Wed. Feb 19th, 2020

Filmin, the triumph of a kamikaze bet

The love for the cinema of Juan Carlos Tous, Jaume Ripoll and José Antonio de Luna, knows no limits. For proof, the success they have reaped as founding partners of Filmin, the online cinema platform that was born as a kamikaze adventure in the era of illegal downloads and it has become a reference for lovers of the seventh art with a spectacular catalog of movies and series that does not stop growing. A company forged with impetus, decision and courage of which there is no record of any precedent in the Spanish or European film industry. After a decade of losses, in 2017 they left the red numbers behind and were able to enjoy benefits for the first time. If in 2018 it kept the profits above 100,000 euros, this year they expect to multiply the profits by four or five, with a turnover close to six million euros. There is nothing. But the road to this moment of glory has been arduous, with numerous potholes to overcome.

Founder of Cameo in 2003, a pioneer in the distribution of independent films, Tous shared concerns with his colleagues Ripoll and De Luna, at that time executives of the company. The three were clear, seeing what was happening in the United States with the landing of Napster (music file distribution service) and YouTube, which the changes in the audiovisual world were inevitably going through the Internet, so the idea of ​​setting up an online movie distribution company came up. With the support of Cameo's partners (Wanda Films, Tornasol Films, Golem, Alta Films and El Deseo), Filmin was born in 2007. With great enthusiasm, but with a path ahead full of questions.

Jaume Ripoll at Filmin offices in Barcelona

Jaume Ripoll at Filmin offices in Barcelona
(Kim Manresa)

His experience in the world of domestic distribution contrasted with his technological ignorance and they sought an expert partner, although the relationship did not forge and after a year they chose to buy back the shares. It was a time of forced march learning. The first office was located on Calvet Street in Barcelona. There were only five employees (including three of them) and over time they have added more. Now there are 25 workers who are part of this ambitious project whose headquarters are currently located in bright offices on Plató Street, where an image of the actor Rowan Atkinson characterized by Mr. Bean at the main entrance welcomes us. They are all young, moviegoers, and their concentration on the computer screen is surprising in a contagious silence.

Ripoll, editorial and content director, in addition to being responsible for Atlántida Film fest, remembers that the problems of the early years were very clear. “On the one hand the technological ones, since there was not enough bandwidth to watch movies in high definition. On the other, market, because people were not used to paying. Also of industry, because rights providers associated Internet with piracy. And then there was the problem of our own knowledge because there was no model reference to imitate. ” It was the time when the Itunes media player started “but did not make movies” and “youtube had just come out and was free,” says Tous, CEO.

The difficulty of the beginning

We have had to face technological, market and industry problems ”

Filmin managed to overcome these obstacles, which coincided with a situation of galloping economic crisis, thanks to the support of the partners, the aid to the audiovisual industry that they received from the European Community through the Media program, a series of suppliers that relied on the project and a customer base. "Although we lost money, we have always had at least one subscriber more than the previous day and that is what has given us strength to continue, since it meant that the market was growing and that we were on the right track." And, by the way, they faced the habit of illegal downloading of websites like Megaupload.

Filmin has not only established itself as an online film company. At the content level, it is the first company in Spain and second in Europe that has Internet television series, something they take special pride in. “We release House of cards Y Sherlock almost at the same time as A3 Media ”, emphasizes Ripoll. In 2008 they managed, with the authorization of the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA) to be released in cinemas and on the platform Head shotby Jaime Rosales. It was also the first movie service in Europe to launch an iPad application and in 2010 to offer the first movie subscription in Spain. “We have been pioneers,” they say with pride in unison. In 2014 it would be the turn of Carmina and Amen, by Paco León, which was screened simultaneously in theaters, DVDs and the Internet.

Ripoll smiles at a Filmin sign

Ripoll smiles at a Filmin sign
(Kim Manresa)

From the EU Filmin, which has a catalog mainly formed by European cinema and in original version, is considered the most successful European cinema platform of the last ten years at the level of investment and innovation. “It is a reference and is something that is very little known here and that shows that in this country you can be a pioneer. And that we have been wrong many times … and we have recovered, ”admits Ripoll. The founders of Filmin are grateful for the structural support received from the EU "the only government institution that has really believed in the project". At the national level, it has been more scarce. On the part of the Ministry of Culture they have been “minority” for some technological complement. And the Generalitat helped them make the version of Filmin in Catalan,, available for three years.

One of the things that have worked from the platform successfully is that of “De-stigmatize European cinema”(It is present in 68% of the titles), he says, "that people do not associate European cinema with something boring and sad." They have also differentiated by support movies that have not been released in cinemas. "Every year we have about 300 films unpublished commercially in theaters that are released directly on the platform." And how do people get into Filmin? “For the pleasure of discovering things, one of the great attractions of the company.” Its catalog is made up of more than 14,000 titles, most of which are independent and classic cinema, which are changing presentation based on current events or ephemeris so that They can better reach the user. Catalog, technology, and communication, are the keys to your success.

Filmin has a catalog mainly formed by European cinema and in original version

His last feat, the agreement with Metro Goldwyn Mayer to incorporate 110 Hollywood classics, since Apartment or Platoon going through masterpieces of Scorsese or Woody Allen. “For a long time we spent our time, but we have always relied on the project and have taken money from under the stones. We are finally sailing on a first-class ship, ”says Tous.

They do not fear the landing of competition like Apple TV +, or Disney +. “There is cake for everyone. We want to be a complement to all these dinosaurs, ”says Ripoll. In fact, they began to emerge with the arrival of Netflix in 2015. They believe that in the future “some will disappear, there will be mergers and much intermittency. People will go from one subscription to another, depending on their interest. ” They know that Filmin has a solid foundation and Its objective is to satisfy subscribers who are increasingly “demanding and more unfaithful”. They also want to remain innovative in the way of offering content. Thus, in February they will release a technological innovation tool that will improve navigation.

In the future “some will disappear, there will be mergers and a lot of intermittency. People will go from one subscription to another, depending on their interest. ”

The pending issue is that of taxes. While Filmin pays religiously in Spain, HBO and Netflix are taxed in tax havens within the EU. “We are the smallest platform and pay more taxes than the sum of all of them. It's amazing, ”complains Tous.

Son of a film programmer from Mallorca, Ripoll remembers with affection how his father secretly taught his mother the movie Platoon (1986) when I was eight years old. His love for the seventh art comes from his earliest childhood, just like Tous, who used to bell at school to see "the morning of Pelayo cinema." If they had to keep a movie, Tous opts for Blade Runner while Ripoll does it for Network.

Last February they released the German film Bauhaus on the centenary of the famous design school and exceeded all expectations, being in the fourth most watched film of the year in Filmin. This December, in anticipation of Christmas gift to its subscribers, they will premiere a fiction series based on the Bauhaus, Ripoll comments in The vanguard.

They keep the subscription price at 7.99 euros from the first day, they are clear that they will always bet on expand catalog and pamper your product because Filmin "is and will be our life project".

The platform keeps the subscription price at 7.99 euros from the first day

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