San Sebastian: Europeans Eye Day-and-Date Movie Releases as Netflix Rolls In

Distributors and exhibitors call for films to hit cinemas and VOD at the same time

Day-and-date movie releases could ride to the rescue of struggling European filmmakers as Netflix starts rolling in continent-wide.

A panel on simultaneous multi-platform film releases at the San Sebastian Film Festival on Monday heard European distributors and exhibitors weigh day-and-date VOD releasing as a possible industry savior. "We offer a theatrical experience otherwise unavailable to audiences," said Mathias Holtz, a programming manager with Swedish exhibitor Folkets Hus Och Parker, in a Europe-Latin America co-production forum panel.

See more: From 'Arrested Development' to 'House of Cards,' Exclusive Portraits of Netflix's Stars

Holtz pointed to a recent near-simultaneous release of Terry Gilliam's The Zero Theorem in Sweden with live streaming of a Monty Python Live performance from London.

Michael Gubbins, a London-based film analyst and consultant with SampoMedia, said Netflix, about to upend the European distribution landscape as it has in North America, should have producers, distributors and exhibitors look to streaming and VOD/theatrical releases as a viable distribution model. "It [Netflix] has changed the way people view films, especially young people. You can't ignore the platform," he said of U.S. and Canadian Netflix services dominating online video in North America.

Gubbins conceded day-and-date releasing isn't a panacea, but could breathe new life into European movies with mid-range budgets that "have seen the biggest [box office] crashes." Other San Sebastian panelists spotlighted the downside risks to day-and-date releases as distributors lose DVD revenue and exhibitors get a smaller cinema release window.

But flexibility and choosing the right films for day-and-date releases can minimize risk, the co-production forum heard. Eduardo Escudero, head of business development at Spanish indie producer-distributor A Contracorriente Films, pointed to a recent VOD/theatrical release for director Paco Leon's Carmina Y Amen that boosted overall revenues.

"This was for this specific film. But perhaps we will never repeat that success because each film is different," Escudero told the festival panel. The San Sebastian Film Festival continues through Sept. 27.