What is a film distributor?
A film distributor is a company or individual in control of the
marketing of a film. The distributor has the responsibility of setting
a release date for a film and being made responsible for exhibiting
the film and making it available for viewing, (DVD).
A distributor may do this directly, if the distributor owns the
theatres or film distribution networks, or through theatrical
exhibitors and other sub-distributors.
In terms of features, a distributor is usually an organisation who
handles the theatrical release of a film in a particular country as
well as the marketing and circulation of films for home viewing
(DVD, Video-On-Demand, Download, Television etc).
How do they work?
A distributor is commonly an organisation who deals with the theatrical release
of a film in a particular country as well as the marketing and circulation of films
for home viewing (DVD, Video-On-Demand, Download, Television etc). Often
feature films have different distributors representing them in different territories
and different distributors handling the home-viewing circulation. Independent
film distribution in the UK is generally managed by indie distributors such as
Metrodome, Optimum Releasing and Momentum.
• Large distributor companies buy the rights to a movie.
• They cover all the costs of P&A - prints and advertising.
• They will then contact cinema owners and work out a percentage deal. The
bigger the movie, the more money cinema owners will be willing to pay for it.
The smaller the movie, the less the cinema owners are willing to pay.
• The percentage varies depending on the movie. A straight 50/50 split is very
rare. The percentage changes over the time of the movie.
How is a film distributed?
A distributor’s job is to find new films to represent in
their distribution catalogue, this could be at film
festivals, markets around the world such as
Although they may be interested in voluntary
submissions or works in progress, the majority of films
that distributors attain are completed films sourced at
film festivals and related markets.
Distributors require a clear paper chain - clear
contracts and license deals so that they know that you
are legally allowed to sell all the different elements of
a film on to a third party.
Conglomerate owned distribution
A conglomerate is a large company or organisation that shares a large number of
companies in various mass media channels. For instance Walt Disney is an example
of a conglomerate film company. A major film studio is a production and distribution
company that releases a considerable number of films annually. They consistently
have significant shares of box-office profits.
The American film industry is dominated by 6 major studios, each of which are
subsidiaries of major media conglomerates, these are;
• Warner Brothers
• 20th Century Fox
• Walt Disney Pictures
• Columbia Pictures
• Universal Pictures
Independent films are produced and/or distributed by subsidiaries of major film
studios. Independent films can usually be recognised by their content and
personal unique style. Many independent films are made with significantly lower
film budgets than major film studios. The marketing of independent films is
categorised by limited release, they can also have major marketing campaigns and
worldwide releases. Independent films are often screened locally, nationally or at
international film festivals before distribution (theatrical and/or retail release). An
independent film production can rival a mainstream film production if it has the
needed funding and distribution. Independent film distributors are different to
conglomerate companies as they have no formal connection between
producers, distributors and exhibitors.