April 20, 2017
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The Future of Film Distribution
by Golda Criddle
A home distributor hard at work. photo: courtesy Quiver
WITH ALL THE OPTIONS AVAILABLE IN
entertainment and the rising cost of going to an actual movie theater, it’s no surprise that many people choose to watch films and videos at home. iTunes, Amazon, and DVDs make this all the more possible, with a plethora of content available, by just hitting “play” or clicking a few links.
In 2014, movie theaters saw the lowest number of tickets sold since 1995 (1,267,279,234), according
The Numbers website
While 2015 and 2016 saw about a 9% increase, to 1,388,986,756 and 1,334,586,276, respectively, that “only” netted about $11.25 billion, only 6% up, inflation-adjusted, and significantly lower than 2002’s inflation-adjusted $13,293,175,395 revenues.
Most of the time, you have to offer something unique to get people to watch films in theaters today.
But what does that mean for the future of film distribution? According to the Nielsen Report from March 2016, nearly two-thirds of global respondents say they watch some form of VOD (video-on-demand) programming. Furthermore, among those who watch any type of VOD programming, 43% say that they watch at least once a day.
In short, the future of film lies mainly in the various VOD platforms.
The shift started in 2005 with the rise of YouTube and then Netflix’s instant streaming service in 2008. Now there are many video-on-demand platforms available for filmmakers to sell their films to, completely bypassing theater screens and their money-minded managers.
Indeed, in 2014, RADiUS-TWC released Bong Joon-ho’s futuristic action saga “Snowpiercer” on Netflix, iTunes, and other VOD platforms only two weeks after it hit theaters. Just a few months later, “Snowpiercer” earned nearly $3 million more in VOD than box office sales.
The way people watch films and new technologies will likely bring three broad changes to the world of film distribution.
'Snowpiercer', 2014, is a science fiction thriller, from a French graphic novel but directed by the Korean cineaste Bong Joon-ho. photo: courtesy Bong Joon-ho
Infinite Choices, Limited Time
Consumers have never had access to as much content as they do today. The growth of video on demand options is reaching a point where it’s almost overwhelming. Filmmakers will have to stand out either by creating exceptionally unique content or crafting equally unique marketing strategies to promote their film.
In the future, many content outlets will begin to focus their strategy around specific types of consumers or consumer groups. There will be a channel for every kind of content, making it easier for people to find the exact type of content they are want to view.
Filmmakers will have to be very clear about their target audience for a film even before they start producing the project. This type of clarity will continue to be the only effective way to fit into a distribution landscape that focuses heavily on content and audience niches.
New Technologies, New Opportunities
Emerging technologies like 4K resolution and virtual reality give consumers new ways to experience content. They also give filmmakers the opportunity to create new and unique content.
In the future consumers may be as interested in a 20 minute VR film as they are with a 90-minute feature film. Filmmakers will have to stay aware of industry changes and new technology such as these and adapt to stay relevant.
What This Means for Filmmakers
Traditionally, after filmmakers submit their films to film festivals worldwide and stack up awards, they are bought by a distributor that takes care of the marketing.
But in the VOD world of today and even moreso the future, filmmakers have more control, as they are responsible for their own marketing. Moreover, they often get the maximum profits by not working with a distributor but distributing the film on their own.
Some self-distro platforms. illos: courtesy the companies
In the future, filmmakers will have to rely more and more heavily on their own ability to market and sell a film, rather than relying on distributors to do the work.
Today, there are several self-distribution platforms that filmmakers can use that are free of charge including Amazon, Vimeo, and VHX. Vimeo and VHX, who have recently merged (summer, 2016) offer filmmakers 90% of the revenue earned from their film, only taking a 10% fee. Amazon splits revenue 50% with the filmmaker. For all of these platforms, there is no upfront fee, although filmmakers must upload data and assets multiple times which is time consuming.
Microsoft, Sony and cable providers are subscription-based platforms (SVOD), while iTunes and Google Play are transaction-based (TVOD), meaning that viewers pay for individual films. Many platforms are available worldwide and in various languages to accommodate large audiences worldwide.
Many of the more popular platforms (iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, etc.) require that filmmakers work with film aggregators such as KinoNation, Bitmax or Quiver Digital—full disclosure, I work for the latter.
Aggregators simplify the process of digital film distribution because they give filmmakers one point of delivery for metadata and assets and in Quiver Digital’s case, 100% of the revenue earned by the film after a flat fee.
Filmmakers who experiment with self-distribution today and focus on adapting to the changes that are happening as we speak will be in the best position to succeed in today and the future.
Golda Criddle is a digital marketing coordinator for Quiver Digital, a distribution service for independent films. She can be reached
Posted on Jan 24, 2017 - 08:46 PM