LYON, France — Lyon’s International Classic Film Market brought into focus the opportunities and challenges of heritage film in Greece, Hungary and Latvia on Wednesday, presenting stark differences in the three territories.
Greece’s heritage film sector, while a niche market, can be vibrant if handled correctly, according to Spyros Damianakis, managing director of Athen-based boutique distributor Neo Films.
“There is a market in Greece for classical films and this year we decided to jump in,” Damianakis said.
Neo Films, whose current contemporary releases include Gabe Klinger’s “Porto,” starring the late Anton Yelchin, and Joshua Z Weinstein’s “Menashe,” released the 1954 Marlon Brando-starrer “On the Waterfront” and Luc Besson’s 1988 “The Big Blue” this summer – the key season in Greece for classic films, which draw crowds to open-air cinemas.
Cinema-going habits change drastically from summer to winter, Laetitia Kulyk, audiovisual attaché at Greece’s Institut Français, explained. Multiplexes focusing on mainstream blockbusters dominate the winter months but virtually close down in the summer, when the open-air theaters come to life.
Working with the right exhibitors is vital, Damianakis added. A number of theaters, particularly in Athens, are devoted to classic films, such as the Thiseion, widely considered one of the best open-air cinemas in the world.
“The Thiseion actually became very successful with classic films, that’s how it built its name,” Damianakis said. “It has a history of showing classic films. I would not have released ‘On the Waterfront’ or ‘The Big Blue’ if I did not have that cinema.”
Damianakis also warned that while classic films are successful, film distributors have to tread lightly in view of the market’s limited size. “If you oversaturate the market, it loses its appeal. You want to eventize.”
Other commercially successful classics re-released by distribs…