Over the last few years, Bologna-based I Wonder Pictures has emerged as one of the leading distribution players in Italy, helmed by founder & CEO, Andrea Romeo. Characterized by a bold approach to sell both arthouse and commercial cinema, I Wonder has gradually expanded its business model well beyond traditional theatrical distribution.
This year at the Venice Film Festival, I Wonder visited the Lido with 12 new titles. Their picks included two Orizzonti winners “Explanation for Everything” (Best Film) and “El paraíso” (Best Script and Best Actress), three Giornate degli Autori films including the winning picture, “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person”, and three competition titles – Bertrand Bonello’s latest, “The Beast” (toplined by Léa Seydoux and George McKay), Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert’s Polish LGBTQ+ drama “Woman Of” and Stéphane Brizé’s “Out of Season” (starring Guillaume Canet and Alba Rohrwacher in the leading roles).
To introduce their editorial policy and how it has changed over time, Romeo said, “I Wonder Pictures launched 10 years ago to distribute a movie that really impressed us, “Searching for Sugar Man”. Over the last 10 years, much has changed, but we kept our initial goal to bring surprising stories to theaters. Today, our editorial policy combines the best of high-quality European cinema – with a special attention to French comedies such as “A Difficult Year”, out in cinemas in November – together with a new type of film product, ‘rooted’ in our times.”
“This is the case of A24 titles such as “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “The Whale”, as well as the upcoming releases “Dream Scenario” and “The Zone of Interest”. These are universal films sporting concepts that cross the boundaries of genres,” he said, adding how these films are both trendy and capable of sparking debate.
When asked how the company managed to diversify their business model and expand their scope by venturing into streaming (IWonderfull), festivals (I Wonder is a key partner of Venice strands, Giornate degli Autori and Critics’ Week) and co-production, Romeo said, “The goal is not to ignore any distribution opportunity for film products. The film product itself is not in crisis, but it is available on a wider range of channels than it used to be. Starting from this idea, we aimed to enhance the theatrical release as a shared viewing experience, in particular through meetings with cast and directors in cinemas and our focus on festivals, which has always been in our DNA as a launchpad to buy and promote films.”
Of IWonderfull, he explained, “IWonderfull was born during the pandemic as a response to the crisis experienced by the theaters. It has quickly become a new opportunity to delve into new modes of ‘consuming’ cinema through the creation of a catalog that includes movies that have been in theaters, along with others set to land exclusively on the platform.”
Last year, I Wonder kicked off a new label called ‘Arthouse.’ Romeo talked through the initiative’s goals and the response to it, “Arthouse was born with the mission of giving value to a much-needed type of film product, a more cinephile one, which does not primarily aim to gain commercial response, yet has a loyal audience. These movies need specific work approaches, and a carefully-planned release strategy in select cinemas.”
“So far, the model has been successful as proven by the results achieved by Jerzy Skolimoski’s “Eo”, out in cinemas last Christmas, but also over the course of the current season, when we’ll be releasing titles like the Golden Bear winner “On the Adamant” and “20,000 Species of Bees”, which would have struggled to find room through a classical distribution strategy.”
Romeo argued that aiming at [an audience of] young spectators within the cinephile and generalist audience is key, “Learning about their tastes and providing them with a clever, high-quality offering [is crucial]. This is what we’re doing with A24 films, but not just this. And this will be one of the most stimulating challenges in the near future.”
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