Alternative labels thrive via DVD innovation

Threat, Sundance bring the arthouse to home theatre

As the specialty theatrical market continues to struggle for bookings against studio tentpoles, the DVD market has provided some fest favorites with their best — sometimes only — chance of reaching an audience.

Here are a few of the homevid innovators that have emerged with distribution models designed to reach arthouse auds on the small screen.

Film Threat DVD

Film Threat DVD offers filmmakers without a distrib deal a way of selling their pic through Chris Gore’s popular online zine. Filmmakers pay for DVD prep costs but keep all the rights to their work. In exchange for marketing and publicity through the site, Film Threat takes a percentage of the profits.

“We’re the best choice for filmmakers who want to self-distribute their films but need some help,” says Gore.

The Film Movement

Launched in 2002, former Shooting Gallery topper Larry Meistrich’s distribution company uses a film-series model that provides pics with simultaneous theatrical and DVD releases. For a yearly rate of $189, subscribers get one DVD per month, and a free movie ticket if they live near a cinema playing a Film Movement title.

“We’re the only distribution company that releases films on a first-run basis whose market is literally everywhere,” says Meistrich.

Had-to-be-Made Film Festival

With over 100 independent videostores nationwide on-board as locations, HTBMFF touts itself as the first year-round and nationwide film festival.

Co-founders Richard Green and Mike Kyle plan on hosting two festivals on DVD annually, each consisting of 10 features and 20 shorts. The first edition kicked off in February.

“Our whole structure is focused not on providing distribution but on providing distribution opportunities,” says Kyle. “Without taking any rights, we allow the features and shorts to find their audience.”

Sundance Home Entertainment

“We’re a hybrid between a small homevideo line based on theatrical releases and a traditional film series,” says Paola Freccero, senior VP of film programming at Sundance Channel.

Launched in September as an outgrowth of Sundance Channel’s TV programming, Sundance Home Entertainment handles titles that have bowed on the cable net and have had limited or no theatrical life.

The division recently expanded to include all of the titles from soon-to-be-launched Sundance Film Series. Freccero expects the label to release up to 12 pics per year.

A sampling of titles getting exposure on alternative DVD labels:

Film Movement

“El Bola”
“OT: Our Town”

Film Threat

“April Is My Religion”
“JAR JAR: The F! True Hollywood Story”
“Agent 15 — Volume 1”

Had-to-Be-Made Film Festival

“String Theory”
“Escape From Orion”
“Season of Youth”

Sundance Film Series

“Scotland, Pa.”
“The Sleepy Time Gal”
“The Slaughter Rule”