Cannes Virtual Market Talk With ‘Parasite’ Releaser Neon Briefly Interrupted By Uninvited Visitor

Full credit to organizers of the Cannes virtual Marche (June 22-26), who by and large pulled off with relative smoothness day one of what will be a technically challenging and largely unprecedented event.

There were a few hitches here and there, however, which caused scattered moments of frustration and, in one particularly bizarre incident, some hilarity among delegates.

Earlier today, Neon aces Tom Quinn and Elissa Federoff logged on for an insightful discussion into the company’s still brief history. The pair recounted their remarkable journey with Parasite, which saw them take a record-breaking $53M domestic on the Korean-language title and ultimately culminated in Oscar glory.

Halfway through the talk, in a surprise moment, the duo were briefly interrupted by an unexpected visitor, an unidentified older man who gatecrashed the online event for a few seconds before quickly disappearing again. No word on who the man is or how he managed to access a private event link, but it certainly caused a few chuckles, and thankfully didn’t derail the interview.

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Staff instantly began sharing the screen grab of the event and speculating about who he might be. “It’s a Neon PR stunt!” One Marche organizer jokingly texted me.

The event itself was an interesting watch. It opened with a showreel dedicated to Parasite and it’s outrageous success, which served as a welcome reminder of pre-COVID realities. Who can believe that adventure was only six months ago?

Quinn and Federoff chatted through Neon’s history. Former Radius and Magnolia exec Quinn founded the outfit back in 2017, saying he “tried to eliminate mistakes from the previous company I was at” and that it was “a dream of what would be the perfect distribution company I would want to work at… wholly dedicated to the films, filmmakers and staff.”

The blueprint has certainly paid off. Beyond Parasite – I, Tonya, Three Identical Strangers and Apollo 11 have all been big news for the releaser.

On the panel, Quinn spoke about the Trolls: World Tour debate which has raged during the lockdown, with Universal’s decision to circumnavigate cinemas and go directly online to PVOD with the movie causing ire among exhibitors. Neon has had its own series of digital releases during the pandemic, including through its innovative pact with French sales agent Charades, which saw them acquires three titles for online distribution alongside drive-in and pop-up cinema screenings.

“I hate how those kinds of discussions [Trolls] get reduced in our industry. It’s a very lazy discussion. It’s one kind of film at a certain price point, that $20 point doesn’t work for a lot of films we want to do. It might work in certain cities but it doesn’t work everywhere. The world is a very different place depending on where you are, from the perspective of film distribution,” he explained.

“But I want to emphasise that this is not how we want to distribute films,” he added, highlighting the company’s commitment to theatrical releases.

The pair also talked about Palm Springs, which was recently confirmed for a July 10 debut on Hulu. That was a co-acquisition with the streamer and the goal was always a theatrical release as well, which will naturally be limited given the current circumstances, but there will be a cinema component primarily from drive-in venues. “It’s still early with what’s out there theatrically. Later in the year we would have considered a more traditional release, but now this is what makes sense,” said Quinn.

Both execs were also keen to stress that their model is cinemas and, despite the heavy road bump from this lockdown, theatrical is the long-term goal. For Federoff, who is President of Distribution, the pandemic is just another challenge that the medium will overcome.

“I firmly believe cinema will always be around… when I got into this business, everyone said, ’it’s a sunset business, it’s over’, and I’ve only seen it maintain, and boom, and be really successful. It changes, and it will change, but I don’t see it going anywhere,” she said.

If you’re interested, the talk is available to watch retrospectively for delegates through the Marche website.

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