The Future of Film Distribution: An Old Discussion Maybe?

It has become a habit of mine that every morning during the weekday I glance through my emails to see what the latest industry headlines are.  The two that I mainly focus on are the NoFilmSchool weekly newsletter and the Doddle Me daily newsletter.  Both do a great job of mixing up a little bit of geek with a little bit of industry business.  Today the headline that caught my attention was from Doddle Me. “Spielberg and Lucas Predict Tough Times Ahead

If Spielberg is skeptical about the outcome of movies in the future if the current paradigm falls apart then what exactly does this mean for independent filmmakers and the future of film distribution.  I am pretty sure that this has been a discusion that has been going on for close a decade now when internet video first started but back then we didn’t necessarily have smart phones as accesible as we do now.  Apple didn’t start selling movies on iTunes until roughly 2005 and Netflix has only been offering streaming services since 2008 and with new file compressions, higher bandwidth capabilities for home environments, but still you often need an aggregator to even get an independent movie to be listed in their library.  Amazon was probably the first to make it easy for filmmakers to sell their movies independently by working with Create Space which they now own, yet even the most recent feature of Vimeo On Demand the question is back and possibly even more relevant where no aggregator is needed and selling movies on demand couldn’t be easier.

So, what is the future of film distribution?  The main reason for distributing a movie is for people to see it, the reason you want people to see is to either send a message or get their money, and the reason you may want their money is because it is a business and you can only make movies with money.  Basically, it comes down to money, you need money in order to create more content — and it’s nice to get people to see it.

There has always been a bit of a magical experience going to the theater to see a movie but not everyone will get that chance to have their movie played there and how else do we get people to see our content and benefit from it.  Maybe a home online is the way to go, and maybe filmmakers should start changing their mindset to the smaller screen for debut’s or think of a theatrical run as a pre-release event.  We must learn to rethink our approach to story telling, but could the mobile cinema option limit our ideas or expand them.  A common thing that I hear from veterans of the business is we go to movies so that we can see them big…I would argue we go to movies to experience a story and possibly there are better stories on the “smaller” screen then there are on the big ones.

Do not be faint of heart for there are also BIG screen options within the small screen world.  RED announced their Red Ray 4K player and teamed up with Odemax to provide a 4K film distribution library and they too are looking for films with what appears to be user generated content with a profit sharing model after being an approved filmmaker.  The details are a little vague since I currently do not have a feature film that I have world wide exclusive rights too.

These are exciting times for filmmakers, but lets be realistic.  These are scary times as well.  Anyone can go make a movie with the price of gear, but running around with your friends still can cost money.  Weeks are still need to shoot, money is still need to get equipment sometimes and you are not guaranteed to see any of it back.  My first film has grossed far more than it cost to make, but I have not seen a dime of any of it.  The truly liberating thing about all of this is it is so much easier to self distribute now than ever before that, we actually might see a few hundred dollars from our films instead of a big fat ZERO.

What are your thoughts.

One thought on “The Future of Film Distribution: An Old Discussion Maybe?

  1. There is something magical about going to see a movie at a theatre. The same thing can be said about ball games. I have never and doubt that I ever will go to a playoff game, a world series game or a superbowl game or any other Big game. It is expensive, crowded and traffic is horrendous. Why go if I can sit in my home and watch it on TV, have two guys tell me what is going on, see replays and hear postgame interviews, have my refrigerator at my disposal and not have to stand in line to use the restroom. However, when I do go to a ball game, I don’t mind standing in line with my ticket. There is the smells that exhude from every vendor, the sounds, the uncomfortable seats, the thrill of being there, the fun of watching even if you can’t see exactly what is going on. The voice booming over the pa system, the huge variety of people there and most everyone is there because there is something magical about actually being at the game. And so it is with the theatre. To this day when I smell popcorn my first image is a theatre. It is the smells, the going in and sitting waiting for the show to begin. The room is dark music playing it stirs a huge anticipation. It is magical. You go because it is away from home, You are about to be entertained. The screen is big the sound loud.
    I have seen a number of movies at the theatre and re watched them at home. They were all good films at the theatre. At home I enjoy them but the thing that is missing is,, “The Atmosphere”. It is the whole theatre experience that you don’t get when you are watching it on an IPhone or Ipad or even a large screen TV. I don’t go to the movies very often but when I do it is a special time and I don’t just sit there and watch a movie. I revel in the experience. Perhaps that is just the romanticist in me.
    Good article though that you wrote.

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