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Film Distribution – Is The Model Changing?



With Idris Elba’s Beast of No Nation premiering at London Film Festival this month and Spectre being released on the same day as its premier could we finally be seeing a subtle shift in the way films are distributed?

Films such as Beasts of No Nation have the potential to set a brand new president for the future of film distribution worldwide thanks in part to services such as Netflix. The company brought the worldwide distribution rights to the film and released in cinemas and online at the same time on the 16th October both in the US and the UK. Though by doing so however Netflix violated the traditional 90 day release window for cinema releases. In the US this lead to the film being boycotted by four of the country’s largest cinema chains meaning the film effectively became an independent movie overnight and thus reducing its audience. After all why would they screen a film that is effectively harmful to their business model.

But could such attitudes ultimately prove harmful to cinemas. In years gone by the cinema box office was king but with technological advances and a change in the way we consume content the cinema is slowly in danger of becoming a relic of a bye gone era if it’s not careful.

Right now Netflix is simply acting as distributor for such films but with the company having made enormous strides in the TV market with shows such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, surely it’s only a matter of time before it turns its attention to making and producing its own films. While Netflix and Amazon may seem less than impressive now, it’s not entirely implausible that Netflix and co could one day be rivalling the big studios. Especially as the recent recession has caused some big name distributors and even movie studios to find themselves in financial trouble, which has lead to major studios becoming reluctant to take risks on movies that aren’t guaranteed to be financially viable. Thus it makes sense that more and more writers and directors will end up gravitating to services such as Netflix in order to get their films made and screened.

The model of film distribution where films are released around the world on different dates is out dated and is one of the reasons for internet piracy. In a world where we want instant gratification and spoilers are everywhere audiences are growing tired of waiting and of being left out and are choosing to pirate films instead. Despite what many in the film industry believes it’s not a case of audiences wanting content for free, but content providers struggling to keep up with demands. Right now film distributors are failing to deliver their films to audiences worldwide fast enough and with technology improving audiences are going to turn more and more to the internet, whether it’s by legal or illegal means. It’s not just audiences that want content now the rise of Video on demand services such as Netflix and Amazon and even pay per view TV channels want the latest films in order to keep customers using their services, thus putting a further strain on the current distribution model.

At the moment the traditional box office can still make or break a film, look at 50 Shades Of Grey or Crimson Peak for example. While 50 Shades was widely panned it went on to become a box office success grossing $569,651,467 while Crimson Peak which is loved by critics is currently performing abysmally at the box office, struggling to make back it’s budget. But in the future it’s possible that a film could be made or broken not by its worldwide box office but by how many times it’s streamed or downloaded. It’s also not inconceivable to think that in a few years time Bond could not only be released in cinemas the same day as its premier but also online.


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