Audience Return Up for Debate at a Packed Seville Merci Independent Film Market

Merci Seville, an annual Spanish film distributors forum,  returns for its second Independent Film Market at the Seville European Film Festival, with a broad agenda and some hugely urgent issues to debate, led by how to get audiences back into the country’s cinema theaters.  

A joint venture with Adicine (Association of Independent Film Distributors), Merci Seville will also build on last year’s successful inaugural offering to showcase over 20 titles set for release across 2023. All distributors associated with Adicine are set to attend. “It’s the only event of the year which reunites the national industry in Spain. It allows independent distributors to build a closer relationship with exhibitors, showing them the best upcoming movies,” says Lara Pérez Camiña, president of Adicine and founding partner at Bteam Pictures. 

Film markets often showcase works in progress art films courting distribution deals. Merci in contrast highlights ready versions of films, for consideration by exhibitors. This should play well with the theater owners who are more discerning than ever, given the turbulent market conditions.

On The Agenda

A packed program of events and networking will be held to discuss the most pressing issues currently facing independent film. 

How to preserve and release heritage cinema will dominate a Session run by The Spanish Film Library. It will look to explore ways of re-introducing oft forgotten movie gems to be showcased at contemporary film festivals.

Carlos Biern, content and distribution director of the Kids and Family Division at DeAPlaneta, will host a masterclass on trends in animation and its possible futures.

On the agenda again this year is Women In Focus, giving a space to debate various topics from a gendered perspective. 

Complementing SEFF’s Andalusian Panorama, Merci will have a session to shine a light on the current state and next steps for Andalusian cinema through a filmmakers meeting. This bleeds into the mentorship program where filmmakers who will be showcasing their films, take the time to pass on their wisdom to attending film school students.

Up For Discussion

Lara Pérez Camiña expects “the lack of audiences in cinemas” to dominate, and also “the influence of the media on our industry of independents and vice versa, our industry’s role on the media’s future.” 

The lack of independent cinema audiences isn’t unique to Spain, but audience return has been slower than some European markets such as France. The pandemic was bad in two ways; the obvious being people couldn’t go to the cinema at all for significant periods. This was compounded by a habit forming around watching films via streaming services, that is harder to abate. 

Streaming services will want to maintain the habits formed during lockdown. It’s hit every demographic acknowledges Lara Pérez Camiña, “Unfortunately, the older adult audience is not what it used to be. We have been expecting to welcome them back this fall and winter but we are still waiting. It’s essential for us to create the habit of going to the movie theaters for new, younger audiences,” 

Specific solutions are hard to come by as it is so challenging to know the combination of incentives needed to get audiences to return.  

“Hopefully 2023 will be the year in which we will get over the pandemic and we will better understand our audience’s behaviour,” said Lara Pérez Camiña.

How the industry understands those audiences and ultimately gets them back will be a key question at this year’s Merci.

The distributors grouped in Adicine are: A Contracorriente Films, Avalon, BTeam Pictures, Caramel Films, Elástica Films, Festival Films, Filmax, Golem Distribution, Karma Films, La Aventura, SelectaVisión, Syldavia Cinema, Tripictures, Vertigo Films and Wanda Vision.

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