Distrib exex learn: alternatives rock

Panel agrees that unique plans can make projects a success

Getting a film released in theaters is now just a small step in the life of a pic as distribution alternatives become an antidote to traditional distribution.

Execs kicking off the 2005 Variety Cannes Conference Series Friday came to that consensus citing VOD, HD Net, DVD and platform releasing as among the diverse opportunities available to filmmakers to make their project a success.

Participating in the panel sponsored by Comerica and Rainbow and moderated by Variety‘s Ian Mohr were Magnolia Pictures prexy Eamonn Bowles; Jeff Briller, VP acquisitions, Cinema Now; Paradigm Consulting prexy Peter Broderick; Gregg Hill, president of distribution for Rainbow Network Sales; Koch Lorber Films/ Lorber Media prexy Richard Lorber and indie producer Jesse Scolaro.

Spelling doom for the old ways, Broderick believes there is a revolution in independents now with more filmmakers splitting up ancillary rights but retaining control over aspects of distribution with their Web sites, getting thousands of names and addresses of likely customers in the process.

“If you look at traditional distribution as your savior you’re going to be disappointed,” he said. “But if you start with a core audience or base it makes a huge difference,” pointing out left field successes such as “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Woman Thou Art Loosed” and Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”

Bowles said films need unique plans to break through and get consumers out of their homes. He cited the day and date distribution of his docu “Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room” in Houston and New York simultaneous with the pic hitting HD Net.

“Most chains except Landmark boycotted because of that, but if this breaks the mold it will be kind of exciting,” he said. Company is now teamed with Steven Soderbergh on six films shot in HD that will be simultaneously distribbed in Landmark theatres, DVD and HD Net, a development that worries most exhibs.

“The bigger challenge is how you make a film work that doesn’t have that specialty interest built in,” Lorber cautioned.

Rainbow’s Hill mentioned IFC engineered a highly successful seven-week Video On Demand run of little known French laffer “Sex Is Comedy” that became more profitable to the company than the theatrical engagement, hitting 28 million homes. Company will now add another 12-week VOD run this summer in reaction to the success.

Scolaro pointed out that film festivals have become a distrib operation on their own and can create tremendous buzz for movies down the line, creating word of mouth and eventual buyers for the DVD.

“Making the movie is like having sex,” he says. “Getting the distributed is giving birth and seeing it grow and now there are so many ways to do that.”