Arrow Films has been the United Kingdom's premiere reissue label since its formation in 2009. In the past five years, they've become the go-to company for Blu-ray and DVD releases of classic exploitation and cult films. Known for their deluxe restorations, which result in films done by the company looking better than they likely did on the day of release, Arrow is the bar by which all other reissues are judged. They recently finished an Indiegogo campaign to expand their market into the United States, and it was a roaring success, with $20,000 more than their $100,000 campaign being raised.
Arrow's first set of films for U.S. releases – Day of Anger, Mark of the Devil, and Blind Woman's Curse – were announced as part of the Indiegogo campaign, and will be out March 17th. They also announced the next wave: Blood and Black Lace, Massacre Gun, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne will be out on April 14th. We spoke with Arrow Films' head of production and acquisition, Francesco Simeoni, via e-mail about the company's new market and upcoming releases.
STARBURST: What was the impetus to move into the American market?
Francesco Simeoni: In building up a large catalogue of releases, we managed to amass a large following beyond our borders and there were lots of films we wanted to restore that we couldn't do financially as a small UK-only label. We have restored plenty of films but it's not always so easy and we found ourselves in difficult situations, like with The Burbs where we had an HD Master from Universal, which was fine for their purposes, but didn't meet our standards for a top quality Blu-ray presentation. We tried to work out arrangements with distributors in other territories, but we never managed it and so had to take it on ourselves, with much risk attached. After all, we need to be mindful of risks so we can keep doing what we're doing! Now, with a larger audience to serve, we aren't thinking twice about pushing the restoration button! We have so many restorations planned, it's thrilling to think we're releasing films we would have once had to turn down.
Why move into a market that's so full already, with Blue Underground, Synapse, Code Red, and Scream Factory?
It is indeed a market with many distributors, but we felt there was a gap with the kind of content we are offering with the kind of presentation we offer. The restorations, as I mentioned, just one part, and whilst there is a lot of this good work happening already – and those labels are indeed doing excellent work – but each of them has a petty specific remit. None of them have so far done any Blaxploitation films or any yakuza films on Blu-ray, to name just two examples. It'd be a shame if the US was deprived of some of the delights we have planned. We know there's a big audience out there, who is very excited for the stuff we have planned.
Arrow's excellent release of Lucio Fulci's The House by the Cemetery
Was the Indiegogo campaign a way to gauge interest, as well as raising funds?
It was purely to gauge interest. There's nothing like voting with your wallet rather than clicking a poll with no consequences, so it was a great way to test the water. But we were upfront with the campaign – we were always going into North America and had a handful of very strong titles planned as mentioned in the campaign. The big question was, “Do enough people want what we're offering and can we possibly communicate our plans in a more exciting way than 'Hey, here's our website?'” – which would have been pretty dull.
From what I've been able to ascertain, all releases will be on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. How do you plan to keep doing that?
It's actually not been too hard, since we have established relationships with many different producers and studios. So, whilst we delayed Day of Anger a few months in order to make it a dual territory release, we had plenty in the locker to shift around with no effect on our home audience. It just meant switching around the release schedule, which we do all the time, anyway. Only the very last stages of a release's production do we actually schedule it. As regards continuing to do this: we have lots scheduled and we're feeling really pleased with some of the exciting titles we're bringing US and UK audiences, so it's all looking good for the moment!
Frank Henenlotter's Frankenhooker is just one of many titles to have been given an extras-crammed new release
All these initial releases are DVD/Blu-ray combos. Why do that? Is it easier than trying to do either/or, or cheaper than releasing each format separately?
We've found in the UK that our audience isn't very heavily biased to DVD and is pretty tech savvy: have good quality kit, nice big TVs and want the best on disc. We wouldn't want to drop the DVDs entirely. There's still a DVD audience out there, but they one day may want to upgrade to Blu-ray and they'd be pretty annoyed at having to upgrade their back catalogue to Blu-ray when it could have been avoided, or putting off a purchase because of an imminent upgrade. Once you make the switch to Blu-ray and put on an old DVD, if you love that film, you're going to want to upgrade it at some point. So, a combo pack is great for DVD buyers to be future proofed. Additionally a combo release means great flexibility – if you want to watch the film on your Blu-ray through your big TV, but the extras later on your computer, you can. Very few of these films will ever make it to 4K so the Blu-rays will be relevant for a very long time yet. A further consideration is our releases often feature very high quality packaging, whether it's a Steelbook or a deluxe box with lots of printed parts, so we can do a lot more of that for just one format in one size. Making two sizes increases costs, reduces budgets and affects the buyer in the sell price. By having one size across two countries, we can offer really cool packaging without a prohibitively expensive price.
The first six American releases span the genres from giallo to supernatural gangster picture to spaghetti western to witches. What's going to be the plans for the company's releases going forward? Will there be past UK releases getting an American version? Will some films be exclusive to one country or the other?
Some UK releases will see a North American version in the future, but it'll be rare and infrequent as time passes. There will come a point when it just won't happen anymore as much of our back catalogue is with another distributor and we're only really focusing on special releases to reissue.
More information about Arrow Films can be found at their website – www.arrowfilms.co.uk/
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