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“Cyrano de Bergerac” by the Comédie-Française In more than 300 select movie theaters in the US.
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Alexis de Rendinger on Digital Distribution for film and TV and My French Film Festival

Digital distribution has transformed how we watch television and film over the past decade. For filmmakers and tv producers in France and across Europe, VoD (Video-on-Demand) platforms like iTunes, Amazon and Netflix have opened up new audiences around the world for work that otherwise would rarely be seen outside their native country. Under the Milky Way is one of several companies that have emerged in recent years to help film companies take advantage of these new opportunities, negotiating access to digital platforms, and promoting films in newly available international markets. Frenchculture.org sat down with Alexis de Rendinger, co-founder of Under the Milky Way, to talk about this quickly changing world and his company's role in it.

French Culture: How did the idea of creating Under the Milky Way first emerge?  Can you give us a brief overview of the project?

Alexis de Rendinger: Under the Milky Way was driven by our conviction that the coming of digital will lead to greater opportunities to make more movies globally available through new distribution channels. We founded Under The Milky Way in May 2010 as an international company dedicated to digital film distribution and marketing. We have been working from the beginning with an important number of global VoD Platforms (as iTunes, Google Play, Amazon…), and we were awarded the global iTunes preferred aggregator status in 2011. As a result, the company is fully operational in more than 100 territories and serves more than 200 rights-holders out of 13 regional offices in Europe, North America and Asia.

Under The Milky Way’s two main focuses consist of international rights aggregation and distribution on VoD platforms along with the development of software solutions for online and social media marketing dedicated to movies.

So far, Under the Milky Way has distributed more than 1500 movies worldwide, including 200 films in the US.

FC: You have decided to release the French movie What’s in a Name? at the same time in theaters and on VOD. What led you to the so-called "Day and Date" model for this release?

AR: Our focus on the US digital market derives from our wish to make foreign content more visible and accessible. Whereas the traditional distribution outlets (theaters, TV, video) have shrunk, the US digital market has changed significantly these past 5 years to become the most mature market in the world. As a result, opportunities for distributing movies in a new and innovative way have never been so significant. However, it remains a challenge to release foreign movies in a market saturated by American produced entertainment, obliging us to experiment with new methods in order to expose European films to American audiences. We have been studying Day and Date models in the US, waiting for the right timing and the best opportunities.

We thought that What's In A Name? was a great film to implement our first Day and Date release. It was a huge success at the French box-office, extremely well written...which makes us believe that American audiences vwill be entertained by this snapshot of Parisian life around Christmas time. We intend to release this film during the holidays simultaneously in theatres and VOD.

Our primary goal was to have enough exposure with the December 13 theatrical release to generate most of the revenues on the digital side (the movie was available on the main digital US platforms as iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Comcast, Cablevision…). Thanks to the specific marketing campaigns we implemented and the US press reviews which praised the movie, What’s in a name? has been held over at the New York Cinema Village and picked up in many other US theatres through the Emerging Pictures network (20 additional theatres).

We don’t expect a huge theatrical box office nor a big push on the digital side for such a movie. However, we already consider all the work done these past 6 months as the first step of a European company towards the consolidation of a new channel of distribution for international content.

FC: This year you partners with My French Film Festival, an online worldwide French Film Festival created by Unifrance. Could you tell us more about it ?

AR : Under The Milky Way aims to be at the forefront of innovation in the film industry. We think that MYFF is an interesting new initiative to distribute French movies in some territories where they never had - or will never have - the chance to be presented through the traditional market. Therefore we wanted to be part of this experience for the festival's second year.

We participate in MYFF by making it available and visible on the main digital platforms (iTunes) in America (North and South) and Asia. Also, thanks to our local presence and our marketing tools, we will make sure that consumers on prominent digital stores are aware that this French film festival is taking place from January 17 to February 17.  An efficient marketing and visibility campaign for MYFF on these stores are the keys to raising revenue for rights holders.

FC : What are Under the Milky Way’s next projects?

AR : In the US market, Under The Milky Way will keep sourcing international content (especially European films) likely to better suit North American audiences. Our goal is to have 300 international titles available in digital by the end of 2014.

Thanks to our first case study with What’s in a name?, we would also like to release three more Day and Dates in 2014, this time with more social network actions involved in order to reach more people on the digital side.

In order to meet these expectations for 2014, we still have to grow our company network, as we believe that it is the only way to deepen the local/global interdependence. Our organization has been structured around this concept with local business units in charge of exploiting these movies in their local markets. In parallel to this organization, there is a hub (in Paris / New York) to centralize the back office and animate the network. By doing so, we interface and work between global platforms such as Apple or Google and rights holders (films producers…) who want their movies to be internationally distributed.

Outside of the US, we still want to develop our international network. In 2013, we have expanded our teams in places like LATAM and Russia where we believe digital has great potential for growth. We hope that these efforts will pay off in 2014, although we have learned to be patient in this digital world….

Click for more information on MY FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL and on UNDER THE MILKY WAY.