On the sidelines of the Annecy 2021 festival, we went to meet Amel Lacombe, founder of the Eurozoom company specializing in theatrical support for Japanese animated films.
How did the idea come about to release the film Detective Conan: The Scarlet Bullet at the cinema, very popular franchise in Japan, but not very well known to the general French public?
Amel Lacombe (founder of the distribution company Eurozoom): Our approach to Detective Conan, which is the same as we apply to each of the films that we offer, it is neither a question of opportunism or of “coup”, c that is to say that we do not do this in order to easily bring in money.
On animation, our job is to introduce the public to unknown directors. When we released La Traversée du temps in France on 50 copies, no one knew Mamoru Hosoda’s name. But the fact of bringing him to France to attend previews allowed him to gradually obtain the status of recognized author.
To sum up, our approach at Eurozoom is to bring Japanese animation out of the ghetto of event projections. Because that’s how animation was previously treated in France, with the exception of course of the Ghibli.
We had unique evenings like for example at the Grand Rex, screenings generally organized in Paris, but it was above all a desire to bring in money without the necessary investment of a classic outing: press coverage. , the media coverage, the supervision of the director, essential aspects if one wishes to create a cinematography.
We have always treated Japanese animation like any form of cinema. They have directors, producers, technical teams so these are films like any other, and no film comes out in a single screening at the Grand Rex or elsewhere. No, the release of a film requires screenings for the press, promotion, the purchase of advertising space …
The first movie we released is Shinji Aramaki’s Appleseed, which isn’t just anyone anyway. At the time we had to fight with the cinemas so that the film could be released, UGC was among the first to support us, and little by little we were able to set up a correct release plan with 50 copies. In the end, the film had an honest career with around 50,000 admissions, a total that no one really expected.
Even when we released Your Name, we encountered huge challenges. Its screening at the San Sebastian festival had gone unnoticed, the press was very reluctant.
Yet the film had broken all records in Japan …
Yes but that is not enough, the proof with Detective Conan! The license is a real hit in Japan but not in France… People are starting from the obvious, but final Les Enfants du temps, the second film by Makoto Shinkai should have made a lot more admissions than Your Name due to its notoriety with the public, but it was not!
Has a film made it possible to take a step forward in the reception of Japanese animated films in France?
As our approach to Japanese animation is not in opportunism, but conversely in the discovery of talent and in supporting directors and studios, we do not feel the need to “take a step forward” .
As with all distributors, there are films that are stronger than others, some are easier to sell to the general public, but even when you release a film in just a few theaters, there is work to be done. to make the director known, in order to be able to extend our collaboration on his next film.
I think Japanese animation deserves better than people who get into it out of mere opportunism.
We will not be able to take away our basic work. And even for the cases of Detective Conan, Lupine III The First and Doraemon, all derived from big franchises which produce films almost every year for more or less good results, for me these are works that deserve to be known on the French market.
These are good quality franchises, with an interesting universe and good animation, but yet no one has ever managed to import them into France. For Doraemon, it is because of the Japanese studio Toei which never wanted to lower its prices because because of the success of the franchise in Japan. They believe that we have to buy the rights according to the local popularity of the franchise whereas our income does not depend on Japanese admissions, but on those of cinemas in France!
On the other hand, I am very happy to have started working with the TMS studio to Lupine and Conan, which has a French office with which we get along very well. These are people who have fully understood that the notoriety of these licenses in Japan does not justify having a similar ambition in France for their very first cinema release!
How to explain the contempt of French institutions for Japanese productions, which could moreover be extended to all manga culture?
That is rediculous. Since I have been releasing anime, I have always told the public authorities and the CNC that these films are for me an extraordinary vehicle for bringing young audiences back to independent cinema. In recent years, most young people have only gone to the movies to see the huge Marvel-style blockbusters, or to see the big family hits during school trips.
But the cinematographic practice is gradually being lost, and even tends to disappear completely. Once a year they go to see the big Marvel or the Star Wars, and the rest of the time they don’t go to the movies. So that’s why I see the theatrical release of Japanese animated films as something very positive!
A few years after the release of our first films, subjects began to emerge in the news of TF1 and France 2, and many teenagers came to see me to thank me because thanks to the films we offer, their parents have finally respect for the manga they read, the anime they watch etc …
The cinema therefore gives its letters of nobility to all this culture that a lot of people despise, and we also note that this has made it possible to bring back some of the young people in theaters. Today all the institutions are launching avenues of reflection to try to bring young people back to the cinema, and it is quite ironic, because it is a subject that we have been discussing for more than fifteen years, without ever having been heard!
Released in theaters on Wednesday, the film Josée, the tiger and the fish was presented at the opening of the Annecy festival: