The digital revolution is in full swing Down Under and wreaking havoc with traditional economic models and revenue streams.
Theatrical distribution is becoming cheaper for distributors brave enough to release pics digitally, while the ancillary market is in transition.
Free-to-air television now generates limited returns: Where previously it might have accounted for 30% of a film’s total revenue, it now may constitute 10% or zero, according to Dendy Films co-topper Richard Peyton.
But direct downloads, pay-per-view and personal screens for long-haul airline passengers promise to generate more income in the future, especially for indie arthouse distributors.
“The digital landscape opens channels to audiences,” says Dendy Films co-topper Andrew Mackie.
For Palace Films, airline and pay-per-view revenues have doubled in the very recent past. “They’re actually quite substantial,” company topper Ben Zeccola attests.
“I love that an end user in a regional area with no arthouse cinema or videostore that carries arthouse product will be able to access Dendy library titles on demand. It’s a boon for indies,” Mackie says.
Telco Telstra this year launched Bigpond Movies, a direct download interface. Currently titles take about three hours to download and must be viewed on the device that downloads them, such as a desktop or laptop computer.
Despite these impediments, Dendy has been pleasantly surprised by the income generated so far. “It’s about making that investment now, at a time when it’s getting harder and harder to sell to free-to-air TV,” says Peyton.
On the theatrical distribution front, the high cost of distributing prints to Australia’s many widespread towns — plus delayed regional releases because distributors use the prints from first-release cinemas in major cities — will be a thing of the past when digital distribution is a reality.
Dendy released Michael Apted’s biographical documentary “49 Up” exclusively on digital this year because a film print was unavailable. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do more of it,” Peyton says.
Digital distribution also will increase the opportunities for foreign-language films, which, because of subtitling, are more expensive.