Owning The Right IP

Tuesday, December 9 2014
Owning The Right IP

Many months in the planning, Trinity has finally signed on the dotted line to pick up the Showbox catalogue and the associated Cine-Asia imprint. The company’s Cedric Behrel outlines what it means for his company…

Almost overnight, Trinity has gone from a standing start to becoming one of the leading exponents of martial arts and Asian action cinema in the UK. Well, it might seem like it literally happened overnight, but it was the culmination of an intensive – and time —consuming – period of negotiation for the company.

Showbox, and particularly Cine Asia, had a strong reputation within the business. It was formed by the founders of Medusa, a long-standing operation which had initially mined SE Asia for rental fodder, but, in the 1990s, reinvented itself as a retail company, selling kung fu actioners to a whole new fan base through its Hong Kong Legends imprint. That outfit was sold to Contender as it grew its catalogue ahead, eventually becoming part of eOne. Showbox was formed by Steve Rivers and Dave Hodgins, the men behind Medusa, before ultimately falling victim to the changing marketplace.
When it failed, Trinity started looking at the impressive catalogue that Showbox had built, both for itself and the Cine-Asia label.

Now, two yeas down the line, it’s finally there. The titles are now available online through the likes of Amazon, with bricks and mortar stores selling the titles from January 2015.

And it is, Trinity’s Cedric Behrel said, just the start of the company’s expansion plans.

“It’s game-changer for Trinity,” he says. “It means we’re able to start as a market leader in a genre – the Asian action/ martial arts film – whose audience has been largely unserved in the past couple of years, and yet is still buoyant, with well over a hundred films.”

He acknowledges the time it took – “The deal took the best part of the year. It was a very difficult deal to get through.” – but believes it will be worth the effort.

“We’ve been looking at it for almost two years, right after Showbox Media Group went into administration,” he adds.

“The reason it took so long is that before Showbox Media Group went into administration, the titles were transferred to another company, which continued to exploit them digitally, but the physical assets were under control of the administrator. So we had to deal with the administrator and the liquidators, as well as the catalogue owners, and what seemed at time like an army of lawyers. Some very protracted negotiations took place, and there were lots of curveballs and last minute panics.

“And suddenly it happened…  But only through sheer perseverance and some magnanimity. It was a long-haul for Robin and I, and it’s a relief we were able to pull it off, which couldn’t have happened without our brilliant solicitors, Simons Muirhead & Burton. In the end, the Cine-Asia fans will be the ultimate beneficiaries. And that’s how it should be.”

As Behrel rightly notes, it is the the perfect catalogue and will further help open doors. “The catalogue really speaks for itself, and is a magnet to attract the top producers in the field, from Hong Kong and beyond. The catalogue is an end in itself, but it is also a catalyst to enable us to rekindle the flame, and add value with new acquisitions.”

Its first priority since finally inking the deal has been to get the catalogue up and running again. Cine-Asia was a much-loved brand among those in the know, its slipping into administration had in turn created a vacuum for product of this ilk.

“Initially, the main plan has been to get the titles out there again,” explains Behrel. “We just created a new Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/cineasiauk) to alert fans of new availability and price points on Amazon as soon as they go live. The Cine-Asia fans are what made the catalogue and we are very much looking forward to engaging with them. We’d like them to have their say on the Cine-Asia Facebook page, and we may host opinion polls there in relation to future releases. We’re also planning to have offline treats such as special screenings for example, once we have located all our available DCPs.”

Next year will see it expanding its plans as it moves into bricks and mortar stores alongside online retailers, as Behrel outlines: “With some titles it’s about getting the titles featured [on the likes of Amazon, Play, Ebay, Base.com, DVD.co.uk] as soon as we can online at a good price. With others it’s about getting the deeper catalogue into the range in larger stores [HMV, Fopp, Head, That’s Entertainment] and pulling out the bigger titles to promote in main campaigns. And lastly it’s about targeting the top few titles in the Cine-Asia range and trying to secure shelf space in range promo space as key catalogue drivers. We’re also looking to promote the titles on end racks, tower racks, separate sections where space allows.”

It’s not just about Cine-Asia titles though. There’s more to come from Trinity via other deals, other relationships. This new deal will show its seriousness and ambitions. “We’re releasing action/crime caper Hackney’s Finest next, which will be a limited key city theatrical, where we are working very closely with producers, and are also about to strike a deal with new UK producers.

“This is really what we are set up to do: develop relationships with film-makers and doing the very best we can for their films. What this deal does is raise the stakes for us, and increase the opportunities to work with producers. The film industry is a roller-coaster ride, let’s see where it where it takes us next.”

The roller coaster will certainly be busy for Trinity. As Behrel says, staffing levels and workloads at the independent will notably increase: “We already have someone in mind who has been looking at the catalogue in fine detail for us over the past year. We’ve already identified together candidates for potential Steelbooks and box sets, so watch this space.

“It means multiplying the titles under our management by more than four, so it’s huge step for us. It really reflects where we want to be as a company, to put our energy, passion, and market nous into particular content where we think the audience is underserved and we can really make a difference. Showbox /Cine-Asia is the perfect illustration of this, and it’s only the beginning.”

As he concludes, Trinity has plenty of ambitions going forward: “For us this is an introduction, not a retirement plan, the main part still has to play out. We’re young enough for it!”

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