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Distribution Presentation

November 23, 2010

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FS2: Distribution

Once the final cut of a film has been approved, the film goes into Distribution. There are two main stages in the process: the actual making and delivering of the prints to cinemas and exhibitors, and the marketing of the film to the public. Without being made aware of the film’s existence, audiences will not go see it. The marketing of a film is therefore extremely important.

Role of the Distributor.

Amongst other things, the key responsibilities are:

To acquire the film

To negotiate the number of film prints made to be released to the exhibitors (cinemas)

To negotiate when the prints should be made available to exhibitors

To arrange the transport of the prints to cinemas in negotiated territories

To provide trailers and publicity material for exhibitors

To provide advertising and publicity to promote the film

To arrange promotional partnerships to tie in with the film. Eg.Cars and Mcdonalds’ Happy Meals.

Dubbing and/or subtitling for foreign language films being screened in the UK.

Submitting the film for certification.

Distribution Company.

Marketing Budgets

Before beginning to distribute a film, companies need to determine just how much money they can spend on doing so. The distribution budget is determined by estimating what the Box-office sales for the film will be. To make this estimate they will look at the following factors.

Estimating Box-office


The success or failure of a film is based on box-office figures. These figures are based on the number of people who pay to see a particular film and what they pay. In other words, the sum-total of what has been paid to see a particular film. US box-office figures can provide a rough estimate of what they will be in the UK


Cinemas (Exhibitors) rent a print of a film in order to screen it. The rental fee is paid to the distributor but is dependant on the price of a ticket within each cinema. The fee therefore fluctuates from cinema to cinema and from film to film. The money that the distributor estimates they will receive for rentals will help determine the overall budget because it helps estimate box-office receipts.

Audience Research.

Distributors will usually arrange test screenings before releasing a film. These are screenings to which a cross-section of the population are invited; old, young, woman, man etc… Questionnaires are handed out to the audience after, allowing for feedback. These screenings allow distributors to more accurately predict what kinds of people will like the film. In many cases, when the feedback is overwhelmingly negative, films have gone back into production as a result. Re-cuts are often made, alternative endings used and in some rare cases, re-shoots carried out. The advent of DVD’s and directors’ cuts have exposed what effects these changes can have on a film.


Certification is carried out by the BBFC in the UK. The distributor will submit the print together with details about the production and their desired certificate. The BBFC will the review the film and agree to or reject the stated certificate. If they reject it, the BBFC will offer a list of suggested changes that would enable the certificate to be achieved. It is then up to the distributor what to do.

A family-friendly certificate could greatly increase the box-office for a blockbuster release. A 15 or 18 would cut out a huge portion of the potential audience.

Cast and Crew

One of the biggest attractions of a particular film for audiences is the presence of stars. Sometimes, the presence of a particular Director and Producer can also draw audiences in. A star such as Tom Cruise or Jim Carrey is guaranteed to draw in a certain box-office and is therefore considered bankable. The recent box-office figures of films featuring the Star will be looked at when estimating his/her bankability.

Timing of Release

There are various factors that influence when a film is released. Subject Matter, Genre and audience all play a part. The best time to release a family blockbuster is during school holidays when people have time to dispose of. Distributor’s know ahead of time which films their competitors have available for release and can decide to go Head-to-Head for the same audience or release the film at another date. Films that are considered possible contenders for big awards like the Oscars will be released to coincide with the awards themselves. A nomination or a win could significantly improve box-office figures. This time is sometimes called “award season”.

Film Prints.

When a film is finished it is made into a film print. This is the “original” print. Distributors need to supply cinemas with copies of this print so that audiences may see the film. This is very expensive to do. The distributor therefore needs to determine what the demand for prints created by their marketing campaign will be. The distribution of prints is done to ensure maximun profit and is therefore it is not a good idea to spread audiences too thin by making too many prints.

A film has to make 2 and half time its cost to make a profit. A print of a film costs about a 1000 pounds to make so, in order to open in 204 cinemas, it would cost 204,000 pounds. There would therefore need to be a large box-office estimate for this many prints to be made. Smaller films with small predicted audiences will have very few prints made.

Distribution Budget.

Having finally determined the estimated the box-office, the distribution budget can be set. They can then allocate funds for making audiences aware through Marketing.

Marketing: Making an audience aware.

As with a nay product, the potential audience (consumers) need to be made aware of the product’s existence. Not only that, they also need to convince audiences to go see the film. With some films that have big star and big budgets, this isn’t difficult. For others, this can be very difficult



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