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69 4 Discourses and Modes of Distribution A number of specialty divisions or boutique labels have disseminated extreme cinema in the United States and United Kingdom over the last twenty years. They include Artificial Eye, the UK distributor of L’ennui (1998), Antichrist (2009), Blue Is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle, 2013), and Nymphomaniac (2014) and Axiom Films, which released À l’aventure (2008), Leap Year (Año bisiesto, 2010), The Housemaid (Hanyo, 2010), and Q (2011). Magnolia Pictures is the US distributor of Bronson (2008), 13 Assassins ( Jūsan-nin no shikaku, 2010), and Nymphomaniac. Momentum Pictures issued Shame (2011) and Optimum Releasing put out 9 Songs (2004) and Room in Rome (Habitación en Roma, 2010). Tartan Films was the distributor of Audition (Ōdishon, 1999), Irreversible (2002), and Oldboy (Oldeuboi, 2003). Third Window Films has released Love Exposure (Ai no mukidashi, 2008) and Lalapipo (2009) and rereleased Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992) in 2012. The US-based Kino Lorber or its predecessor companies released or rereleased Funny Games (1997), 9 Songs, Battle in Heaven (Batalla en el cielo, 2005), Tony Manero (2008), Dogtooth (Kynodontas, 2009), and Elles (2009). Film Movement has been responsible for Antares (2004), A Call Girl (Slovenka, 2009), and Les apaches (2013) on the North American market. In addition, some foreign outfits sell to Anglophone territories online, often to bypass and profit on local censorship. These include the Netherlands-based A-Film, which offers uncut versions of Ken Park (2002) and Shortbus (2006). 70 • Extreme Cinema Independent distribution companies are not typically known for their longevity. Lifespans threaten to shrink further in the transition to digital technologies. These are “paradoxical times” for art film distributors, according to trade writer Geoffrey Macnab. “On the one hand there are dozens of companies handling what might be loosely referred to as arthouse fare. On the other there is a contracting market. Distributors feel they are caught in a transitional period between old-style theatrical releasing and a brave new world of digital distribution and video on demand that doesn’t seem to have arrived.” With ever-rising numbers of productions, competition is vicious and there are fears of market cannibalization, a zero-sum game by which ultimately no one survives.1 Art cinema distributors regularly receive new names or owners; they often merge with other labels or companies. Some are part of large, publicly traded corporations and deal with a large variety of films (for instance, Lionsgate Films is part of Lionsgate Entertainment) or with extreme cinema as part of a regional niche (e.g., the Asian focus of Third Window Films). Others diversify vertically with production and distribution arms (e.g., Axiom Films) or with distribution and exhibition subsidiaries (e.g., Artificial Eye). Despite the high risks and truncated company histories, arthouse distribution (when compared to production or mainstream distribution) has relatively low barriers to entry; new social media publicity options have reduced these barriers further.2 For this reason, many are small or even virtually one-person operations. As the key channel between production and exhibition and/or consumption, distributors exist to sell films for more than their acquisition price: they aim to add value during this transaction via publicity and other means. Film scholarship has traditionally paid scant attention to distribution. In fact, it has become de rigueur to preface pronouncements on the subject by commenting, as Alisa Perren summarizes, that “first, scholars have examined distributionfarlessfrequentlythaneitherproductionorconsumption;andsecond , the digital age has fueled dramatic changes in distribution processes and practices that necessitate greater interrogation.”3 Even pioneering institutionalsociological studies have downplayed the sector’s significance, subordinating the activity to artists’ imperatives and reducing distributors’ agency to that of a functional intermediary.4 The lack of serious research risks overlooking how acquisitions, list-building, marketing strategies, advertising campaigns, and exhibition agreements have had a significant effect on which filmmakers enjoy substantial careers and which films audiences may see and when, where, and in what form they see them.5 Some new research has advanced our knowledge into how international art cinema circulates and undertaken more nuanced studies of practitioners’ many roles.6 Their responsibilities often begin before production, in arranging or supplying finance. Generating the proper packaging and publicity involves liaising with graphic designers, IT Discourses and Modes of Distribution • 71 developers, suppliers, and manufacturers, in addition to furnishing advertising , from traditional newspapers and specialist publications to websites, blogs, and social media. Distributors must also venture into complex legal...


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