Distributors experiment as windows collapse

Future of Film Summit 2012

Not that long ago, the choice was simple: Release a movie in theaters first or directly to video. Nowadays, distributors debate whether to release movies on several platforms at once, or if those same films should debut internationally before the U.S.

The goal, as always, is to maximize coin while keeping up with demand.

Radius-TWC, the Weinstein Co. division dedicated to multi-platform distribution, has experimented with alternate revenue streams “where we can launch any first window alongside theatrical,” says Tom Quinn, co-president of Radius-TWC with Jason Janego. “And that can be broadcast TV, DVD or VOD.”

“That first window and how we approach it is the big change,” adds Janego. “Yes, the traditional theatrical window’s still important, but audiences and the way they get their entertainment now is rapidly evolving. New York, where we might gross anywhere from 48% to 60% of our total theatrical dollar, is very different from other markets in the middle of the country. That’s when VOD suddenly starts to make sense.”

A customized approach has also paid dividends for Tribeca Film, which launched two years ago. “Right away we saw a definite opportunity for independent film using a curated brand like us,” notes general manager Todd Green. The company distributes movies on demand year-round, and during the festival itself, “we have at least four titles that play at the same time they’re also on demand.”

“The speed of change is definitely getting faster,” says Mark Greenberg, president and CEO of Epix, a premium television channel and subscription video-on-demand service. “Movies took a century to go from silent and B&W to color and HD, but now the landscape changes every year.”

For Epix, “being able to aggregate more access to audience, and on the terms they want it on, as long as we protect the intellectual property, is what we need to do.”

Distributors don’t expect the change to slow down any time soon. Green, who believes that it’s imperative for distributors to be “really strategic” about theatrical, predicts that “the windows will continue to collapse and there’ll be more experimentation — and more collaboration with theater owners.”

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