20 Ways to Distribute Your Movie

Hold your head high - if it's good, you can distribute it

Distribution is the bane and pain of making movies. It takes distribution to get your money back, and the faster the better. Online distribution offers the best immediate opportunities for independent filmmakers.

Theatrical release is the "Back in the day" holy grail of moviemakers. It may seem like an impossible dream, but there is a quick route to getting your movie in theaters. It's called Tugg, and it is a direct path to creating a theatrical event, or a series of them, if you can get enough reservations. People are using it successfully. White Rabbit & Disruptive Digital Distribution

Vimeo is now offering pay per view service, in which you set the price for your video for viewing.

YouTube® offers three services:

  • For live event streams: Pay Per View service – you set the price.
  • YouTube offers ad supported video also - they supply the ads – you don’t have to do anything except sign up your video.
  • Successful content creators may be invited to be a major Youtube network partner. Most of the networks require you to have a certain number of subscriptions and views.

Advertising for both Vimeo and YouTube is key to getting an audience. But be extremely careful of companies that offer to get you subscriptions or views on YouTube, for a very low price. They don't get you actual viewers, and YouTube will take your channel out of service and delete your statistics.

On both YouTube and Vimeo, you can build an audience there for future films.

Example of an independent Youtube movie channel: Nelson Madison Films/Indie Rights

Besides Vimeo and YouTube, there are several other independent distriutors, such as Goindietv.com, which is online and on Roku, indiereign.com, and indieflix.com

If your movie works well on YouTube or other locations, it warrants further investment. I recommend then going to other distributors for Independents. Distribber will get you into iTunes®, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Redbox, plus cable channels, satellite, and cell phone distribution (fully VOD). The price starts around $1200.00, but is well worth it because getting your movie into any of the available VOD channels is a royal pain (especially itunes). So far I don't know of any source to get into XBox or WII.

The Film Collaborative is a good resource is for more specific information.

Much more information below, but first a word from any sponsor.

Advertising

Advertising is essential to the financial success of a VOD (online/cable/satellite) movie. But advertising online can be done in many forms that don't have to be expensive:

  • Build a following on social media venues, so you have a built-in audience (page likes, followers).
  • Ask viewers if you can notify them by email or social media when you do your next release.
  • Both of the above mean that you need a Web and social media presence for your business. There are businesses that can help you develop an initial following for very little expense.
  • Encourage viewers to rate your movie. People want to see movies that others think are good.
  • Give free passes on social media to get the viewing and audience ratings started.
  • Make it easy for social media word of mouth integration, by putting social media links on your site. (Add This makes this easy.)
  • If you are getting good ratings for the movie in its genre, consider putting the revenue back into paid advertising.
  • Notify movie bloggers that you are available for an interview, to promote your movie.
  • Notify critics and reviewers of your movie launch, and give them a free pass.
  • Use Facebook ads, and other social media ads - they haven't gotten expensive yet.
  • Self-rate your movie by the W3C worldwide ratings, W3C Powder document movie rating example, so people know what to expect and whether or not to let their children watch.
  • Make your listing available to filmthreat.com, indiewire.com, etc. These are sites for people who like independent movies.
  • Enlist your Web site in a banner ad exchange, such as whambanners.com (free) or banneradexchange.net (free or small charge [.05/thousand] if you can't display ads).
  • If the results are looking really good, advertise on cable channels. They cost around 1/10th. as much as broadcast networks, but their reach is correspondingly smaller. But keep in mind, this audience is more likely to be the online users you want.
  • Make sure the host you put your movie on, features the movie for a while.

The rapidly changing market

Today there are many more distribution methods available to the Independent feature and documentary movie producer. But before jumping into distribution, or even production, it might be a good idea to see what it takes to make distribution, and profitability, a success. There are several keys to successfully distributing and making a profit on a movie. The primary profitability factors are:

  1. Story quality – by far the most important factor
  2. Audience interest and size for the specific movie (or genre) and willingness to pay
  3. Advertising, which is critical for an audience to find your movie
  4. Secondary markets, and release windows
  5. Company management experience
  6. Knowledge of the technology – different production techniques for the final product are required for online distribution

Additionally, having a recognizable actor and an experienced director, while no guarantee of success, can contribute to the success of a movie, or be influential in obtaining financing or foreign distribution.

Six basic ways to distribute a movie:

  1. Attend film festivals and hope that within 2 years someone likes your movie and gives you some money (most likely not enough). This is great if you are just getting started and want to get experience and audience feedback. It is also great if you just love the life of making only the movies you want.
  2. Sell the rights to a foreign distributor. The foreign markets are still hungry for anything American. They may give you enough to cover the cost of making the movie... maybe not. The part you get up front is likely all you will get, regardless of the sweet sounding deal you make.
  3. Sell the rights to a US distributor. OK, this is probably not one of the six ways unless you have really performed a number 7 size miracle. If this looks like it is going to happen, get professional help (no not mental health help - get an agent).
  4. Sell the distribution rights into multiple distribution venues: Online download sites (Vudu, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, CinemaNow, Sony, BlockBuster, etc.), DVD, TV VOD, and at the end of profitability, Netflix. DVD is fading, but still viable. Online download sites pay you up to 75% of their revenue. You can also accomplish this through Distribber.com. Then Advertise.
  5. Use any one of innumerable existing independent movie distribution sites, which usually don't make you very much money. These are really great for cult and niche markets.
  6. Use any of the alternate distribution methods on the next page.

Advertise your movie. If people don't know it's there, they won't find it in the distributors' lists of 20,000 movies available to watch. OK, it may get featured by some in their new movie box, but there is a minimal chance that it will become an online phenomenon (go viral). Understand the power of advertising. It gets audiences. (If you are in the St. Louis area, and have made a feature film, I will help you understand advertising in a face to face meeting - but I won't put it on the Web for others to steal and make a profit from - I give away enough.) Contact Dorian.

The rapidly evolving online marketplace

Netflix began streaming movies in 2007. Other companies downloaded them as early as 2001, but you generally had to wait to watch them until after they had downloaded. Now you can stream them and watch them without waiting. Uh -

Streaming over the PC was so yesterday. The trend has been very rapid for people with broadband access to stream movies via their "smart devices," and skip hooking up the PC to the TV. The market is huge and growing very quickly. Online movie download sites include Vudu, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, CinemaNow, BlockBuster, etc. For the future of set top boxes, such as Roku and Boxee, see The Future of Online Content Distribution.

The 2014 number of Roku devices is around 10 million, and is rapidly growing. The number of people connecting their TV via laptop and set top boxes, supported by surveys in 2011 and 2012, is around 16,500,000. The growth in the Netflix customer base since 2007 offsets the 1/3 reduction in people viewing by PC/laptop, but the total amount is being reduced by smart devices with limited offerings, by around 2 million.

What is happening with PC viewing? It will probably remain a niche market. The PC market is clearly evolving to short videos, not features (1 to 2 hours), as features are becoming more available for smart connected TVs. This trend is quickly moving aside the PC as the device for watching movies online. It also means that people have only the online movie site selections that the smart device allows them. The implication is, you will only put a movie online through one of these online movie sites... at least only movies that you expect to make a profit on.

So ultimately this means that to make a movie that you want to be profitable (online), it is necessary to seek primary online distribution from Vudu, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, CinemaNow, BlockBuster, etc. There are companies out there that will handle all of this for Indies, but at a price. Reserve Netflix until you are at the end of the profitability curve.

Next page: Fourteen More Distribution Methods.

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Fourteen More Distribution Methods

Note: Since writing this in 2012, around half of these opportunities have disappeared.

There are a variety of great independent distribution methods open to producers and distributors, that may fit your particular needs. Each differentiates their service in some way, and they each have their pros and cons. Note that downloads are somewhat less secure than streaming, and anything shown on TV is immediately subject to piracy. Piracy is something everyone in the entertainment industry has to live with. Also, advertising is generally left up to the producer. For these reasons, downloads and advertising have been removed from this page as security concerns or cons, and advertising is added as a pro if the site does this. Also note, the contract of the specific distributor may impose terms, such as costs, not listed here.

Best interest of Independents: Get your movie on as many venues as possible, and advertise.

CreateSpace distributes through DVDs. https://www.createspace.com/pub/l/video_value.do?rewrite=true&ref=292345&utm_id=5019.

Online Distribution sites for Independents: Filmon at http://www.filmon.com/, and Fandor at http://www.fandor.com/ and Movieflix at http://www.movieflix.com/ are some of many sites which distribute movies online through a subscription model. They do not advertise except to inform their subscription base.

Distribber, at http://www.distribber.com/ offers a method to get your movie offered on many VOD distribution sites, such as iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the cable and teleco VOD services. Distribution depends on their acceptance of the movie.

inmoo at http://www.inmoo.com/ now www.LatinEverywhere.com., distributes online, and advertises through social media.  

Openfilm at http://www.openfilm.com/. "Openfilm is a technology company and online community of film lovers and filmmakers working together to change the way independent film is discovered, financed and distributed." Submit to participating festivals via the site, the option to sell mobile versions, and the ability to opt in or out of banner ads, accept donations, syndicate your work to third party distributions platforms, and sell digital versions of content. Board members include James Caan and Robert Duvall.

Netflix®, at http://www.netflix.com, will pay independents for their movies. Their deals are private, but suspicions of low $ are supported by anecdotal information like these articles: http://www.filmmakingstuff.com/sell-a-movie-to-netflix/, while some movies do get better $. Opportunities for Independents at Netflix are getting fewer: http://www.indiewire.com/article/the_death_of_indies_on_netflix_greatly_exaggerated_or_just_another_mistake/#

SimplyMe® (SimplyMe.tv) http://www.simplyme.tv/ and SimplyMe Corp. offers a complete package, and has "...distribution deals with national networks, such as Comcast, Dish Network, NBC...." It recruits advertisers, targets consumers, and assists in an advertising program. From CEO Krystol Cameron: "We accept all media no matter the length. We want small companies to grow, which is why all of our agreements are non-exclusive for additional syndicative penetration.

The only one time cost involved is $100 per piece of media...and the content can stay up on Dish Network VOD for a full year. For anyone interested in their own VOD sub-channel, we can provide that at $2,500 per month or more depending on what they'd like to do."

Krystol can be reached at 860-799-2040 x2.

Sundance Selects is a leading U.S. distributor of prestige films that focuses on American independents, documentaries and world cinema

SUNDANCE SELECTS is a new theatrical and video-on-demand film label that provides a national platform for independent film in the documentary and world cinema categories. Sundance Selects marks the first time a transactional on-demand platform has existed for feature documentary films and will be available in approximately 40 million homes on most major cable systems including Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Time Warner, plus the satellite provider Direct TV.

"The hallmark of the Sundance brand is creating an environment of discovery, for both artists and for audiences," said Sundance founder Robert Redford. "Sundance nurtures new, independent voices in the creative realm, and is committed to bringing their work to larger audiences in new ways. Sundance Selects is a perfect complement to this mission and I am really energized about working with Sundance Channel and Rainbow Media on this new venture."

Vuier® (pronounced vyoo-er), at http://www.vuier.com/. "Upload. Set Price. Broadcast. Maximize your earnings potential by sharing your video content on Vuier. Set your own price on your videos for as low as pennies per minute, store as much content as you'd like, and embed our video player anywhere you want. The more people that stream your content on Vuier the greater your earnings."

Vudu, at http://www.vudu.com, is Walmart's distribution site on the Internet. Vudu apparently will do partnership agreements to distribute pre-theatrical release movies. The terms aren't known, but the viewing price is around $12.00 (much above the regular price of movies released to DVD).

Articles:

Blip TV, at http://blip.tv, "give original web series a home on the Internet."

More on how to distribute your own movie at eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/videos-on_3119_distribute-indie-film.html 

Prepping Your Film For Distribution - How to make the transition from the editing room to the marketplace - article on the independent.

Related article on Independent-Magazine.org: Download This: The Future of Distribution is Just a Click Away http://www.independent-magazine.org/08/03/future-distribution 

Video: Secrets to Distribution Part1 with Jerome Courshon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNYaBPLdkJ8 

Books

Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul-Case Studies in hybrid, DIY and P2P independent film distribution Presented by PreScreen at Selling Your Film.com.

Think Outside The Box Office.com

The Film Collaborative is a good resource is for more specific information.

Best of luck with the distributor you choose!

- Dorian

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Reference

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Companies mentioned, or commonly mentioned on this Web site:

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Fandango℠ is a proprietary service mark of Fandango, Inc.
FIos® is a Registered Trademark of Verizon Trademark Service
HBO® is Registered Trademark of Home Box Office, Inc.
HULU® is Registered Trademark of HULU®, LLC.
iTunes® is a Registered Trademark of Apple®
Moviefone® and Moviefone.com® are Registered Service Marks of AOL Inc.
MOVIES.COM® is a Registered Trademark of Fandango, Inc.
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NETFLIX® is a Registered Trademark of NETFLIX®, INC.
NIKON® is a Registered Trademark of Nikon Corporation
Panasonic® is a Registered Trademark of Panasonic Corporation
REDBOX® is a Registered Trademark of Redbox Automated Retail, LLC
RightsFlow® is a registered trademark of RightsFlow Inc.
ROKU® is a Registered Word Mark of Roku, Inc.
Sony® is a Registered Word Mark of Sony Corporation
SIMPLYME® is a Registered Service Mark of S4ME, Inc.
Sundance Institute is not trademarked, but is used since 1981 by Sundance Institute, which hosts the Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Channel® is a Registered trademark of Sundance Enterprises, Inc.
TiVo® is a Registered trademarks of TiVo Inc.
vuier® is Registered Trademark of Vuier, Inc.
VUDU™ is a trademark of VUDU, Inc.
XBOX® is Registered Trademark of Microsoft Corporation.
YouTube® is a Registered Trademark and Service Mark of Google, Inc.
Any trademark not listed out of oversight is a Trademark or Registered Trademark of it's respective owner.

Mention of any business or movie in this article is not intended to endorse, disparage, or favor any business.

Movie names that are mentioned are not given reference citations. This is because numerous studios are involved in production, and they then assign distribution rights to multiple distributors, and these rights can be sold to other distributors. For production and distribution information on any movie mentioned, consult the Internet Movie Database, or other authoritative listing.

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