Distribution’s Future is Now

20 10 2007

I had a conversation with some producers a few months back about the dire straits that independent film distribution is in right now.  One of them was complaining that nearly all of the independent distributors are really distributors for hire. In order to distribute his film he basically would pay the distribution company the print and ad costs for the film, and then they would use their distribution network to release the film. They weren’t really taking an equity position in the film at all.  In fact, they were merely renting out their services to a company that wanted to get their film distributed.

Years ago, there was a concept called four-walling, in which movie companies  basically rented a movie theatre to run their films. This was an alternative when the big distribution companies of the time wouldn’t buy their films.

This, in essence, is four-walling exhibitors. What we’re looking at today is four-walling distributors.

The problems are obvious. It puts all of the cost on people who can least afford it — the independent filmmakers — and removes most of the incentive for the distributor to get the film a wide audience.

However, as a look into the future, it ain’t bad.

I’ve been saying for years that major music companies really should get out of the business of producing music, and do what they do best — market and distribute music. Madonna’s latest move — to dump her record company and sign with concert promoter Live Nation — is, I think, all about that realization.  While I don’t think that movie studios are inherently without talent in terms of producing film, what they are best at is distributing it. Why not rent out those services?

I don’t think they should be without a financial interest in the film.  They need to have a vested interest in pushing the hell out of a film.  But it would be great if they could choose which films they want to distribute and then do it. [NOTE:  I am incredibly aware that studios do something sort of similar when they pick up an already produced film for distribution.]

This would then set the business model for web and digital media distribution. In the way that many independent short filmmakers are choosing to post their films on (and share the revenue with) Revver and soon to be the case on Google, the business model to distribute films should be to place your film with people who know how to distribute your particular film.

It’s the future of film distribution.  And it’s already here.




One response

20 10 2007
My Ghillie » Distribution’s Future is Now

[…] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerpt […]

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