The success of ‘pioneers’ FilmIn, the Catalan ‘art-house Netflix,’ during lockdown
Over-the-top content providers see growth hosting prestigious film festivals on their online platform
As the lockdown has kept people in their homes and theatres and cinemas shut, the public has naturally enough tended to look toward more forms of at-home entertainment to keep them busy. For the Catalan "art-house Netflix," FilmIn, which also has a Catalan version, FilmIn.cat, this has led to more users and streams, and expanded opportunities to collaborate with prestigious film festivals.
Jaume Ripoll, co-founder and editorial director of the series and film streaming service, FilmIn, says that his company are “pioneers” of the streaming industry, having been in the business for 12 years already.
FilmIn already had a “strong userbase and a high amount of followers and subscribers” before the pandemic struck, which put them in a good position of experience to be able to deal with the growing demand for over-the-top content.
“Since the beginning of March, I would say that we have growth of around 15% the number of subscribers,” Ripoll says, before explaining that the platform has seen a rise of “around 70%” in the number of streams of episodes and movies watched by the users.
This sudden growth has come with a unique set of problems, and Ripoll admits there has been some “controversy” regarding the streaming quality, given the hugely increased demand for bandwidth.
The company has invested in new servers to be able to offer the best possible service to its customers, which Ripoll is proud of.
World premieres in living rooms
Given the enforced closure of cinemas, many film distributors and producers have contacted the FilmIn platform with a view to releasing new productions online, rather than waiting for theatres to resume business.
“The first was Assemblea, a Valencian production with Greta Fernández and Francesc Garrido, two Catalan actors, it was a huge success on our platform with 30,000 admissions,” Ripoll says. Some of the movies that have premiered on FilmIn will likely be shown in cinemas later, when possible.
As well as individual titles, FilmIn has hosted various festivals during this lockdown period. “The funny thing is we have been doing online film festivals since ten years ago,” Ripoll says, explaining that hosting festivals such as D’A Film Festival and DocsBarcelona were not new experiences for the company.
“The first online film festival in Catalonia was Atlantida, it was created by FilmIn, and now it takes place online on our platform, simultaneously in Mallorca, so it’s a physical festival as well as online, so it’s a nice mix.” This year, the Atlantida festival will take place July 27- August 27.
Ripoll says “DocsBarcelona has been a huge success,” too, which is scheduled to finish on May 31. Normally, it takes place in some of the biggest cinemas in the Catalan capital, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to be enjoyed in fans’ living rooms. The D’A Film Festival was also held on FilmIn, “also a very nice art-house film festival that usually takes place in Barcelona for ten days,” Ripoll says.
Being streamed online rather than taking place at set times in specific locations gives the festival the chance to be seen by more people across the whole country, and “this year [D’A Film Festival] had more than 200,000 admissions over the ten days, which is a huge success.” Ripoll says similar numbers are expected from DocsBarcelona.
“For us, it’s an honour to be able to release those films, which are pretty much all Spanish premieres, some are worldwide premieres, and it’s a privilege even for our subscribers to have access to those films only paying for a normal subscription, €7.99, and then you have access to our catalogue, plus all the DocsBarcelona lineup.”
Approach to Catalan productions
FilmIn.cat, the Catalan version of the platform, was launched in 2017, and Ripoll says the company are “strong supporters of Catalan language productions, either with subtitles or dubbed.”
They aim to release roughly 50 series and 200 films every year in Catalan, either by using subtitles or dubbing. However, Ripoll explains that there is a “problem” with dubbing, as the cost of doing so is “very high for a platform like FilmIn to afford.”
The streaming company also have an agreement with Catalan television station TV3 for access to dubbed content of classic movies, “and thanks to support from the Catalan government, we can spend money on dubbing new films, for instance, the Bertolt Brecht biopic that we released last year.”
Ripoll is also quick to point out that FilmIn.cat is not a translator of films from Spanish to Catalan, that it has its own editorial approach. “There’s a team here trying to work on specific collections, a specific microsite for a Catalan audience,” he says. This way “it helps us reach a new audience” as Catalan speakers can discover FilmIn.