What is film distribution?• Distribution is the highly competitive business of launching and sustaining films in the market place.• Its vital to the health of the film industry as a whole.• Films dont become well known, or find their place in the world, by accident.• The distributors challenge is to bring each one to market, starting from scratch (except for a sequel) and realising its potential.
Tony Angellotti (Distributor)• If you break it down and look at it as a business then the audience has the greatest power. Its the audience that tells you what they like.• So if the audience likes a particular superstar, then Hollywood is forced to use the superstar and that star then becomes extremely powerful.
Toby Miller (Theortist)• In a world where money spent on the budget of a film often sees 50 % going on promotion as opposed to what you actually see on screen, the idea that we have a world where the consumer can exercise authority is absurd.• This industry is like any other. Of course it has to sell things, but it doesnt rely on waiting, listening, responding to what audiences want and then delivering that to them.
Films– audience driven?• They cant both be right and you therefore need to come to an informed judgement on this dynamic.• In the case of film marketing, it is a complex issue.• Q. Did millions of people go to see Pirates of the Caribbean 2 in the first week of release because it is such a great film, or because it is so well marketed? Or both?• It took $135,634,554 in its opening weekend in the US alone, 32% of its final total gross.•
Definition of a distributor• A distributor is the link between the film-makers and the public, and allows a film to reach the public via the cinemas, DVD/video and on television.• There are a number of distribution companies in the UK, all with different styles, funding structures, aims and marketing plans, all trying to sell their films in an incredibly competitive environment.
Responsibilities include:• deciding on a release date;• deciding how many prints to produce and in which cinemas to screen them;• advertising campaigns;• designing art work for adverts, posters, flyers and billboards;• organising premieres and talker screenings;• booking talent (i.e. the stars or director) for press interviews and personal appearances.
Distribution• Distributors are also responsible for negotiating deals regarding the films release on video and DVD, and showings on television, cable and satellite channels.• A film could come to the distributor in a range of ways – films produced by the main American studios will be distributed through their own companies, so Warner Bros. will distribute their own films as will 20th Century Fox and Buena Vista International will distribute Disney films as it is the Disney distribution arm.
Some Background Facts and Statistics• Worldwide spend on films is around $65 billion a year, of which the distributors share is about $35 billion.• Total revenues are split almost equally between the North American market and the Rest of the World.• The industry has doubled in size in the last since 2000 – an annual growth rate of almost 10%.• Few, if any, major businesses can boast such continued growth over this period.• DVD has contributed significantly to the growth levels. DVD sales have seen a tenfold rise in the last 3 years.
More stats• The average cost for an American studio film is now more than $50m with a further $30m spent on marketing.• Theatrical (i.e. cinema) revenues only account for about 25% of the total profit, with DVD taking about 40%; television screening accounting for 28% and ancillary revenues the final 7%.
Revenue Streams• The main revenue streams for filmed entertainment are:1. Theatrical (cinema) exhibition2. DVD/Blu-ray rental3. DVD/Blu-ray retail (or sell-through)4. Pay per View Television5. Subscription or Pay Television6. Free to air Television
Value chain• The industry maximises revenues at each stage of the value chain and avoids any clashes in the marketplace.• Release windows are starting to close up as the non-theatrical streams start to eclipse the original release in terms of revenue generationRelease windows• Theatrical: 0 - 6 Months• DVD/Blu-ray: 6 - 15 Months• Pay Per View: 15 - 18 Months• Pay TV: 18 - 30 Months• Free TV: 30 + Months
Release windows• The spectacular success of the home DVD market has led to increased pressure on the DVD rental window with some of the major distributors keen to put their product into the retail market place as soon as possible.• In the immediate future more films will be released simultaneously into the rental and sell-through DVD/video windows.• The rental window, which currently lasts for about six months before titles go into retail outlets, may be closed altogether before too long.• This may also lead to the Pay per View window moving forwards with titles reaching television screens within 9 to 12 months of their theatrical release.
• The share of Box Office paid over to distributors varies between territories.• The typical exhibitors share in the US is 45 to 55% and in the Rest of the World 55 to 65%.
Types of UK distributors• In the UK, distributors are divided into the majors and the independents.• The majors are those affiliated to the biggest Hollywood companies and are:• Warner Bros.;• 20th Century Fox;• Columbia Tri-Star;• Buena Vista International (BVI, owned by the Disney Corporation);• United International Pictures (UIP, who release films from Universal and MGM studios).
Majors• The films released by the majors tend to be mainstream - Hollywood blockbusters as well as UK/ USA co productions such as Bridget Joness Diary, Love Actually and Calendar Girls.• Some companies have an indie arm such as Fox Searchlight or Focus Features (Universal) that will take risks on films that are not such commercial blockbusters.
The Independents• These are companies who release a much wider range of films, and include Artificial Eye, Pattie, Metro Tartan, Metrodome, Momentum and Contemporary.• Titles will include foreign language films, documentaries, re- releases and non-mainstream Hollywood/UK titles picked up at film festivals across the world.• Entertainment Distribution is an unusual case in that it is a UK independent that has a long standing relationship with US studio New Line Cinema (a unit of the Time Warner Corporation).• Entertainment release their titles in the UK, therefore getting such films as Lord Of the Rings.
Releasing a film• Hollywood distributors will consider their release strategies from (at least) four perspectives: – Global: where will the film work? – Regional: how will we make it work in (say) Europe? – National: how should we release it in each country? – Local: are there any particular local conditions that need to be taken into account within each country?
Release strategy• Many things have to be taken into consideration when distributors choose a release date for a movie. School holidays in Easter, half term, summer and Christmas tend to be the time when big family movies are set for release.• Big national sporting events, particularly when England are taking part, such as the European Championships and the World Cup can affect audiences, so care is taken about releasing male-orientated, action-type movies at that time.
Box Office• A films performance in the cinema is judged on the box-office figures.• US box-office figures will give a rough indication of how successful a film might be in the UK.• For most films, almost 40% of total Box Office will be taken in the first week, with the majority of that arriving in the first weekend.• Takings tend to fall to about 5% of the total by the sixth week of release (if the film has lasted that long).
United International Pictures (UIP)• UIP is jointly owned by two of Hollywood biggest studios, Paramount and Universal. They channel the films they produce through UIP, which is responsible for distributing them to cinemas in the international marketplace outside North America.• UIP also handles films from their non-mainstream divisions, Paramount Classics and Universal Focus.• Stephen Spielbergs studio Dreamworks also distributes its films around the world through UIP. Furthermore, UIP will acquire and distribute films made by independent producers in local and international markets.