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Film Distribution in India

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What is film distribution?

Distribution is the dynamic, competitive business of launching and sustaining films. Like other entertainment sectors, the film business is product-driven: the films themselves are the main reasons why cinema tickets are purchased. But how do people get to know about the range of titles on release, and come to feel they want to see a particular new film? It is the distributors’ task to connect films with the public, drawing the widest possible audience to each one and realising the full potential of the filmmakers’ work.

It is well nigh impossible to entice people to a film in which they have no interest. Every new title has its own release plan, which the distributor develops in consultation with the producers and/or parent studio. A saturation release will be prepared for films with mass potential; a more select release for those appealing to narrower groups.

The distribution contract

Distributors sign an agreement with the producer, sales agent or studio, specifying the rights they hold in respect of each title – to release it in UK cinemas; to promote it in all media; possibly to make a local edit, for example to secure a particular classification – together with the date the license expires and how the income from the release will be accounted for. As films are creative works, or intellectual rather than tangible property, their copyright is owned by the people or organisations that produced or financed them. Distributors act under license on their behalf.

A distributor’s opinion as to a film’s playability may – and ideally should – be sought before it is approved for production. In some cases, a distributor becomes a partner in a project, contributing upfront to its development/production costs and later launching it in the market place.

Each distributor may release any number of films, in some cases 25 or more, every year. In a typical week, seven or eight new films open in UK cinemas.

When considering acquiring a new film, distributors will look for something fresh or outstanding, a special element or potential marketing angle which in due course could help to draw a significant audience.

To secure distribution rights for certain films, the distributor may need to pay an advance/minimum guarantee against future earnings to the producer or sales agent. The advance commitment is for the distribution license rights plus the costs of film prints and advertising (P&A).

The earlier a distributor is involved, the better

It is useful and desirable for producers to have a distribution deal in place before shooting starts. Sometimes this can be viable on the basis of a hot script and anticipated cast. In practice, producers may seek finance from multiple sources, including pre-sales to various territories through a specialist sales agent; banks; private investors; beneficial tax schemes

including sale & leaseback; and public subsidies.

Full article is here.

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India boasts of about 13,000 theatres enjoying a weekly admission of about 100 million people or 5000+ million per year. Distributors are the last link in the movie chain which take films to the people.

Although distribution and exhibition are the end points in the value chain of the film business, they are of utmost importance because "goofing" up at this stage means that the film , however well made, will be a flop at the "Box Office". With post production accounting for 20% of the film budget and taking 20% of the total time, any savings in this would go directly to the bottom line. Digitalization has the potential to bring in the desired savings and drive up profits substantially.

Typically a distributor buys rights for a 'territory' and recovers costs from the exhibition of the film. The distributor buys into the risk with the producer.

Today, before a film is released, no distributor knows the fate of the movie. Copies are made based on a guesstimate and the stakes are high. The copies are sent to various distributors in the country, who in turn rent them out to theatre owners.

If the estimate goes awry, all that the theatre owner, the distributor or the producer can do about it is grin and bear the costs.

The digital world, however, works differently. The problem of physically moving the reels from one place to another does not exist. All it requires is a license to make another copy. And, making copies is as easy as clicking a button. The cost of distribution is significantly lower. The theatre owner will no longer be forced to show a movie that is doing badly. He simply has to switch over to the one that the audience wants to watch.

Further, with overseas becoming a major territory and considerable costs associated with the same any savings in the distribution costs will be a great boon for film producers and distributors alike. Distribution of films around the world has become such a big business that it fetches about as much business as Delhi-Uttar Pradesh, one of the six distribution territories within India.

With tickets in US being priced at $8 and those in UK being priced at 8 pounds the collection from the 10 million population from overseas is same or more than the collection from the 150 million population in of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh .

Other disadvantages of physical distribution are because of the high costs of making excess prints and because of the physical nature (rather than digital nature) of prints people in remote corners of the country deprived of seeing a hit film till the print is available for them. Further, if a movie is a flop then because the film is not simultaneously released (because of the physical nature of prints) all over the country at the same time bad publicity may spread and therefore no one may want to see the movie.

A primer on digital technology in film distribution

Digital cinema or eCinema or eMovies is the latest buzzword that has the potential to profoundly affect the distributors in the industry.

Electronic cinema refers to film-less digital distribution and exhibition system of films using high quality digital projectors that are brighter and have higher resolution versions of video projectors. With this, feature films can be projected in small to medium size theatres with DVD playback equipment .

It is expected that by 2005, movies as bitable digital data files will increasingly replace physical prints as the preferred medium of distribution.

More here

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More on Film Distribution at SARAI here

List of Film disributors in India (WikiPedia)

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Ketan Mehta, the internationally acclaimed film maker along with the renowned singer Anup Jalota, Actor-Director Deepa Sahi and Media entrepreneur Subur Khan launched a new film distribution company 'Open Door Films Limited'.

'Open Door Films' is a wholly integrated distribution platform for independent controlled budget films. The main objective of the company is to provide a viable, transparent, alternative, global marketing and distribution platform for high quality Indian independent films.

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