The New Distribution

Cinequest Film Distribution Panel

It’s here. We know it’s here. We know it’s the future. But we don’t know how to make it pay.

Such was the consensus at this afternoon’s (Feb. 26) panel at SJ Rep about the new frontiers of film distribution.  As moderator Peter Belcito of Film Finders put it, “The march of technology is implacable and relentless. Technology doesn’t care.” Which means that filmmakers and distributors need to think fast about how to make the transition from an old model (theatrical release) that still brings in the lion’s share of the dollars and a new model (digital) that doesn’t pay very well yet. If that sounds like the squeeze enjoyed by the newspaper industry—well, the panelist were happy to share the analogous misery.

The solution seems to lie in a few areas: the iTunes streamlined model of easy purchase at a single, easy-to-digest price or some form of TV-connected subscription model that allows for a variety of inputs to the living room. Most of the panelists seemed to agree that the TV set still offered (and would for a long time offer) the best home movie-watching experience. Already, major players (Best Buy, Wal-Mart) are entering the fray with new TVs that will come automatically embedded with services selling content, which means that indie distributors need to figure out a way to jump on the train before they get left behind. Everyone agreed that ease of use for consumers would be paramount—make it as easy as possible to set up an account so that users don’t have to do a lot of clicking and thinking every time they want to see a movie.

The pace of change has been fast enough that the representative from Jaman, the “iTunes of indies,” said that the site is going through a full transformation and will be relaunched in the near future. Maybe, speaking as one user, they will make the site more compatible with Macs this time around.

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