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Unit 1: Contextual Studies
Week 2: Distribution & Regulation
Unit 1: Contextual Studies
Ownership & Control in the Media
Today we will start;
• To understand distribution systems in the context of the
Film and TV Industry
• To understand the impact of regulations and other forms
of control in relation to the TV and Film industry
• Distribution, the third part of the film supply chain, is
often referred to as 'the invisible art’.
• Distribution is the most important part of the film
industry, where completed films are brought to life and
connected with an audience.
• Distribution is about releasing and sustaining films in
the market place.
• In Hollywood, the phases of production, distribution
and exhibition operate most effectively when 'vertically
integrated', where the three stages are seen as part of the
same larger process, under the control of one company.
• In the UK, distribution is very much focused on
marketing and sustaining a global product in local
• In the independent film sector, vertical integration does not
operate so commonly.
• Producers tend not to have long-term economic links with
distributors, who likewise have no formal connections with
• In the UK, distribution is necessarily a collaborative process,
requiring the materials and rights of the producer and the
cooperation of the exhibitor to promote and show the film in
the best way possible.
• In this sector, distribution can be divided into three stages –
licensing, marketing and logistics.
Logistics of distribution
• Agreement - The distributor will enter into an agreement with the
cinema to screen the film on certain dates.
• Film transport - It is the responsibility of the distributor to arrange
the transportation of the film to the cinema, as part of its wider
coordination of print use across the UK.
• Supply & demand - Logistics represents the phase of distribution at
its most basic - supplying and circulating copies of the film to
theatres and DVDs/Blu Rays to shops and managing the
effectiveness of the supply.
• Scheduling and marketing - Cinemas spend their money
publicising film screening dates and times in local papers or
through published programmes.
• Distributor handles the delivery of the film that is supplied to
cinemas. Films are often supplied on a hard drive or downloaded
directly to digital projectors.
• Older cinemas still use 35mm film print. Each print can cost around
£1,000 – or twice that if subtitled
• In the UK, prints are generally broken down for ease of handling
into smaller reels, each lasting around 18-20 mins when run through
a projector at 24 frames per second. So a feature print, in its physical
form, will usually be 5 or 6 reels, stored and supplied in a single
hard case, weighing in at 20-25kgs.
• Prints are hired by the exhibitor for the duration of their run, and
therefore each print is made for repeat use.
• 35mm theatrical prints invariably suffer cumulative
damage as they pass through different projectors, and
the hands of various projectionists.
• There are also overheads incurred by the distributor for
the storage of prints at the UK's central print warehouse
in West London.
• Each theatrical print has a finite lifespan. Distributor will
invest in sufficient prints to provide optimum coverage
through the first period of theatrical release, usually
lasting up to 6 months.
Film vs digital
Making up a film reel
• In distribution terms, the advantages of digital
technology are clear.
• Digital technology is seen to offer a more cost effective
and logistics-light alternative to the tried and trusted,
but unwieldy model of 35mm print distribution
• It is now cheaper and much less stressful to send films as
computer files to cinemas across the UK, than to
transport 20-25kg tins of film in the back of a van.
A Field in England
Case Study: A Field in England
• The film’s budget of £316,000 was financed by Film4’s
Film 4.0 division. The low budget nature of the film
fitted Film4.0’s innovative model.
• Film4.0 was created to find new ways of connecting
talent and ideas to audiences using digital technology.
• The low budget also reduced the financial risk involved.
P&A spend of £112,000, including £57,000 from the BFI
(British Film Institute).
• The film opened on July 5th 2013 on 17 cinema screens,
DVD, Blu-Ray, Transactional VOD (iTunes etc.), and free-
to-air television through Film4.
• Simultaneous multimedia release was suited to the cult
following of the director Ben Wheatley.
Channel 4 & Film 4.0
• Channel 4 were involved in distribution to all platforms
apart from theatrical.
• Channel4 has its own DVD label (4DVD) which also
distributes to transactional VOD (TVOD)
• Platforms such as iTunes, as well having their own
TVOD platform in Film 4OD.
• Both the Film4 Channel and Film4.0 felt the
multiplatform approach fit their brand positioning –
exciting, innovative, and audience-centred
• Marketing plan involved building interest across all platforms
– Channel 4, Film4, Film4OD, Picturehouse Cinemas, related
websites, social media, and VOD platforms.
• The director had a strong, active fanbase, including 12,000
Twitter followers which contributed to the marketing of the
film. His active use of Twitter, including retweeting audience
reviews and comments played a key part in the marketing of
• The director also took part in special Q & A screenings which
sold out the participating cinemas.
• The involvement of Film4 and Channel 4 offered another
means of marketing to a large audience, with 23 million
people engaging with the channel in some way.
• Promotional trailers on Channel 4 and the Film4 Channel
pushed viewers to both the television screening of the film as
well as other platforms.
• Without this promotion for the film may have to include paid
advertising which would have affected the cost of the film’s
release. This is an example of synergy.
• The aim of the marketing campaign was to build a single
momentum around the film in all its forms that would make
its opening weekend a real event.
• Would the film have been more successful with a conventional
• Results for the film’s theatrical, television, DVD, and VOD release
were all close to or above expectations, and showed no signs of
fragmentation on any platform.
• Opening weekend theatrical revenue was £21,000. VOD rental
figures were well above predictions for the opening weekend. The
film was the most watched on Film4OD on the opening weekend,
and also boosted rentals for the director’s other films.
• The Film4 television screening averaged 367,000 viewers, 3% of TV
audience and higher than average for timeslot and channel.
Opening weekend DVD/Blu-Ray sales of 1500.
• Benefitted from unprecedented publicity which would not be
available to any films using the same model in the future.
• The big argument against day-and-date release is that it will take
audiences away from traditional platforms, especially cinemas.
• The Q & A was a major draw to theatrical screenings, with 51% of
the audience saying that was why they had chosen to watch the film
at the cinema. 77% of the cinema audience were aware they could
watch the film for free on television but chose to watch it at the
cinema anyway. This suggests frequent cinemagoers will not be
swayed by alternative platforms.
Does it matter that only 7% of British
films make a profit?
• Regulation is the control of what is shown, advertised
and produced for Television
• This can be through the scheduling and the production
of TV shows
• Regulation can also stem into the censorship of TV
Regulation of the UK TV
• OFCOM – they are the independent regulators of the media
and communication industries
• Specification of Broadcast Code – this provides a set of
mandatory broadcast rules, it covers:
• Protection of under-eighteens
• Harm and Offence
• Rules on the amount and distribution of advertising
• Examines specific complaints made by the public
• Public consultations on matters relating to TV broadcasting
• Committee for Advertising Practice – contracted by OFCOM
to maintain the codes of practice for television advertising
• Advertising Standards Authority – independent body which
deals with complaints relating to the advertising industry
Licensing in the UK
• All of the UK needs a license to view publicly broadcast
• The money from the fee is used for radio, TV and
internet content for the BBC and its welsh language TV
programmes for S4C
How is Film Regulated?
• It is regulated through a classification system
• This classification system is created and controlled by
each countries respective government company
• Ours being the BBFC
The Classification System
U – Universal
PG – Parental Guidance
12A – No-one under 12 is to see this film unless
accompanied by an adult
15 – No-one under 15 is to see this film
18 – No-one under 18 is to see this film
• Established in 1912 and originally called the British
Board of Film Censors
• Between the wars (1918-1939) – concerned about
Gangster, Horror and films that dealt with sexuality
• 1950s saw the rise of the teenage film, this caused
problems for the BBFC
• 1960s – the ‘swinging sixties’ saw liberalisation in
society and realism in film, not always accepted fully by
• 1970s – sex and violence was a common theme, many
received several cuts before being classified
• Decade of the ‘Video Nasties’
• Examples – Evil Dead, Last House on the Left, Texas
Chainsaw Massacre, Cannibal Holocaust
• 1990s onwards – film was beginning to be more explicit
though this was not frowned upon due to changing
• 2002 – 12A created – parents controlled whether their
children watch these films
Rate a trailer
• This is the American Version
• MPAA – Motion Picture Association of America
• Founded in 1922
• Also helps to protect
creative content from piracy
• Create a case study for a recent independent UK release.
How have regulations effected your production? (You
could look at certification issues or use of advertising)
• How has online film distribution affected the film’s
• How long before it was released on VOD?
• What marketing strategies did it use?
• How many cinemas was it released in?
• What profit did it make against its release?
• How was it funded?
• How are film and TV regulated in the UK?
• Write a short summary of the key organisations
• Committee for Advertising Practice
• Advertising Standards Authority