Finding an Audience: Distribution Notes for 2/23/09

movie-ticket-and-popcornNetflix added more than the expected number of new subscribers to its DVD rental service in the last part of 2008 and continues to expand its streaming service, which is available not only online but also through select set-top boxes and soon TVs themselves.

Indie911 and B-Side will help the producers of the documentary Before the Music Dies distribute their film online via Indie911′s Hooka service, which lets website operators sell the movie and earn a commission of those sales. The movie will be available DRM-free.

While total revenue rose one percent in 2008, actual admissions to movie theaters dropped 2.5 percent, which was actually smaller than expected. Ticket prices rose only mildly on average, something that, combined with the belief that people were seeking out movies as a salve to harsh economic times, contributed to the narrower than predicted drop in admissions.

The new premium cable channel being launched by Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM has a name: Epix. But the wisdom of launching a pay cable channel at the same time streaming movies are more and more popular and people are cutting cable to save money remains questionable. The channel also doesn’t yet have a carrier agreement, which is going to hurt its market penetration. Epix will debut with movies like Iron Man, but it’s unclear how that’s going to be attractive in a world where so many people bought the DVD or Blu-ray and will have watched it many, many times before this channel gets off the ground.

DVD sales dropped sharply in the last quarter of 2008. Ouch. The slide has studio execs looking to re-work deals with talent as they try to balance the desire to keep DVDs, which account for a good percentage of a film’s profit, going at the same time they plan for more VOD and online distribution.

Even worse, despite an optimistic industry declaration, a study predicts sales of “packaged media” – meaning that stuff you actually have to go to Target to get or have delivered from Amazon – will remain flat until 2012. Blu-ray, as others have noted, is not a different enough format from DVD to really motivate consumers and most of the growth is expected to come from online and mobile download sales. Studios are also seeing some of those dollars that used to go to DVDs increasingly go to games and other entertainment options.

That slide has Disney rethinking how many DVDs it releases in a year and how it both packages and markets the ones it does release.

Pericles Lewnes is thinking out loud about applying what is, in essence, a webinar model of “seat selling” to online viewing, bringing a set amout of people together on one site to virtually watch a movie together.

Research firm Piper Jaffey predicts 3D movies could be a $25 billion money-maker by 2012.

Arthouse distribution shingle E1 has signed a deal to make its titles available through online download service Jaman.

Jeffrey Goodman outlines five important things to consider when creating a self-distribution plan or, really, when considering the fate of your film in any regard. I’ve heard many independent filmmakers peg a number of these points as having been problems for them.

Online distribution, while no longer theoretical, still has a ways to go before it’s the kind of everyday technology that truly constitutes a game changer in terms of the consumer market. That, combined with the fact that studios and distributors seem likely to only accept a new business model when it’s either that or lose a leg, means there’s still a ways to go before it becomes a real alternative for the masses.

Universal, Summit and 20th Century Fox will become the latest studios to go day-and-date with the movies hitting DVD and VOD at the same time. Not huge, but it’s a smart and solid step.

Chris Anderson updates his FREE thinking in advance of his upcoming book.

Scott Kirsner points out that while small-scale enterprises won’t support an entire industry, they will support an individual creator.

The rise of streaming services means bad news for cable companies and DVD rentals as previous subscribers move online for their entertainment fix.

Well-known filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is among those who don’t think online distribution is actually a way for creatives to make money, but might still have potential for makers of short films. The question of whether or not an ad-supported model is also taken up by Laure.

Majority owner Coinstar has bought out completely Redbox, the operators of those DVD-rental kiosks you see outside of Walgreen’s and other locations. The transaction also divests McDonald’s of its interest in the venture.

2 thoughts on “Finding an Audience: Distribution Notes for 2/23/09

  1. The incumbent business model of any industry is always threatened by change, and will rebel against and reject it. But indies must consider taking control of their film’s distribution destiny’s. I agree with Morgan Spurlock; I don’t believe online distribution (online viewing) has enough financial potential for creatives. Studio-made DVD sales may be down but they’re still moving. That means people are buying. The independent filmmaker can emulate this model for their individual films, find their audiences and make a connection, i.e. sales.

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