sales companies, producers, film libraries, institutes and restorers’ associations among them — to post their back catalogues for the perusal, and hopefully purchase, by VOD platforms worldwide.

Registration for Heritage Online opens in July. The platform will have its official launch during this year's online version of the Locarno festival in early August, where there will be a series of dedicated pitching sessions as part of the Locarno Pro days (August 7-9).

The platform, a first of its kind for the art house industry, could hardly come at a better time. With cinemas shuttered worldwide and production at a standstill, independent producers and rights holders are looking to their back catalogues to try and generate some much-needed online income.

For Locarno, the initiative fits nicely to its goal of bringing undiscovered or underappreciated art house cinema to the world. The festival says the ultimate goal is to bring the “hidden treasures” of the past 120 years of cinema on to today's digital audiences.

"The streaming marketplace is playing an ever greater part in daily viewing patterns, which is why Locarno Pro focused on this new development," says Locarno Pro head Valentina Merli. "It is vital that these new offerings extend to include the broadest possible range of genres and titles. In this perspective, Heritage Online will enable all viewers, even those who rarely go to theaters or festivals, to discover films from the past and enrich their cinema experience."

Heritage Online will be set up as an online database of film titles. Streaming companies will be able to watch available titles, see detailed technical information and get in touch directly with rights holders to negotiate deals.

Markus Duffner, project manager of Heritage Online said the platform "fills a gap in the audiovisual industry landscape" and will "foster links between rights holders, VOD platforms and world cinema distribution."

Rights holders can subscribe to Heritage Online, either via a basic tier, which allows them to offer a selection of their library titles, or a premium subscription, which gives them access to a online screening room where potential clients can view selected titles for up to a year. VOD platforms will be able to access Heritage Online free of charge. From 2021 on Heritage Online will offer annual subscriptions. Access to the platform will be free with accreditation to Locarno Pro.

The acclaimed Swiss film fest was forced to cancel its 73rd edition this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. But organizers will hold an online event, called Locarno 2020 — For the Future of Films, where selected auteur directors will present works-in-progress or material from upcoming projects as well as select their personal favorite films from previous Locarno editions.