Indies and newbies help drive digital distribution

The trying economic times are compelling U.K. distribs to push ahead with plans to maximizerevenues from digital platforms.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the more niche distribs who are leading the way in experimenting with traditional windows and release models.

Revolver caused something of a stir when it announced it would simultaneously release helmer Steven Sheil’s low-budget horror pic “Mum & Dad” on all platforms, including video-on-demand and electronic sell-through, this past Dec. 26. Since then, the distrib has unveiled plans to release Steve M. Kelly’s indie pic “City Rats” simultaneously in theaters, on DVD and online later this year.

“Digital distribution is a crucial part of Revolver’s ongoing strategy,” says Revolver topper Justin Marciano.

U.K. distrib-exhib Curzon Artificial Eye partnered with feevee Sky Movie to release pics such as Turkish-Teuton helmer Fatih Akin’s “Edge of Heaven” and Tilda Swinton starrer “Julia” simultaneously in theaters, pay-per-view and on-demand.

“Smart, innovating partnerships like this are vital for the long-term health of the U.K. film industry,” says Sky Movies director Ian Lewis.

And while the U.S. studios still appear to be approaching their digital strategies cautiously, a clutch of newbie entrants to the U.K. market are looking to take advantage of the digital switchover.

Online movie download service Jaman.com launched its first local site in the U.K. on Jan. 14. It specializes in indie and international pics and boasts 1,000 titles.

The multiplatform offering has already inked distribution deals with Axiom Films and ContentFilm and will work with Pathe Films and the British Film Institute on promotional initiatives. Jaman is working with Pathe as a partner on the digital campaign for helmer Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“With broadband costs coming down and broadband penetration increasing, people are demanding more,” says Jaman m.d. for U.K. and Europe David Fischer. “During a recession, there’s more reason to stay home, so it actually works to our advantage.”

Dutch film producer Teun Hilte (“Black Book”) has inked a deal with Visit Films in the U.S. to digitally distribute indie pics Stateside. The company, which reps the digital rights to specific pics across many territories, is set to announce additions to its library during the Berlin Film Fest.

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