The content of Martin Scorsese’s press conference at Cannes on Friday may have been overpowered by the man himself, but that doesn’t diminish the significance of his announcement.
The legendary director’s World Cinema Foundation, which is screening four films from its library in the Cannes Classics series, recently formed a partnership with the online social network The Auteurs and alternative distributor B-Side Entertainment to promote and release more titles from the library.
The WCF will take advantage of the unique grassroots campaigning that these new media companies provide, theoretically bringing elements of film history to a larger audience than ever before.
While many of the details are still being hammered out, the central aspects of the plan suggest a logical synthesis of the companies’ various strengths. Each year, newly restored WCF films will premiere at Cannes, followed by restored 35mm prints screening across the country. For a brief window of time, the movies will stream on The Auteurs, a digital distribution platform that also provides Facebook-style social networking so users can discover movies through their friends.
The Criterion Collection, which helped start The Auteurs, will follow up with a DVD release. B-Side’s responsibility comes into play with the organization of special screening series and all other outputs, such as Netflix and iTunes. The idea, according to representatives from all of the organizations, is to raise awareness for these movies so that people can discover them even if they don’t have the luxury of, say, traveling to France for Cannes Classics.
Already, the plan seems to be yielding some significant results. The day of Scorsese’s press conference, The Auteurs posted four WCF films from last year’s Cannes Classics program. The site’s founder, Efe Carkarel, tells me that they reached 1,000 total views of the films within two days of the Cannes press conference. If those numbers keep growing, Carkarel says he will try to arrange restoration screenings around the country.
B-Side has also felt the impact of the new partnership. "Since Friday, we’ve had more incoming emails from people asking about WCF-related films — and new films that they want to get restored — than for all of our other films combined," says founder Chris Hyams. "A lot of people would think that, frankly, the reason they have to restore these films is that there’s no market for them. But we’ve had emails from people in Turkey, Egypt and all over Canada who want to show these films when they’re available."
In other words, the global village now has a promising new global cinema.