Consider these two competing views of who holds the most power in terms of influencing
what films get made and seen:
If you break it down and look at it as a business then the audience has the greatest power. It's
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. (Tony
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 doesn't rely on waiting, listening, responding to what audiences want and then delivering
that to them. It relies on knowing which parts of the world and the media need its products and
will pay for them. (Toby Miller)
They can't 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
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
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.
Each distribution company takes on a certain number of titles each year and creates an
individual release-plan for those films. Their responsibilities include:
o deciding on a release date;
o deciding how many prints to produce and in which cinemas to screen them;
o advertising campaigns;
o designing art work for adverts, posters, flyers and billboards;
o organising premieres and talker screenings;
o booking talent (i.e. the stars or director) for press interviews and personal
Distributors are also responsible for negotiating deals regarding the film's 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 films are seen at film festivals and are picked up through complicated negotiations with
sales agents and producers so deals can be struck in different territories (i.e. North America,
Europe, Asia, Australasia).
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.
The average cost for an American studio film is now more than $50m with a further $30m
spent on marketing (up from $8m and $3m respectively in 1980).
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
The main revenue streams for filmed entertainment are:
1. Theatrical (cinema) exhibition
2. DVD/Blu-ray rental
3. DVD/Blu-ray retail (or sell-through)
4. Pay per View Television
5. Subscription or Pay Television
6. Free to air Television
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
generation (although the cinematic shop window
still remains the main driver of revenues
throughout the chain in most cases) but are
roughly as indicated below:
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
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.
Theatrical Distribution Deals
The share of Box Office paid over to distributors varies between territories. The typical
exhibitor's share in the US is 45 to 55% and in the Rest of the World 55 to 65%. The UK has
some of the highest retentions by the exhibitor, averaging around 65 to 70%.
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
The films released by the majors tend to be mainstream - Hollywood blockbusters as well as
UK/USA co productions such as Bridget Jones's 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.
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 as well as small UK tides such as Sex Lives of
the Potato Men and Charlie (2004). (The vast majority of Entertainment's 14.5 % market share
in the table opposite will have come from the second and third films in The Lord of the Rings
trilogy, both on release in 2003).
Acquiring a film
A distributor can acquire the rights to release a film in the UK in a number of different
• directly from their parent studio (i.e. Universal through UIP);
• through a deal a distributor may have with a production company or studio;
• a distributor may be approached by a third party sales agent;
• a distributor may attend a film festival and approach a sales agent after watching a
film at a screening.
A distribution deal is different for every film, and will include theatrical rights (i.e. the
screening of the film in cinemas), and possibly the release of the film on DVD as well as TV
and satellite rights.
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
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.
It is also crucial to know the landscape with regard to film and media related events
happening nationally and most importantly, what else is being released at the time. The last
thing you want is your film being released on the weekend The Lord of the Rings: The
Return of the King (2003) or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), are
released, both of which will swamp the media and the national consciousness (unless, that is,
you are consciously positioning the marketing strategy in opposition to these blockbusters).
Box office - A film's performance in the cinema is judged on the box-office figures. Box-office
figures are based on the number of people who purchase a ticket to see a particular film and
what they pay: it is the accumulated cost of tickets which equals the box-office figure. The 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). Oscar winning films have tended
recently to gross more internationally than at the US Box Office, partly because the release
pattern means that their Academy Award success can be used in the International marketing
campaigns. Films like The English Patient (1997) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008) are good
examples of this.
Case Study – United International Pictures (UIP)
Whenever you visit the cinema, there's a strong chance that the film you are watching is one
handled by 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 Spielberg's 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
Since its launch in 1981, UIP reckons it has
distributed over 1,000 films internationally -
including Shrek, Love Actually, Jurassic Park,
Collateral, Mission Impossible, and Bridget Jones:
The Edge Of Reason.
It is a huge and complex operation, with offices in 35
countries stretching from Russia to New Zealand and South Africa to Singapore. It also has
representatives or agents working in another 23 countries. Its takings from the global box
office in 2003 stood at nearly $2 billion.
An important focus for UIP at the moment is expanding into what it regards as growth
markets, in particular countries with huge potential like China and Russia.
UIPs global operation, which employs 700 people around the world, is co-ordinated from a
small tower block office in Hammersmith, West London, with 150 staff. Key departments
include the marketing and distribution teams, which liaise with the US studio parent
companies and UIP offices around the world to agree release dates as well as marketing and
press strategies for films.
However, UIP chairman and chief executive officer Stewart
Till (pictured right), says: "We try to let the territories be as
autonomous as possible and empower them as much as we
can." The Hammersmith HQ also includes departments such as
human resources, business affairs and finance.
Also in London is UIP's separate UK distribution office, based
in Golden Square in London's Soho. Run by Chris Hedges and
employing 35 staff, the operation consists of a sales and
distribution team responsible for booking UIP films into
theatres throughout the UK, as well as a PR and marketing unit
charged with generating press coverage and reviews of films
and for running marketing campaigns.
Before a film can be shown to a paying audience, it is required by law that it is
certificated by the British Board of Film Classification. This ensures, for example, that
films which are of an adult nature are not shown to children.
Distributors must submit their films to be watched by examiners who write reports
describing each film and justifying the decisions they have reached. The cost to the
distributor is roughly £9.50 per minute, so classification of an average film costs
around £800 – £1100.
The British Board of Film Classification produces a set of guidelines which are easily
obtained for your reference from the organisation's website (www.bbfc.co.uk). The BBFC is
not a separate entity from the film industry or a government department. It is a self-
regulatory body as it is made up of film industry representatives. But despite this, this is the
one area of film distribution over which the makers and promoters of a specific film have
limited control. It is possible for a film to be targeted and promoted for a particular audience
group such as 15 and over, only for the BBFC to impose an 18 certificate, although this is
The film certificate influences the marketing campaign of the film since this will need
to be pitched at the age range indicated by the certificate. A distributor may indicate to
the Board which certificate they are hoping the film will be awarded, for example, a
PG certificate to allow a wider audience to see the film. The Board, in turn, might
suggest cuts are made in order for it to get this certificate.
Conversely, there might be times when a higher rather than a lower certificate will
actually help to sell a film. For a thriller or a horror film to be rated 18 will do more
for it than if it were to be awarded a 15 certificate.
In 2008, 639 films were classified of which 7 had to make cuts - 4 at the 15 rating, 2
at 12A and 1 at PG.
The BBFC's guidelines state that there are three main considerations for any film:
1 Legal (material may break the law—-there are several laws to do with obscenity, equality,
incitement and the protection of children)
2 Protective (material is scrutinised for its potential to cause 'harm' though this is a huge
area for debate—who decides who needs protecting from what?)
3 Societal (material is reviewed with broader public opinion in mind with particular regard
The second and third considerations are more
significant in stipulating an age classification
for a film. It is important to recognise that the
BBFC make recommendations, but it is
possible for local authorities not to comply and
either allow films to be exhibited to a wider
age range than the BBFC recommends, or to
deny younger viewers access in the locality, or
even to ban a film from release in the area.
This hardly ever happens, but a famous
example was the decision of Westminster
Council to ban the screening of David
Cronenberg's Crash (1996), which was given
an 18 certificate elsewhere.
The BBFC's relationship with Government is
known, rather misogynistically, as a
'Gentleman's Understanding' which means that
Parliament observes from a distance and the
BBFC regulates itself in accordance with the political climate established by the Government
(stricter or more liberal depending on who is in power). During the New Labour Blair/Brown
era, the BBFC has been more relaxed about material for the 18 certificate, but ‘tougher’
when considering material for younger children.
It is important to be aware of classification as an
element in 'gate keeping' the distribution process.
The classifications, as published in the BBFC
guidelines, are as follows:
U: Universal (suitable for all).
PG: Parental Guidance (general viewing, some
scenes may be unsuitable for young children).
12 and 12A: Suitable for 12 years and older. No one
younger than 12 may see a 12A film in a cinema
unless accompanied by an adult. No one younger than
12 may rent or buy a 12 rated DVD. Responsibility
for allowing under 12s to view lies with the
accompanying or supervising adult.
15: Suitable only for 15 years and over. No one
younger than 15 may see a 15 film in a cinema. No
one younger than 15 may rent or buy a 15 rated
18: Suitable only for adults. No one younger than 18
may see an 18 film in a cinema. No one younger than
18 may rent or buy an 18 rated DVD.
R18: To be shown only in specially licensed cinemas,
or supplied only in licensed sex shops, and to adults
of not less than 18 years. (Source: BBFC guidelines)
Classification Case Studies - Spiderman (2002) & The Dark
The BBFC announced in September 2000
that it would look at the possibility of
making the '12' cinema category advisory,
like 'U' and 'PG'. This was in response to
complaints from parents - particularly
whenever a new James Bond film came
out - who felt that they were better placed
to decide which films their under 12s
could cope with.
In 2001 they carried out a pilot in
Norwich. The outcome was that the public
was only in favour of making the '12'
cinema rating advisory if under 12s were
accompanied by an adult throughout the film, and if consumer advice about the content of
the film, for instance, 'Contains a single use of strong language and moderate violence' - was
available on publicity material and was included in local cinema listings. The Board then
carried out a national survey in May 2002 and got almost identical results with over 70% of
people supporting the introduction of '12A'.
Once the Board was satisfied that the film industry was including the Consumer Advice on
publicity and that the cinema exhibitors were including it in cinema listings, the new
category was introduced on 30 August 2002.
Spider-Man had been passed '12' in April 2002, in spite of a request from the distributor for a
'PG'. The reason for the '12' was that the film contained a level of personal violence and a
revenge theme that went beyond what was acceptable under the 'PG' Guidelines. The
decision proved to be unpopular with the under 12s who had collected the merchandise, toys,
lunch-boxes etc, which were specifically marketed at young children. The BBFC received
many letters from disappointed children questioning the decision.
The distributor of Spider-Man, Sony Pictures, decided to re-release the film immediately
after the introduction of '12A' so that young fans had the chance to see the film at the cinema.
The decision to introduce '12A' had nothing to do with Spider-Man or the pressure from
parents and children who wanted to see the film. The Board had announced its decision to
consider changing the category in September 2000 because it recognised that children were
growing up faster and that parents were better placed to decide what their children should
watch. For the record, the first '12A' film was The Bourne Identity.
Much excitement and anticipation surrounded Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight based
both on the success of the previous film and the recent death of Australian actor Heath
Ledger. But though there has been much critical interest in Ledger’s final high profile
performance some quarters of the British press focussed on something quite different – the
film’s ‘12A’ certificate.
The Dark Knight was submitted with a '12A' request which came as no surprise given the
likely appeal of the film to younger audiences. It had also recently been awarded a ‘PG-13’,
(a near '12A' equivalent), by the American ratings organisation, the MPAA.
Several factors were noted which supported a ‘12A’ certificate. These included the film’s
comic book style, the appeal of the work to 12 –15 year olds, the clear fantasy context and
the lack of strong detail, blood or gore.
The BBFC was also careful to ensure that additional advice was available to parents and
other moviegoers through the bbfc.co.uk website including extended information about the
film detailing how and why it was classified ‘12A’ and urging parents to think carefully
before taking youngsters to see it.
Films classified '12A' are, broadly speaking, the most complained about decisions. As is
often the case such complaints about The Dark Knight focussed largely on the possibility of
very young children seeing the film – although many correspondents also cited what they
believed to be brutal, sadistic and strong violence. Several noted in particular the focus on
knife threat and violence perpetuated by the Joker character. Some complaints also linked the
content of the film to concerns about knife crime. Everyone who contacts the BBFC gets a
personal reply. But it is important to set the complaints in the context of the number of
people who saw the film. In the case of The Dark Knight the 200 plus complaints are a tiny
proportion of the five million people plus who saw it in the first two weeks after it opened.
The introduction of the 12A classification demonstrates that the BBFC have become more
careful with children's viewing, but the introduction of the R18 legalises forms of
pornography that were previously banned completely.
Marketing a Film
Making an audience aware - The Unique Selling Point
As with any product, the potential buyer (the audience) needs to know that a film is available
and is coming to their local cinema. Not only do they have to know about the film, they also
have to be persuaded to want to go and see it.
In starting to plan a marketing campaign for a
film, the distribution company has to decide
how it will present the film to the potential
audience -they will look for the 'unique selling
point' (USP). If, for example, a distributor is
handling a science fiction film, they will need to
look for the aspect of the film which sets it
aside from other science fiction films.
Normally, in deciding what the USP of a film is,
the distributor will first of all look at the
storyline to see how this differs from other films
and what the key elements of the story are. This
is vitally important as the key storyline elements
will influence the way that the visual campaign
- posters, trailers etc. - is put together.
After this they will look at such things as stars,
special effects and director to see how these can
be incorporated within the campaign. Once the
USP of the film has been decided on, the
distributor will begin to develop the marketing
campaign and set their overall budget.
The budget spent on distributing a film is known as the Print and Advertising (P & A)
budget. The P & A comprises the cost of prints, advertising, publicity and promotions and is
set at around 40% of the estimated box-office income. The P & A budget is set by assessing
the potential box-office income of the film. The distributor will take into account the last
picture the star of the film has appeared in, which gives them an idea of the popularity of the
star. For example, in setting the P & A budget for a film starring George Clooney, the box
office of his last film will be used as a guide for the estimated box office of his next film.
Films which do not feature well-known stars could have greatly reduced box-office takings
and therefore a smaller amount will be estimated in the P & A budget.
However, some films defy this logic. Trainspotting (1996) was a case in point. It did not
feature any stars and yet the film managed to capture the public's imagination. The marketing
campaign, combined with the simultaneous release of the soundtrack and book, meant that
the film became a major box-office success attracting a wide audience in both the UK and
Even though a film may have big stars with vast amounts of money spent on marketing it,
there is no guarantee that the film will recoup the money invested. As William Goldman,
author of 'Adventures in the Screen Trade' said "in the film industry nobody knows
anything." In the end, it is up to the audience to decide whether a film is a success or not.
Very few films make a profit at the box office; this does not mean that they make a loss, but
that they make their money in pre-sales deals with television and DVD companies.
A marketing campaign is divided into three areas:
The marketing campaign is also divided into above-the-line and below-the-line costs.
Here, the above-the-line costs are for advertising. This is where the distributor pays a certain
amount of money to buy advertising space. They pay for a slot on television or radio, or buy
advertising space in newspapers or magazines, and know what they are getting for their
money. They know the size of the advert, when and where it will be placed and roughly how
many people are expected to see it.
Publicity and promotions are below-the-line costs. Publicity is where money is spent on
bringing stars in from the United States for example. By doing so the distributor hopes to get
good coverage in the media, but it's not guaranteed. It's all about taking a risk and hoping the
gamble pays off. Promotions are set up with another company (e.g. a tie in with McDonald's)
to promote the film to a wider audience.
The trailer often plays in the cinema around six weeks before the release of a film and
continues to play until the picture opens in the cinema. The trailer aims to raise audience
awareness of a film by logging the film title in their minds. It gives an overall impression of
the film to its potential audience, making sure that the audience is aware of the stars —
particularly where their names will help to sell the picture. It should create the desire to see
the film when it finally opens. Trailers tend to use a combination of footage from the film,
graphics and voice-over to generate curiosity.
'Teaser' trailers might also be used to whet the appetite of the audience in the same way as a
'teaser' poster. Lasting approximately 30 seconds, these are shorter than the main trailer and
play in the cinema for anything up to six months before a film opens. However, it is
important to understand that cinema advertising will only reach a cinema-going audience. It
is always important to make as many people as possible aware that a film is coming and so
other audiences must also be reached.
The distributor will want to buy advertising space in as many different media as is
appropriate both for the film and its P & A budget. The media normally available are
newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Internet websites are also set up to announce
the arrival of a film. The form of the advertising in each medium must tie in with the overall
campaign. Thus, newspaper advertising will be based on the campaign poster, whilst
television advertising will have elements of the cinema trailer in it. What is vital is that the
right media outlet is chosen for the film. Research will already have shown who the target
audience for a film is. It is up to the distributor to decide which would be the best
newspapers, magazines, slots on television and radio to select in order to reach that audience.
Extensive use is made of radio advertising on regional commercial radio stations. Radio is a
powerful medium, and reinforces the message of the poster and trailer, particularly if the film
has a strong soundtrack. Radio advertising is considerably cheaper than television, and is
usually used for mainstream films. Radio stations which target a particular audience, such as
a jazz station or a classical station, might be appropriate for the advertising of specialist
films. Adverts themselves consist of music from the film and narrative voice-over detailing
the cinema and release date.
The general public are invited to a preview screening of the film in the hope that they will
enjoy it, and more importantly, that they will recommend it to friends. Following a preview
screening a questionnaire like the one opposite is handed out which the audience is expected
to complete in return for their free ticket to see the film.
These preview screenings, sometimes also called 'talker screenings', start the process of word
of mouth publicity, with audience members telling their friends and contacts about the film.
The completed questionnaire also provides the distributor with information about the
audience's enjoyment of the film, which will affect the way the film is sold to the public.
Publicity involves gaining attention for the film in the media - newspapers, magazines,
television and radio - without paying for the space. Some distributors employ independent
companies who specialise in this area, known as PR companies, short for Public Relations.
Working in this area involves dealing with national and regional journalists, keeping them
informed about the film using the publicity tools outlined in the following pages. Although
the distributor will have to spend money on publicity, the amount of coverage that could be
gained will probably far outweigh in value the amount of money spent.
Using Film Festivals
PR strategies will vary hugely between
different films - the most important
thing is to make sure that the strategy
is appropriate for each particular film.
Film festivals can be a very effective
way of raising awareness of a film, but
they must be used carefully - for
example, there’s rarely any logic in
showcasing a film at the Toronto Film
Festival if you do not already have a
US distribution deal in place because
the PR impact achieved at Toronto
throughout North America will have
been dissipated by the time the film is
eventually released some months later.
Obviously, there are exceptions that prove the rule, films that have created a feeding frenzy
at Sundance or Toronto that are then nurtured and fully exploited by the winning distributor.
Cannes remains the most important international event, particularly for independent films,
although Venice and Berlin can be better platforms on occasion. Cannes is the most difficult
marketplace in which to create any noise because there are so many other films jostling for
press attention at the same time. At any festival, a priority is to give the press as many
chances as possible to see the film in order to stoke their interest and open up other
opportunities for interviews. It can often be advantageous to pre-screen films (on an
embargoed basis) prior to their Festival screenings to build up awareness and get the media
schedules partially filled up in advance of the Festival.
If there are stars attending the festival in support of the film, then clearly it is important that
the press are given access to them - but bear in mind that, in Cannes, there may be 5000
accredited media either chasing or needing persuading to conduct an interview. Somehow
their needs have to be satisfied within 10, 20 or, if you are lucky, 30 working hours from
each of a small number of stars, each of whom may be spending fewer than 3 days at the
Festival. PR Agencies spend a lot of time nurturing their relationships with the key media
representatives, so that they can increase the chances of winning their attention when it is
being stretched across so many competing priorities.
Very often, PR is over-looked when producers are putting budgets together and, even if there
is an allowance made for this expense, it is usually too small. A typical budget for unit
publicity might be around £10 - £15,000 on a £3-5 million film. There also need to be
allowances for photography, Electronic press kits (EPKs) and media visits.
The Press Kit
Press kits are sent to journalists all over the country to give them information about
forthcoming films. They are one of the basic tools of any publicity department. Kits include
a set of authorised stills to be printed in newspapers and magazines, cast and crew credits,
production notes, biographies and filmographies of the stars, director and producer. EPKs are
also available to journalists working in television and contain many of the same items as the
written kits but with the addition of selected video clips and interviews for television. Audio
clips are also made available for radio.
Star Tours & Press Junkets
Touring a star of a film is a costly business, but one that usually pays dividends. Stars are
brought into the country at the distributor's expense, which means paying for flights, travel
(usually a chauffeur driven car), hotels, meals, a daily spending allowance and entertainment.
The distributor plans the tours down to the last hour, making good use of their stars' time and
carefully scheduling interviews to make sure that a spread of media are covered, and that
publications or television programmes with similar audiences do not clash. Newspapers with
a similar readership, and television programmes will want exclusivity of a star.
For radio broadcasts, tapes of interviews are usually syndicated: for maximum publicity one
radio interview is recorded with a star or director and then sent to local radio stations on a
tape ready for immediate broadcast. As with the press and with television, interviews of this
kind provide good material for a radio show as well as 'free' publicity for the film.
Where stars are unable to travel, perhaps because of other filming commitments, a press
junket will be arranged. Selected journalists are taken, at the distributor's expense, to a
location convenient to the star for a round-the-table interview with them.
The Press Screening
Before a film is released, the press who are reviewing the film will be invited to a special
screening which will encourage the spread of word of mouth recommendations among the
For high profile films, the release might be preceded by a Royal or Charity Film Premiere.
These premieres are prestigious evenings where the stars, cast, crew and celebrity guests are
invited to a special screening of the film a few days in advance of its release. The media are
also invited to secure coverage of the event and increase public awareness of the film.
The benefit of a film premiere for the distributor is that this will usually gain a great deal of
media attention. It is very expensive to organise a premiere and it is only films
with larger marketing budgets that can afford to do this. A large cinema is hired and a post-
screening party is organised. We are all familiar with pictures in the newspaper or shots on
television of stars arriving at these events, usually in formal evening wear. The guests arrive
at the cinema in chauffeur driven cars, and members of the public often turn out to see the
arrival of these celebrities, all helping to make the premiere a "special occasion". These
events are not easily accessible to the public: tickets are extremely difficult to obtain, with
those that are sold raising money for a selected charity. The publicity gained for the film,
including newspaper editorials and news items is better than any advertising.
To build on awareness for a film, screenings are organised prior to the release of the film in
conjunction with a media outlet which will appeal to the target audience. An example of this
would be the screening programmes organised through T4. These are free screenings with
tickets obtained by calling a hotline number advertised on the television screen.
Merchandise and Promotion Campaigns
Ever since the promotional campaign surrounding the release of Star Wars in 1977, movie
merchandise has become an important part of film marketing. The merchandising deals that
can be made from a potential 'blockbuster' are very lucrative, and in some cases can even
necessitate the setting up of a department which deals solely with merchandising produced
for the company's films. Merchandising has become a sophisticated, well-oiled department –
toys, clothes and gimmicks such as pencil cases and lunch boxes are now commonplace.
Promotions give added awareness to a film and help reinforce its title. They tend to take the
form of joint involvement with another party, known as the third party, who will gain from
their involvement with the film, for example, a tie in with Pizza Hut or McDonald's.
The Biggest Seller? Call it Word of mouth, call it buzz, call it chatter…
Research has proved that the key factor which will get audiences in to see a film is
something which cannot be bought - the personal recommendation of a friend or
acquaintance who has seen the film. It is word of mouth that really gets audiences into
cinemas. This explains why the opening weekend of a film's release is so important.
Whatever the advertising spend or however good the publicity - it is the audience's verdict
which will make or break a film.
An important decision for the distributor is how many screens to open the movie on. This
depends largely on the results expected for the film but may also be influenced by the wish
to attract as big an audience in the first week as possible to help the film retain its screens for
subsequent weeks. (Conversely, a higher screen average from fewer screens can also help to
persuade exhibitors to keep a film in play even if its overall Box Office is not as high as
some competitors). The different types of release that might be considered are:
Approx. number of screens
in the UK
There are basically three types of release in the UK:
A film that literally saturates the country in terms of number of prints and national publicity, i.e.
The Lord Of The Rings (2004), the Harry Potter series (2008), Spiderman sequels (2007).
These are usually films backed by the major Hollywood studios and will have had an
extremely large publicity and production budget behind them. There will also be advertising
tie-ins to high street companies and merchandising spin-offs such as computer games, books,
magazines and a TV Making of ... documentary. The films will also have almost as much
publicity when they are released, only a few months later, on DVD and video.
In terms of screenings, films like Iron Man
will be shown up to 12-15 times a day at
most multiplexes even three or four weeks
after their release.
Posters will be on key billboard and bus
shelters sites, and recognisable images will
usually feature on magazine covers with
saturation coverage inside. In Empire for
example, each month the cover and dozens of
inside pages are given over to one new
blockbuster film in terms of articles, reviews,
interviews and adverts. In Empire's July 1999
issue, over 50 per cent of the pages in the
magazine featured articles, adverts and
interviews about Star Wars Episode III, The
Phantom Menace (1999), and 34 pages in the
June 2003 issue are dedicated to the The
Matrix Reloaded. The July 2003 issue saw The
Hulk (2003) dominating and the final film in
The Lord of the Rings trilogy had blanket
coverage in the January 2004 issue.
This massive coverage is something that seems to be unstoppable and is worth considering when
American film industry executives such as Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
head honcho Jack Valenti talk about `healthy competition' in Europe. There is no serious
competition — Hollywood majors, unsurprisingly, sweep all aside.
The number of prints for a saturation release can range from 600-800 and will screen at all the
major cinema chains (i.e. Odeon, UCI, UGC, Warner's), as well as high street commercial
independents such as City Screen sites, opening across the country on the same day. It is now
usual for the biggest films to have 1 or 2 days of 'preview screenings' before the
This is still a large release, but not on the same scale as the blockbusters. There will usually
be around 300 prints. These titles are also known as 'crossover' films, as they may also
screen at subsidised independent cinemas as well as multiplexes. The film may open in
London, gradually spreading across the country over the next few weeks. Recent examples
of a wide release title would be Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) or The Duchess (2008)
This is a small scale release, around 10-20 prints. Titles are usually known as 'art house' or
'specialised' films and will play in the Regional Film Theatres (RFTs), the National Film
Theatre in London and some City Screen sites. Films will tend to be foreign language titles,
re-released classics, small independent English language titles. Some films on a Platform
release may have as little as 4 or 5 prints, and if it's a film touring as part of a festival (i.e. The
London Film Festival on Tour), only one print may be available. Recent example of limited
release title - In This World (2002)
Cinemas will pay distributors a percentage of net box office, which is usually between 35-60
% but may be higher for some multiplex chains for franchises such as James Bond, Harry
Potter, The Lord of the Rings, etc. In the case of smaller cinemas that may get the film on a
second run or may screen a classic repertory title, the rental fee may be around 25-30 %.
Universal Pictures International claimed the crown as the UK's No. 1 distributor in 2008 on the
back of a slew of hits, the biggest of them Mamma Mia! which secured a whopping £67.9
million alone. UPI, Universal's overseas distribution arm, took £176.6 million for the year, an
18.5% market share. Sony’s best box office showing was Quantum of Solace which bonded with
audiences to the tune of £50.7 million. January 13, 2009
Throughout the marketing campaign the distributor will be concerned about the effectiveness
of their pre-release film advertising and publicity. Private companies are employed to
conduct the audience research which can take a number of forms:
At regular intervals leading up to the release of a film and during its first weeks of play, a
random selection of the public will be interviewed over the phone or on the street by a
research company. This is known as tracking. People are asked whether they have heard of
the film, whether they intend to see it or, if they have seen it, whether they enjoyed it. This
type of information can then be used by the distributors to assess the effectiveness of their
marketing campaign. If there are any serious problems, for example, the audience does not
know that the film is coming, then they can change the emphasis of the campaign.
After the Cinema Release…DVD Distribution Deals
Film distributors take an average of 75% of consumer
spend from retail DVD activity compared to about 25 -
33% from rental activity (hence their keenness to get titles
into the sell-through market as quickly as possible).
A billion DVDs have been sold in the U.K. since the format
launched less than a decade ago, according to the British
Video Association. The bestselling DVD ever in the U.K. is
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, which has sold
almost five million units. The two sequels -- The Two Towers
and Return of the King -- have also proved home hits,
coming in second and fourth respectively in the all-time DVD
sales chart. The DVD one billion mark was reached seven
years quicker than it took the same number of VHS units to
fly off shelves. (Variety June 2007)
Pay per View: the Pay TV service retains about 40 to 50% of the viewer's fee, recoups the
distributor's advance and pays any balance to the distributor. The distributor usually retains
around 25 to 35% in commission.
Subscription TV: The TV operator pays a fixed fee to the distributor (of £50k to £1.2m)
which usually depends on the film's performance at the Box Office. The distributor takes
between 25 and 35% commission with the balance to the producer / financier / agent.
Free TV: the fee paid by the broadcaster usually depends on the film's Box Office
performance. The distributor takes percentage fees of between 25 and 50% in the US and 20
- 40% in the Rest of the World, with the balance to the producers.
The Film Industry and DVDs
In 2002 the worldwide Home Entertainment business, encompassing video and DVD, was
worth $46 billion dollars globally (split - video $20 billion; DVD $26 billion), which made it
as valuable as the entire music industry. Some $15.9 billion (35%) of this total was
accounted for by the international market (including the UK), with the US accounting for the
other $30 million. It is expected to grow to $62 billion by 2006, of which video will account
for just $6 billion, and DVD $56 billion. The international market is projected to slightly
increase its share to around 38% of the total ($23.4 billion).
The key international markets Home Entertainment are the UK, Japan, France and Germany
which between them account for more than 60% of international revenues and reflects the
higher penetration of sales of DVD players in these territories: in the UK in 2003 44% of
households have DVD players (or other hardware that can play DVDs) and this is set to rise
to 114% by 2006 - ie. an average of more than one player per household.
The Home Entertainment business is now worth twice as much to the studios as their cinema
business although commercial success at the Box Office is still crucial to making money in
The rental proportion of this market in 2002 was around 30% and this is expected to fall to
20% by 2006. The studios are keen to continue to support the rental business because it
brings them higher margins than retail, but it does appear now to be in decline. In the UK the
market is fragmented, with one major player (Blockbuster) generally dominating the large
number of smaller outlets. The rental window is already closing, with DVD releases
happening nearer and nearer to the rental release date, and in an increasing number of
instances, the studios are going day and date with retail and rental.
• The DVD market is expected to continue to achieve dramatic growth over the next
few years. Pressure on retail prices, however, will mean that the total value of the
business may eventually start to fall even though sales volumes will still be growing.
• Windows of exploitation will close over time in an effort to ward off the impact of
piracy and to improve cash flows to the studios.
• By 2008, every household in the UK will have at least 1 DVD player
• Good extra features are becoming increasingly important as a means of selling DVDs
and maintaining margins.
Issues for DVDs in the early 21st Century
Windows of Exploitation - In 2001, the average timetable for roll out of a film from
theatrical release to free television was around 30 months. In 2008, this has shrunk to as little
as 20 - 24 months. All other revenue opportunities have shrunk:
• Video Rental - 2001: 6 months 2008: 4 months
• Video Retail - 2001: 12 months 2008: 4-8 months
• Pay per View - 2001: 18 months 2008: 7-12 months
• Pay TV - 2001: 24 months 2008: 10-18 months
This change in pattern is partly to combat the effects of piracy which is proving to be a huge
problem in certain territories, but also to boost the studios' cash flow by reducing the amount
of time it takes for them to see revenues from further along the value chain.
‘Fast Burn’ Sales - 50% of new DVD sales are generated in the first month of release.
Getting the in-store point of sale materials and displays right is crucial to the studios if they
want to maximise sales of their top titles.
Release Days - Traditionally new videos and DVDs have been released on a Monday.
Distributors are now looking to move key releases to a Thursday or Friday to make best use
of their major marketing campaigns immediately before the heaviest buying days (50% of
DVD sales take place on Friday and Saturday).
Pricing - DVD retail prices are falling much faster than was the case with CDs. In the UK,
CD prices fell 13% in the first 6 years after their introduction; DVD prices have fallen by
19% in just three years. This is the result of some aggressive market by the majors who have
priced very aggressively to boost sales and consumer behaviour: research suggests that a
40% drop in retail price can lead to a 3,4 or 5 times lift in unit sales. To maintain their
profits, the studios will have to reduce their costs of sales by reducing the additional cost of
marketing DVDs by reducing the gap between cinema and DVD release - or develop more
premium priced products by improving the extras supplied on the disc.
DVD Extras - Extra features on DVDs are becoming increasingly important to differentiate
products in the market and to generate premium pricing. Reviews of DVDs often focus on
the extras and consumers are increasingly expecting them - research has shown that the
presence of good quality extras increases the consumer's intention to buy the disc. To ensure
top quality extras, it is essential to plan their content at the film's pre-production stage and
get endorsement for them from the producer and director of the film. Additional footage
might need to be shot on set or produced during post-production. Finished bonus material
needs to be delivered before the film's theatrical release so that it can be factored into the
DVD's release schedule.
Piracy - The MPAA estimates that piracy is currently running at 20% of the total DVD
market and is likely to get worse with the increased domestic take up of broadband. The
studios are considering technical solutions to help combat this problem but their main
weapon may be closing exploitation windows to reduce the time available for pirated copies
Marketing - Mobile Phone Campaigns - There are 290 million mobile phone users in
Europe - 100 million of whom are under 25. This makes text-based campaigns ideal for
movies that are aimed at the younger market. Online Campaigns - People spend
approximately twice as much time online each day as they do reading a newspaper. £7
billion of transactions are carried out on the internet each year (excluding pornography) and
DVDs are the most popular item purchased online. Many DVD buyers do their research
online even if they buy through traditional outlets.
And in the future…
There is little doubt that at some point in the future, all films will be distributed and screened
digitally. The big question is when this revolution will take place. The digital roll-out will
involve a huge capital investment and, although the benefits will be enjoyed by both
exhibitors and distributors, it is not yet clear who will pay for the necessary investment.
There are also still issues to be resolved over security - with piracy an increasing problem,
the transmission mechanism for the digital output will need to be 100% secure. The different
methods of transmission available - satellite, cable and data file - will have to be assessed
against this criterion but also for their ease of delivery and relative costs.
Day and Date Distribution
With the various exploitation windows closing, there is an increasing trend towards films
being released internationally on the same day as (or close to) their North American release.
This has the advantages of reducing the opportunities for piracy; enabling marketing
campaigns from the US to roll over into other territories; and allowing earlier exploitation of
other windows. On the other hand, day and date releasing requires more prints and means
that marketing spend must be committed internationally before the studio knows how the
film has played in the US. It also reduces the time that the distributors have for sorting out
dubbing, classification and other issues in each territory and makes it less likely that the
talent will be available to promote it in as many markets. In practice, decisions on release
pattern will continue to be taken on a film by film basis, with release dates generally moving
closer to the initial US release.
Case Study – The Marketing of Cloverfield (2008)
Constructed specifically as a 'monster movie for
the YouTube generation’, Cloverfield built a
viral marketing campaign - and its own audience
- through an enigmatic teaser-trailer, word of
mouth and a widget. Its innovative uses of an
alternative reality games and videocam
techniques involve audiences in new and
With a very low production budget in Hollywood
terms (£15m), Cloverfield became an instant
financial success making £22 million in its
opening weekend. It is a recent example of the
power of viral marketing (sometimes called user-
generated marketing) to create audience interest
before a film's release and, most importantly, to
get people into the cinema.
Whether or not Cloverfield is a good film is up to
you to decide (critics are divided); but it stands as
a great example of the way modern marketers are using a range of methods to attempt to
reach their audience and sell a film.
The film's media language choice of an 'eye-witness' presentation of the story using a hand-
held camera acts as a representation of our current technological age. Cloverfield's marketing
also makes use of recent developments in technology and changes in audience activity and
behaviour to create and sustain interest. The director (Matt Reeves) called the film 'a
monster movie for the YouTube generation' indicating that the producers of this film were
specifically aware that their target audience were Internet-literate young people. It is these
people who have been the targets for the marketing campaign and have also been encouraged
to be a part of it.
The first glimpse – Teaser Trailer
The first anyone knew of the film was a teaser trailer shown before the 2007 summer
blockbuster Transformers. The trailer did not name the film and only gave a release date
after showing glimpses of an apparently home-made video of New York being attacked by
something, culminating in the shocking image of the head of the Statue of Liberty crashing
through a New York street. By creating memorable images and using an unconventional
method to present the events, the filmmakers were using a tried-and tested marketing device,
the creation of enigma mystery. Creating audience curiosity is a great way to generate
interest in a product. Those who saw the trailer would have been left wondering what they
had just seen: What genre was the film alluding to (Sci-Fi/Disaster/Monster)? Why was the
footage they had been shown more like their own home-movies rather than a slick
The trailer's placement gives an indication of the target audience, one which is a difficult
market for advertisers at the moment: teens and, more specifically, young adults. These
groups are becoming hard to reach for advertisers who rely on conventional methods.
Young adults tend not to watch TV on a predictable, regular basis and often have access to
multi-channel cable television which fragments the audience across a range of channels.
Devices like Sky+ mean they can record television programmes, watch them when they
choose and fast-forward through any advertising. Alternative methods of viewing television
programmes also make this audience hard to find. 'On demand'. downloads and YouTube
split the audience further and this is the generation that is likely to wait to buy television
programmes and films on DVD rather than watch them in traditional settings surrounded by
Alternative advertising methods were needed if Cloverfield was going to be able to attract
the attention of the group of people who could be used to help make the film a success in the
cinema. A specialised online and computer savvy audience was specifically targeted as their
interaction with the marketing was vital in the film generating interest from another valuable
audience group, the mainstream movie-goer. The story of Cloverfield's marketing shows
how the online audience was used to create a buzz about the film to support a more
traditional marketing campaign.
Building the campaign
The teaser trailer provided one piece of important information, the name of the producer JJ
Abrams. This would have created a number of genre expectations. Abrams is the creator of
Alias and Lost and so the audience could expect an element of Sci-Fi/Horror within this film
and might anticipate a narrative that was complex, fragmented and laden with 'clues' rather
than explanations. Web searches after the teaser trailer led the audience to a website named
only as the date of the film's release (www.1-08-08.com). This site slowly released photos
which were time and date stamped to allow the audience to build up chronological glimpses
into the narrative of the film.
Building ‘buzz’ and ‘chatter’ on the Net
The enigma and the slow release of information were both constructed to encourage
discussion online in blogs, social networks and chat rooms, which was how the real
marketing took place via 'word of mouth. Web-chatter was heightened on the release of a
poster showing a decapitated Statue of Liberty, a devastated New York and the release of a
second, more detailed trailer. Still maintaining the mystery, the trailer's exposition contained
a chilling geographical marker identifying the location of events to be in the 'area formally
known as Central Park'. For the first time the film's title was identified and the trailer was
released online along with an official movie website (www.cloverfieldmovie.com) which
eventually provided links to MySpace and Facebook pages 'created' by some of the
characters from the film. These regularly updated pages created a real-time story which
showed the characters moving towards the eventful night and provided a back-story to the
film itself. The MySpace blog was where the film's protagonist announced he was moving to
Japan to take a new job at Slusho!, a Japanese soft drinks company, which explains why the
film begins with a going away party.
In addition a widget was available for download from the website. This piece of software
could be attached to MySpace pages, blogs etc. and contained the first five minutes of the
film with an introduction by JJ Abrams. To download and use the widget people needed to
register their contact details.
This registration immediately entered people into a competition based on who managed to
distribute the widget to the most people; a direct encouragement of more 'word of mouth'
They did the traditional stuff too…
Adverts were also sent to mobile phones, traditional posters and TV slots were also used and
the culmination of all these events was an increasing public and mainstream press awareness
of the film. The campaign was creating a deep curiosity as so much information had been
held back and the only way for the audience to gain answers to the questions the marketing
raised was to go to the cinema to see the film. As the character Hud said in the second trailer,
with this much interest it was almost inevitable that people are gonna want to know how it
all went down.
But that's not all...
Parallel to this campaign, a related story was
being told through an ARG. The ARG
centred around a fictional Japanese
company called Tagruato and its subsidiary
Slusho! and only a few direct connections
were made to the Cloverfield plot. Home
pages for Slusho! and Tagruato were put
online. The former ran a competition for
audience members to create adverts for the
frozen soft drink whose USP was its
addictive nature ('You can't drink just six')
and the happiness it would bring its
consumer. (Remember, Slusho! was the company the character Rob from the film was taking
a job with.) http://www.slusho.jp/
Vocab - ARG — alternative reality game
A set of interlinked sources, mostly websites, along with voicemails, scavenger
hunts and even novels, which shed light on a hidden story. ARGs challenge
players to make connections and solve puzzles to piece together a 'distributed
Tagruato's corporate homepage looks like a conventional business website — even down to
experiencing hacks by 'eco-terrorists' It appeared that Slusho's key ingredient, 'seabed nectar',
might not be entirely safe. The site reported that a drilling rig in the Atlantic Ocean had been
mysteriously destroyed.'TV reports' based on mobile phone footage showed huge chunks of
debris being hurled from the sinking rig although there was no explanation for this
phenomenon. Pictures from the scene were added to www.1-01-08.com.
A Manhattan couple Jamie
and Teddy set up a website
to post video-blogs to stay
in touch after Teddy had
gone to Japan to work for
Tagruato. Jamie assumed
she had been dumped as
she hadn't heard from
Teddy for over a month
when she received a
package containing a
Tagurato baseball cap,
something wrapped in tin-
foil (which she was
instructed not to eat) and a
recorded message indicating Teddy was in some sort of trouble. Interpreting this as a sick
practical joke, she assumed he had a new skanky girlfriend and decided to eat the gooey
product she received. Almost immediately she appears to become extremely intoxicated.
Jamie makes a brief appearance in Cloverfield where the audience can glimpse her passed
out on the sofa at Rob's leaving do in the opening scene of the film.
Marketing + movie = more mystery
The addition of a number of back stories to the Cloverfield tale, without giving clear ideas of
'cause and effect' encourages the audience to attempt to build a story for themselves; first of
all to attempt to make sense of the promotional material and, after watching the film, to
supplement the limited information provided by the film's highly restricted narration.
The marketing has created a 'Cloverfield universe' bigger than the events of the 90-minute
film, but has held back on providing enough information to give resolution to all the
mysteries. The film's story is told from the point of view of people who (just like the target
audience) have very little information as to what is occurring around them; the characters
just catch snippets of information in news reports and in conversations with the military (just
like the audience).
The viral marketing, the ARG and then the video-cam style presentation all enhance
audience identification with the characters and this heightens the shocking nature of the
events we witness with them in the film. The desire to make sense of the events unfolding
within the film has been played on for both the interactive and mainstream audience but the
filmmakers are still holding back vital pieces of information: What does Slusho! have to do
with all of this? Where did the monster come from? Do the military manage to destroy the
monster? Do any of the characters from the film survive?
Could the actual film Cloverfield be just another element in a complex marketing campaign?
Is the film an expensive advert for yet another product still to be made? There are online
rumours already about a Cloverfield 2 with theories ranging from the sequel being told from
another victim's perspective (plenty of people can be seen filming events in the film) or from
a military or reporter's point of view. Maybe Cloverfield 2 will be a standard blockbuster
movie with omniscient narration and a solid resolution. At this point the 'truth' is irrelevant.
What is important is that people are talking about a potential second film and so the viral
campaign has already begun.
Film and the Audience of Tomorrow
Danah Boyd Cannes Film Festival Opening Speech - May 16th 2007
Film has gone digital. The digitization of film takes place at multiple levels, but most
noticeably: production, distribution and consumption.
1. Production: What cameras you use, how you do lighting, special effects, storage of
content, editing of content, etc.
2. Distribution: Advertising your film, DVD culture, download culture.
3. Consumption: remix, sharing, clipping culture.
At each of these three levels, there are stages to how technology affects practice.
The first stage is TRANSLATION. Old practices are kept intact and imported into the
new medium. Many of you are familiar with this - your cameras went digital but they still
looked and acted like cameras... for the most part.
The second stage is LOCALIZATION. People realize that there are much more effective
and efficient ways of utilizing the technology to reach a desired end goal. Practices are
modified to take advantage of the technology, usually to make things more efficient. At the
same time, these practices feel quite similar to the translated ones. Tickets for films can be
bought online and printed. People can sign up to be notified by email when a film is released.
The third stage is CO-OPTION. This is the stage when new practices emerge that are
completely incomprehensible to those who were fluent in the previous culture of film. You
can see this in visual effects where things like CGI were impossible without digitization, but
more radical practices have to do with how viewers consume, share, and mess with film.
Think REMIX. It is easy to be terrified of co-option because much of what emerges seems
to go against what was typical before.
Conclusions – the future of Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Film is not disappearing, but the Internet is here to stay. It's easy to play ostrich and pretend
nothing is changing, but the fact is that the Internet is changing many things including the
film audience. When we talk about how how audiences have changed these are four key
areas that help define them:
1. They are Persistent.
2. They expect searchability
3. They expect replicability
4. They are invisible
Film can always be turned into video, regardless of what DRM you choose to use. Sure,
DRM makes it harder, but when there's a will, there's always a way and you lose your
viewers trust in the process if you choose to make their lives more difficult. As we saw a few
weeks ago with the HD-DVD hack, once information is out there, there's no bringing it back.
Once it's digital, it can be copied and reformatted to make searching difficult. It's much faster
to copy than it is to clean up copies, for better and for worse. DRM will never protect film
but it will alienate consumers. DRM does slow the flow of content, which can benefit big
blockbusters but makes independent film even more obscure. For example, there's no point
in crippling a trailer with flash DRM. Trailers are advertisements. Put it up on YouTube,
Revver, MySpace, everywhere you can think of... provide the code for people to copy/paste
your trailer into their blogs and MySpaces. If people like it and want to pass it on, encourage
them! Copy/paste! The more people who hear about your film, the better.
I bring up DRM because as we think of the audiences of tomorrow, we need to think of ways
to engage them, not alienate and control them. There's a lot of creativity in this room. Why
put it into trying to maintain status quo rather than taking things to the next level?
By and large, we treat the Internet as another broadcast medium where you push content at
people. In other words, we're still aiming to localize rather than to co-opt. A better way of
conceiving it is as a public space where people want to pull content in to personalize it,
identify with it, and share it. It is no secret that we're not yet sure how to monetize this
practice, but efforts to stop it are like trying to build gigantic walls after planes were
The audience of tomorrow is online. They're consuming video; they want to be consuming
film. There's unbelievable room for innovation and creativity in this space. The technology is
not stable and it never will be stable. Successful filmmakers will need to pay attention to the
dynamics and optimize their strategies accordingly. We all know that agility in the presence
of challenges results in good art.
So, in conclusion, here are four things to remember:
• Youth are online to hang out with friends... they use media to jockey for status and
socialize with their peers.
• Youth do not and will not consume media whole in a passive way.. the more they are
able, the deeper they were engage. This means remix, chopping it and sharing it.
• Building walls to stop deep engagement scares off fans and never actually closes the
• It is time for the film industry to innovate rather than trying to control. Many new
opportunities lie ahead.