Disney Launching a Label to Release More Foreign Films in the US
The Mouse House is going foreign? Yes indeed. Variety is reporting that the Walt Disney Company is looking to launch a production banner based in the US that will release Walt Disney Studios International Productions on DVD, VOD, digital download and theatrical release for certain films (case-by-case). They will find and distribute films that were "developed locally for territories such as China, Russia and India" and will brand and expand the films' "retail reach" in the US marketplace. This sounds like an interesting idea for distribution, but will they actually be able to get any interesting films? No titles have been announced.
One of their recent foreign successes, according to Variety, was a film called Zokkomon, an action-adventure film produced by Walt Disney Pictures India that premiered at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. I've never even heard of it, but maybe they were trying to hit niche audiences and/or racial demographics that I'm not a part of. Apparently Disney's goal with this new distribution tactic is to find "local, 'magical' stories that fit its brand and have appeal for specific foreign audiences." So are they just targeting foreign audiences who live in the US and that's it? I'm not sure, but it's an intriguing new distribution idea anyway.
Variety continues to attempt to clarify the details, since Disney hasn't formally announced anything yet, adding: "The new initiative aims to bring overseas stories to niche domestic audiences and explore the breakout potential of projects that may have cross-cultural appeal." I'd love to hear some titles. 20th Century Fox is also recently launching their own Fox World Cinema label, with similar plans focusing on DVD and VOD releases more than theatrical. I'm curious to see if this will mean anything more than just seeing more foreign films hit specific areas, or if we'll actually see a foreign title break out thanks to Disney.
Oddly, they also say that the new Disney distribution company won't be acquiring foreign films, only producing/developing them locally, then also releasing them in the US. I'm not really sure what to make of this yet, but I get the feeling we may not exactly be involved in a lot of these releases. Nonetheless, it seems that the distribution world is changing as technology progresses (and DVD sales continue to decline), I'm fascinated by all of the new ideas and innovations being developed for distribution (like Netflix and Open Road Films). As always, only time will tell if this is truly as lucrative and successful as Disney is hoping it is.