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Andrew Partridge interview at MCM London Comic Con

Andrew Partridge interview at MCM London Comic Con

Written by A. H. on 11 Nov 2013

Finding a suitable spot for a "quiet chat" at the MCM London Comic Con is a bit like setting out for a picnic in the middle of a war zone - however, on the Sunday of the October 2013 event at the ExCel centre we managed to find a suitably deserted wine bar to sit down with some soft drinks (we're professionals, we don't drink on the job. Much...) and quiz the president of anime distributor Anime Limited and well-known industry figure Andrew Partridge.

In a month where the company had finished releasing Cowboy Bebop on Blu-Ray and announced a new digital partnership with French service Wakanim, we had plenty to talk about with Mr. Partridge, but first and foremost what had been learned from the formative months of Anime Limited?  Naturally, the subject of a string of recent delays quickly cropped up in the conversation.

"The problem there was that I chose to hire people from outside of the industry, people who were either new and bright in skill and production, or people who were from other areas like marketing and able to transfer their skills and learn afresh as I wanted fresh eyes and new ideas on projects, not people trying to adapt models that didn't work in the past. The downside of that is that when you're not there to train them things go a lot slower for a while as we're a small team - I've been out of contact quite a lot this past quarter for personal reasons at a really crucial time."

The one title that did make it out of the door (mostly) unscathed thanks to its prioritisation above all else was Cowboy Bebop, which has now successfully made it to retail on Blu-Ray and with a DVD complete collection about to follow.  How has this dyed-in-the-wool classic performed for the company so far?

"Very well actually! We printed 5,000 copies of part one and only a few less of part two and we're already a good 50% through our stock of that, which is exceptionally interesting considering that most anime titles, and especially Blu-Ray sets, sell only a fraction of that normally."  Good news indeed, but how have sales and pre-orders been split between the DVD and Blu-Ray releases?  "Actually we've seen more Blu-Ray sale pre-orders than DVD - maybe it's just the price point for DVD that people feel should be lower, and maybe they just want a cheaper Amaray edition, but there's definitely been less of the DVD so far.  On the other hand, perhaps people will just want to order it when its out in retail? It's really hard to tell at the moment".

Continuing with the theme of the company's catalogue of physical release, we next probed Andrew on the current status of their release of The Place Promised in our Early Days - a question given added significance by the company's recent acquisition of another Makoto Shinkai work, The Garden of Words; an acquisition that also seems to tie into at least part of Anime Limited's wider goals relating to the UK handling the director's work.

"What we're trying to do is build a Shinkai Collection Steelbook, which would mean that we would need access to two properties which are not in our catalogue. The 5 Centimetres per Second Blu-Ray isn't actually with Manga Entertainment, so we can actually ask for permission to do a one-off print run, but I also need Kazé and CoMix Wave's approval to do Journey to Agartha. I'd like to do a complete collection, because missing out one of his works is like pretending it doesn't exist. The other complication there is that access to the dub is way more expensive than we'd imagined - normally there's a very reasonable deal available, but we're having to discuss the realities of the market and see what we can do to mitigate those costs."  Progress is apparently being made with those discussions however, so we'll be keeping an ear to the ground and some money in our wallets in the hope of a Shinkai Collection Steelbook some day!

In the midst of our discussion, pondering delays, price points and the like, thoughts also turned to some of the other distributors both within and outside of the UK:

"I find myself bizarrely saying this, but people should give Manga Entertainment a bit of a break! We've seen more Manga-bashing than ever - share some love around, as they do an excellent job of getting content out to people in a quick and accessible way for people who want just an Amaray set. In our case, we'll do some Amaray sets for titles like Outlaw Star, where the main feature is the remastered video, but for everything else we're trying to build you a quality release that costs a bit more, but you get what you pay for at the end of the day, with more rigid, quality packaging for example. We're going to keep experimenting with different models to see what works for you as fans, and we're not going to forget that there are people who want a standard edition, but we have to create a slight gap between them much like companies such as Criterion do."

Inevitably, this led to our probing Andrew for his thoughts on Aniplex USA's business model in North America.

"I think that the concept is a good idea, but I think the price point is wrong for the UK, as our market is literally 10% the size of the US community.  What Aniplex are relying on is 10% of their market to buy their releases, and we couldn't survive on that - what I think we can do is take on the same ethics as to how they produce their quality releases, and I believe that we have to price it so that we don't lose money, but so that we don't end up where only 10% of the UK market can afford to buy them.  I want at least 50% of the UK markewt to be able to interact with our releases, and ultimately find ways to bring the cost down further so that the other 50% of fans who just want the discs can eventually afford it too."

A. H.

Author: A. H.

A. hasn't written a profile yet. That's ruddy mysterious...

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