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© 2011 Film Distributors’ Association Ltd. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form by any means or for any purpose without the express prior permission of FDA. FDA thanks all contributors to this revised and updated edition of the Guide, which supersedes all previous editions. Information correct at time of going to press but subject to change.

ion 2012 t u ib r t is d to UK film

ion 2012 t u ib r t is d to UK film

Designed and printed in England for Film Distributors’ Association by Wham Media Ltd

contents Foreword by David Oyelowo


The role of distribution by Lord Puttnam CBE


Distributors connect films with audiences




Planning a release


Film marketing and publicity


Licensing films to exhibitors


The wider picture


Working in film distribution


About Film Distributors’ Association


UK film and cinema factsheet


Contact FDA



 Leaping into box-office action: Rowan Atkinson blasts back into cinemas for the October 2011 half-term in the comedy spy thriller, Johnny English Reborn. Eight years after his first big screen appearance, the unorthodox secret agent aims to rehabilitate himself in MI-7 by protecting the Chinese premier from a group of international assassins. Directed by Oliver Parker, the film’s cast includes Rosamund Pike, Gillian Anderson, Dominic West and Ben Miller.


foreword by David Oyelowo

I have always loved the cinema for its capacity to bring heroes to life. Heroes of all kinds – pilots, pirates, doctors, detectives, kings and queens – some possessing special powers, others with deep-rooted flaws. It may be their eternal destiny, or they may be ordinary folk thrust into extraordinary situations. In any event, the cinema makes you want to be the hero, to join in their larger-than-life adventures, reminding you who you are, were or could yet be. I love working in the movies, there’s no medium or experience quite like it. I’ve enjoyed playing many contrasting roles from The Last King of Scotland to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help to Red Tails, with The Paperboy and others out in 2012. Those three simple words – “out in 2012” – are easy to gloss over or take for granted. In a way, rightly so: what matters most are the film and the experience of seeing it. But the very fact that you’ve picked up this FDA guide suggests that you have some interest in finding out how the film industry works. Between the “film” and the “experience” lies a vital part of our industry – the distribution engine, which aims to attract you, the all-important audience, to new releases week by week. Distributors work hard – the heroes behind the scenes? – to convey every title as distinct and compelling entertainment. This involves an array of risks and challenges, and without the skills to meet them, there’d be no film industry. Please read on. See you at the movies! David Oyelowo



the role of distribution Introduction by Lord Puttnam of Queensgate CBE, President of Film Distributors’ Association

Movies are capable of enriching pretty well every aspect of our lives. They retain an extraordinary power to amaze as much as amuse us. Beyond that, they influence the games we enjoy, the music we play, and they inspire the fashions and advertising images that spring up all around us. FDA/Getty Images

But films can have an impact, both commercial and social, only to the extent that they truly connect with their audience. Like any other product, films only come to life when they invade the consciousness of the citizens – consumers – for whom they were intended. It is the task of distributors to identify and deliver the largest possible audience for every film. This is no small task, particularly when so many other entertainment options are available both inside and outside the home; and that is in addition to the 500 or more titles released in UK cinemas every year. But research confirms that most cinemagoers know in advance which film they want to see – and that’s principally due to competing distributors’ efforts to promote interest in the title(s) they are handling.

Tailor-made, audience-focused distribution is, and will remain, vital to the prospects of individual films, and to the industry as a whole, whatever the medium or format in question. Every element of the communications and entertainment industry has been – and is – undergoing rapid change. The advent of ‘digital’ in the cinema sector has not merely resulted in a change of format, with d-cinema succeeding the long-standing 35mm presentation, but it has had a transformative impact. Digital has remodelled the ways in which films are released, promoted and consumed, and it is reshaping the kind of entertainment centre that a modern cinema can be. Yet a few fundamentals remain rock-solid. Sharing great stories has always been part of human nature, and filmed stories look, sound and feel their very best in the cinema. During the continual changes and challenges of recent years, UK cinema-going has been remarkably resilient. In fact when compared to many other sectors, it has remained positively buoyant, thanks in no small measure to the inability of any other medium to match the immersive experience that the cinema offers. With this guide, you can look through the eyes (or lens!) of a distributor and consider how you might launch a film. What sort of business considerations would you take into account, and what are the key decisions you must weigh up? It’s my most sincere hope that you enjoy exploring the essential life of a film beyond its production phase, and that this brief insight will make you want to discover even more.



distributors connect films with audiences “As a filmmaker, I know only too well that films do not exist for their own sakes… they only exist when they are experienced by an audience.” Sir Alan Parker CBE


More than a century after it was invented, the cinema has accumulated a phenomenal heritage. Year after year, around the world, a wonderful spectrum of stories is created through the camera. Audiences can experience them at their best in the cinema, feeling immersed in larger-thanlife adventures quite unlike anywhere else.

But did you know that, right at the heart of the film industry, there’s a dynamic sector working to deliver the largest possible audience to every new release? This is the distribution sector.

❯ identifying its audience ❯ considering why they’d go and see it ❯ estimating the revenue potential across all the formats of its release ❯ developing plans and partnerships to build awareness of and interest in the film ❯ aiming to convert as much interest as possible into cinema visits ❯ persuading exhibitors (cinema operators) to play the film Like other forms of entertainment, the film business is product-driven: the films themselves are the main reason for buying tickets. There’s an insatiable, deep-rooted desire for great stories on screen as well as in print. But today more than ever, consumers call the shots, deciding for themselves what information or ‘content’ to receive or reject, access or delete.

The National Magazine Company

There’s never been a better time to be a film fan. The digital age brings more choice than ever. And with so much information available, you may have read or heard a great deal about actors and filmmakers. You may be familiar with local cinemas and many movie websites. You may appreciate that some films influence our culture, shaping the ways we see ourselves and the world around us.

A campaign as bold as the film itself: From a screenplay by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, Steven Spielberg directed the groundbreaking, digitally animated family adventure, The Adventures of Tintin (2011). Featuring motioncapture performances by Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis, the film reflects the look of the original stories by Belgian comics writer, Hergé. Daniel Craig, who also starred in David Fincher’s film of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and will return as James Bond in autumn 2012, worked to promote his releases via fresh interviews and magazine photoshoots (such as for Esquire below). Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg also directed the liveaction adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, scripted by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, and released in cinemas in January 2012.

What distributors do Distribution is the highly competitive business of launching and sustaining films in the market place. Films don’t become talking points, or find their place in the world, by accident. The distributor’s challenge is to bring each one to market by:


Times Newspapers Ltd


The film value chain Around the world, feature films usually open first in cinemas. A cinema release remains the most effective way to bestow stature on a film and create demand to see it. Filmmakers aspire to have their stories showcased in cinemas where they have their greatest impact and where audiences can share a uniquely immersive, uninterrupted experience. Great content coupled with a great experience has always been a winning formula! In an age when we’re bombarded with digital media choices, the cinema presents films with a vital shop window. The profile raised on a theatrical launch can endure and reap dividends throughout a film’s release cycle, influencing the commercial value the film subsequently commands. The cinema may be the first, important, link in the value chain, but it’s not the only one. Audiences crave choice, quality and convenience in every walk of life and film distributors’ integrated business plans must take account of all the screens on which any given title may be viewed. After an initial run in cinemas, films are released in fluid patterns across a range of other formats so consumers may choose how, when and where to watch:

The rise of digital services: For more than a decade, films on DVD have been a highly popular form of home entertainment (see page 35). Now films may be accessed and watched via an increasing range of pristine quality digital platforms, at home and on the move. The UK’s video entertainment market is very valuable, generating more than £5 billion year in retail sales including computer games/accessories and DVD/Blu-Ray discs. Newspapers including The Sunday Times (left) and other blue-chip brand partners such as Orange have sought to boost the digital market by offering free downloads of movies to millions of customers.

❯ digital home entertainment – films are made available to download or stream on-demand from online stores and are packaged for retail (DVD and Blu-Ray) ❯ then, various forms of pay-per-view / subscription television ❯ finally, free-to-air television. A multitude of TV channels include films in their programming and library titles may be scheduled repeatedly year after year In releasing films and delivering their audiences to cinemas and stores, distributors are the vital linchpin of the ‘value chain’ that drives the entire film industry. Team effort Creative, commercial and professional skills are needed in all branches of the film business, including distribution. The chart on page 9 outlines the overall lifecycle of a film:

Producer/company acquires rights to film a story or treatment Screenplay is developed by one or more writers Production finance and cast and crew are confirmed Principal photography takes place, in studios and/or on agreed locations, followed by some months of post-production, editing and scoring

Distributors share and discuss their release plans with:

9 Distributor develops release strategy, considers release date, and takes delivery of a master print of the finished film Distributor presents the film to exhibitors and negotiates bilateral agreements to have it shown in cinemas

❯ filmmakers and producers, who are likely to have nurtured their projects for years through the development and production stages ❯ cinema exhibitors who present the finished films on their screens

Distributor’s marketing campaign aims to create a ‘want to see’ buzz among the target audience and launches the film

❯ a host of external partners and suppliers such as publicists, designers and media agencies

Film prints including the British Board of Film Classification certificate are delivered to cinemas a few days before opening

This generic guide to UK distribution focuses on how films are launched in cinemas.

Film’s run extends any number of weeks subject to demand, which may be augmented by additional marketing Following its run in cinemas, the film is released in other formats (home entertainment, television) and quickly becomes a catalogue title


acquisition As films are creative works – intellectual property rather than physical goods – their copyright is owned by the people or organisations that produce or finance them. Copyright systems entitle creators to receive a fair return for the risks they take in innovation and investment. In bringing films to market, distributors act under license on their behalf.

UK distributors obtain the films they release from one or more of various sources: ❯ a third-party sales agent, acting on behalf of a producer

Distributors recognise the importance of local product. British audiences naturally warm to good quality British films, Irish audiences to Irish stories (such as The Guard, a hit in 2011), and so on. STUDIOCANAL

A distributor’s opinion on a film’s marketability may, and really should, be sought even before it goes into production. Generally it’s preferable for a distribution deal to be in place before principal photography begins. This may be viable on the basis of a hot script, director and anticipated cast.

❯ a continuous flow of new content from a parent studio ❯ a studio or production company with whom the distributor has negotiated an


output deal covering a slate of titles ❯ a single title acquired at any stage before, during or after production As in other countries, the UK has half a dozen major distributors (directly affiliated to the Hollywood studios) and many independent (unaffiliated) distributors who tend to handle films made outside the major studios. Any local distributor of whatever ownership may compete to pick up a film with available rights, so competition to sign a hot property can be fierce. When considering acquiring a new film, distributors will look for distinguishing features that may help sell it to audiences. Is there something original or outstanding? A fresh idea or ‘hook’ that could be a springboard for a marketing or publicity campaign?

A film’s marketability (how it can be promoted to its particular audience) and playability (how it actually performs in the market place) are not necessarily the same thing. Who is the target audience – who does the film ‘speak to’ most of all, plus who else might be attracted? Do the story, characters and situation grip the intended audience? Does the film ‘deliver’ and justify the costs of a theatrical release?

Not for turning: The Iron Lady reunited Phyllida Lloyd and Meryl Streep, director and star of Mamma Mia! The Movie (2008). Released in UK cinemas in January 2012, it is the extraordinary story of Margaret Thatcher (British Prime Minister 1979–90) and the price she paid for power. Jim Broadbent, Richard E Grant, Anthony Head, Roger Allam and Nicholas Farrell joined the strong cast. 20th Century Fox/Pathé

❯ pre-sales to distributors in various territories via a specialist sales agent


❯ bank loans (subject to prevailing economic conditions) ❯ institutional investors ❯ private individuals ❯ beneficial tax schemes (from HM Revenue & Customs) ❯ public subsidies (the available National Lottery funding for film is awarded by the British Film Institute – see The distribution deal Distributors sign a formal contract with the producer, sales agent or studio, specifying the rights they hold in respect of the title. These normally include the right to release it in UK cinemas and promote it in all media before and during its release. There may also be provision for the film to be edited locally (or not) in order to

A note on film financing No fixed formulae apply to film financing or advances. Each case is affected by variables such as the film property itself, the script, cast and market conditions.

secure a particular classification. The contract will set out how the income from the release is to be apportioned and accounted for, and set a date on which the distribution license expires. Distributors normally seek to acquire all available rights in their particular territory, spreading the risk and opportunity across multiple platforms. So importantly, in addition to the theatrical window, the contract usually includes the further right to license the film for online viewing and to UK broadcasters. If, however, a broadcaster has contributed to the financing of a film, it is likely to have pre-secured TV rights as part of the deal, in which case the rights available to a distributor would extend only to theatrical and home entertainment media. Some theatrical distributors do not handle distribution in other formats, but they will have sister companies or business partners that do so.


The larger the production budget, the more likely a film is to have a distributor signed up before all its financing is confirmed; indeed, no distribution pre-sales may make it harder to finance a new production from other sources. In practice, producers tend to seek finance from multiple sources, including:

Often a distributor becomes a partner in a project, contributing to its development / production costs and later bringing it to market. In some cases, the distributor may pay an advance / minimum guarantee against future earnings to the producer or sales agent. An advance commitment is made for the distribution license rights plus the costs of theatrical prints and advertising (P&A).  Panda-monium: Kung Fu Panda 2, with Jack Black again voicing the title character, Po, was a big hit in cinemas worldwide in 2011. The digitally animated sequel grossed in excess of $650 million, with around one-quarter of that total coming from the US/Canada boxoffice and three-quarters from the rest of the world. Animated films, often created and presented in 3D, attract broad audiences to cinemas in the UK, where the top-grossing animated film of all time to date is Toy Story 3 (2010).


Distributors prepare reports for the producer or rights owner, detailing the marketing spend, together with forecast and actual theatrical revenues. As laid down in the distribution contract, such reports are submitted at least quarterly in the first year following launch and usually twice yearly thereafter.

13 Golden Wonder / Tayto Group / Entertainment

Evening Standard

Market congestion Individual distributors may release any number of films, sometimes just one or two, or as many as 25–30 a year. A typical week sees around ten new films opening in UK cinemas. Inevitably, with well over 500 releases a year competing for screen time, media space and audience interest, the market place is highly competitive, churning, chopping and changing all too quickly. Film distribution is a risky business!

 Real pulling power: The Inbetweeners transferred from TV (on E4 since 2008) to the big screen in 2011. Directed by Ben Palmer, the movie is the self-contained, coming of age story of four everyday 18 year-olds who leave school and head off to Malia for their first lads’ summer holiday without the parents. A home-grown British match for the gross-out teen comedy of, say, American Pie. The Inbetweeners Movie set a new opening record for a British comedy, generating £13.2m at the UK box-office in its first five days (starting with Orange Wednesday, 17 August 2011). Its smash-hit run continued: by the third week of release, for example, more than 5m people had seen the film in a UK cinema.


planning a release analyse compare and contrast discuss and decide implement monitor and report

Every film has its own tailor-made distribution plan, which the distributor develops in consultation with the producers and/or studio as appropriate. The most important strategic decisions a distributor makes are when and how to release a film in order to optimise its chances. Through a combination of market knowledge, commercial experience, statistical research and professional judgement, distributors gauge the audience for each film and set clear targets for the release. Who can be convinced to buy a cinema ticket to see it and why should they do so? Can the film be positioned within a popular, recognisable genre? What sort of audiences have similar films attracted recently? When were they released? When distributors have estimated what a film may earn, they prepare a budget to release it (see page 19). As with every business plan, the goal is to recoup the costs and turn a profit. But launching films is expensive and risky – audiences have so many other choices – and in reality, most films do not make a profit from their theatrical runs alone. When planning a new release, relying solely on conventional wisdom is never an option. Early information can be gleaned by reading the script and from discussions with the filmmakers, but every release is a one-off and individually planned given current circumstances. Sometimes final distribution plans may be confirmed only when the finished film is available to view.

The distribution risk Audience tastes are notoriously unpredictable and traditional preferences may not count for much in practice. Nobody can be absolutely sure what makes a hit, or when and where it might happen. Notwithstanding the best made plans, cinemagoers discover particular films they like or dislike when they open.


Market research may be conducted to probe audience reactions at pre-release test screenings or to evaluate alternative marketing campaigns – fundamental considerations for every release. Test screenings, after which the viewers complete questionnaires, can help the distributor to be more confident of the expected audience or box-office prospects. Occasionally a film becomes a ‘sleeper’ hit, playing for longer and generating greater returns than expected. But just because one romantic comedy or action adventure plays successfully to a particular audience is no guarantee that the next such release will do likewise: it depends on the individual film and market conditions. When planning a release, distributors avoid pre-conceptions or assumptions and seek to try new things, but they know it’s well nigh impossible to entice people to a film in which they have no interest. Inevitably, as it’s such an unpredictable, product-driven business, each distributor’s earnings, market share and profitability fluctuate year by year, reflecting the success or otherwise of individual titles across all platforms.


We like it hot: Simon Curtis directed Michelle Williams (above) as Marilyn Monroe, Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier and Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh in this delicious account of the tense relationship between Olivier and Monroe during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). Shot in London, My Week with Marilyn (2011) was based on the memoirs of Colin Clark, Monroe’s assistant at the time. Its powerhouse cast also includes Dame Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Eddie Redmayne and Dougray Scott.


Focus on the audience A detailed understanding of the target audience – age group and gender, but also lifestyles, social networks, media consumption patterns – always informs the subsequent decisions on how and where a particular film is promoted.

Although a majority of 15–25 year-olds visit the cinema at least once a month, overall just a quarter of the population goes that often. But the cinema audience is broadening as the population ages and diversifies, and adults aged 35+ account for a growing share of ticket sales.

Naturally the audience can vary considerably film by film, for example from families with young children to teenage males and/or females to older adults, or sometimes a combination. Individual films may appeal to people with particular interests – say in history, cars, particular locations or authors – and these groups can become important ‘opinion formers’ for a film’s release. Generally, UK cinemagoers are upmarket, especially for more specialised fare, while cinemagoing is a shared experience with an average of 3 people per party.

The average number of cinema visits per person in the UK works out at 2.7 a year, up from barely one a year at the low point of the mid-1980s. Yet this is still a lower frequency than in other countries such as Ireland, Australia, the US and Canada, and the industry is working to encourage more visits.

It’s important never to lose sight of a film’s core target audience. But the distributor’s challenge is always to attract as wide a spread as possible, identifying niche interest groups too and ideally helping a film to ‘break out’ and ‘cross over’. The most frequent cinemagoers tend to be aged 15–25 – for teenagers, students and young adults, the cinema is a favourite out-of-home leisure activity. Digital media, including social network sites, mobiles, games, TVs and multiplex cinemas, tend to occupy central roles in their lives – they are the most voracious media consumers of any age group.

The better a film performs at the box-office, the more likely it is to be attracting infrequent cinemagoers and repeat visits. It’s a function of the market that the more a film is aimed at an audience beyond 15–25s or families – perhaps an older, more discerning segment who don’t frequent cinemas as much – the more outstanding it has to be to sustain a theatrical life. Infrequent cinemagoers tend not to come out for the opening weekend but wait until later, raising the challenge to distributors to sustain the run in cinemas. The competitive jungle As well as the target audience, what other factors do distributors take into account when developing their release plans and assessing their risk?

❯ Competition is always a primary consideration. Which films are other distributors likely to release at the same time and during the following weeks – especially those targeted at a similar audience? Is there space in the market for something different – some ‘counter-programming’? Are the most appropriate 2D and/or 3D screens for this film available and likely to be offered? Projected release dates often change as competing distributors jockey for position week by week. ❯ Is it an event film, a prospective mass market blockbuster, or a specialised film for a more discrete audience? ❯ Is there any star power among the cast? What were the lead star’s last couple of films and how were they received commercially and critically? Is the film made by a ‘name’ director or producer? ❯ Are any cast members available for UK/international publicity or to attend a premiere? ❯ Will the film lead the media reviews of that week’s new releases? This profile can be very important for more specialised films.

❯ Is it a film for a holiday period? If so, which season? School holiday dates vary around the UK, and with those in other countries. What kinds of films have been released successfully in particular slots in previous years? ❯ Is it a film with hopes for award nominations? Contenders for the Academy Awards®, Golden Globes and Orange British Academy Film Awards often open in the UK between December–February, when the annual awards season reaches its peak, although this can cause a bottleneck in an already congested release schedule. ❯ Is there a buzz about the film, due to its stars or makers, a book on which it is based, an early festival screening that attracted attention, or perhaps some controversial subject matter? What is posted about the film online? ❯ If it is a sequel or franchise entry, what elements distinguish it and add contemporary resonance over and above its predecessor(s)? ❯ Has the film already opened elsewhere? Substantial success in the US, reported via websites and other media, can contribute to positive word of mouth in the UK – although this can work both ways, as a disappointing performance overseas may adversely affect perceptions here. ❯ What certificate will the film have (see the five theatrical categories above right)? The certificate awarded by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is important as it can affect the potential audience. Distributors submit a copy of each film to the BBFC for classification as soon as possible, paying a fee according to the film’s length. You’ll find consumer advice about the content included in a panel on the film’s advertising and at The BBFC celebrates its centenary in 2012.

17 Satisfying anticipated demand Different releases are managed in different ways. For example, a saturation release ‘at cinemas everywhere’ may open simultaneously on 1,000 screens UKwide, playing at two or more screens per multiplex. This strategy, usually deployed for ‘tentpole’ titles such as large-scale sequels or star-led holiday releases, helps to accommodate mass audiences eager to see a film at the earliest opportunity. By contrast, specialised films offer a different cinematic experience. The UK release of, say, a documentary, foreign language film or revived classic may comprise 25 prints or fewer. Initially, it may play in selected locations where local audiences are known to favour such titles before potentially touring more widely in subsequent weeks. Very exceptionally, a film might be ‘platformed’ in a single location before rolling out – whatever strategy is judged best to suit a particular release. Most films are released in the UK on fewer than 100 prints. London, with an increasingly diverse population of 7.5m people, accounts for about a quarter of UK cinema admissions, although only 15% of screens are situated in the capital.

The digital transformation For many years, films were released in cinemas on 35mm celluloid prints – which whirred through projectors on reels. Today’s industry standard is digital, with no celluloid involved. For a digital release, specially encoded media files containing the film are delivered to cinemas either on a hard drive or via a satellite link. At the cinema, the files are ingested into a powerful server and played out through a state-of-the-art digital projector. Digital prints are significantly less expensive to duplicate than 35mm copies, and the hard drives can be reused. Park Circus


Park Circus

The digital images appear on screen in pristine quality and do not deteriorate over time – there is no wear and tear or scratches, as was inevitable with 35mm projection machinery. Digital remastering – though time-consuming and costly – enables classic films such as Kes and The African Queen (left) to return to the big screen looking as good as new. Digital cinema is transformative, involving much more than merely a change of format. New releasing and programming opportunities become available to film distributors and cinema operators respectively. Digital enables cinemas to redefine themselves as modern entertainment centres able to present sports, operas, live concerts, shows and other events to local communities. This means films must be scheduled in smarter, more flexible ways to reach their maximum potential audience Digital projectors may be adapted easily to show content in 3D. 3D can enhance some films dramatically with a spectacular, laser-sharp viewing experience, and more and more films – live-action and animation – are released in 3D as well as 2D.

Budgeting the release As early as possible, the distributor views the finished film and confirms the release plan. UK distributors, who pay all the release costs including marketing and making prints, draw up a detailed budget covering both the launch and sustaining of the film postrelease. The investment and projected returns can be reassessed subject to commercial performance week by week. A theatrical distribution budget may be itemised as shown opposite (page 19). Total UK distribution expenditure can vary from some thousands of pounds up to £4m–£5m per film. Worldwide, a film that cost $100–150m to produce can cost a further $100m+ to release – and as all this is committed before any income materialises, the stakes are high. In co-ordinating all these campaign elements, often for several different releases at a time, distributors must exercise formidable project management skills. Whereas it’s possible for a fine film to get lost in the mêlée without careful handling and distinct promotion, even inspired marketing can’t save a film for which the public has no appetite.

Cost category Film certification fee (payable to the BBFC) Digital cinema prints Digital Master cost No. digital prints in 2D and (if any) 3D Duplication cost Cost of encoding/encryption applications (including generating the codes needed to ‘unlock’ the digital files in the cinema servers to enable the film to play) Digital trailer costs Transport to cinemas Other digital costs / charges Prints in other formats (if any) No. and cost of 35mm prints No. and cost of IMAX® prints Trailer print costs Transport to cinemas Media (pre-launch, launch and sustain) TV advertising Outdoor advertising Press/print advertising Online advertising Radio advertising Social media profiles Other media costs


Cost category continued Sub-total (£) (brought forward) Publicity Press screenings Talker screenings Premiere, if any Visiting talent travel, accommodation and hospitality; junket venue hire Festival screenings/travel PR agency fees & expenses Press kits Other publicity costs Campaign production Film poster design Poster printing Print advertising production TV spots production Radio spots production Film trailer production Subtitles/audio description tracks Content for UK film website(s) Foyer POS display items origination & print Promotional leaflets/flyers, if any Other production costs

Promotions On-air media promotion(s) Contribution to any retail partner/other promotion(s)

Other Research screening/exit polling, if any Additional materials (specify) Couriers, copying, incidental expenses Contingency

Sub-total (£) (carried forward)

Total (£)




film marketing and publicity “We filmmakers rely greatly on our professional distribution colleagues to navigate the most advantageous path for our products into and through the brutally competitive market place. Having worked with many distribution teams, I’ve long admired the brilliant designers who can condense a feature film into a single poster image, distinguishing it memorably from the pack. Likewise the skilled media and publicity planners, who can devise effective campaigns that inspire people to see a particular new release.� Tim Bevan CBE, Co-Chair, Working Title Films


Complementing the distribution plan, every film has a detailed marketing plan. The marketing objective is to create visibility, raise awareness and engage interest, cutting through the blizzard of competing messages. Distributors must compete for a significant share of voice not only against other distributors but also other leisure activities. However large or small the marketing budget, audiences must be reached in compelling ways and in environments where they are most receptive to communication. They should be persuaded that this is an especially entertaining, must see film. Their interest should peak as it opens in cinemas. Word of mouth Social recommendation is key – a personal recommendation from a friend, colleague, relative or trusted online community can be the most powerful stimulus for a cinema visit. Pre-requisite for favourable ‘word of mouth’ are high levels of awareness and strong interest. Negative word

of mouth is extremely difficult to overcome. Post-release, hopefully, a combination of positive buzz and further advertising will give the film ‘legs’. Even for big hits, theatrical runs rarely exceed 6–8 weeks, and can last much less. But distributors’ campaigns are generally effective as most cinemagoers know in advance which film(s) they want to see before setting off for the cinema.

Film posters may be created by the studio or sales agent (as applicable) and rolled out internationally or adapted for use locally. Alternatively, they may be devised in the UK from scratch, depending on what approved materials are available and how the film is best positioned for local audiences. A poster is produced for every release, in quad format (the traditional UK size of 30” x 40”, landscape orientation) or onesheet format (the US equivalent with similar dimensions, portrait orientation).

When constructing a campaign, distributors aim to reach as much of their target audience as possible, as frequently but costeffectively as possible. A variety of complementary ‘ad/pub’ (advertising, publicity and other) options is always considered: Poster The main image or artwork distilling the appeal and positioning of the film – its stars, genre, credits and often a tagline to whet audiences’ appetites. With often a dozen or more different posters on display in a cinema at any one time, distributors and their designers must work hard to make each one stand out.

Many months before release, an initial teaser poster may be created to announce that a film is coming and to whet the audience’s appetite.

Calling the shots: Richard Ayoade’s feature film directorial debut was the refreshing and acclaimed comedy drama, Submarine, released in 2011. One of its stars, Paddy Considine, went on to direct his own first film, the hard-hitting drama, Tyrannosaur. Starring Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman and Eddie Marsan, it scooped three prizes at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Paddy Considine is back before the cameras in 2012, appearing in Now is Good and Stainless Steel. STUDIOCANAL

Distributors also provide other display materials for cinema foyers – prime space for advertising current and future releases – such as cardboard standees, banners, window clings and mini-posters. As much of this material as possible is recycled after use.


Trailers Distributors usually have a range of audio-visual content to work with as they prepare campaigns, including film clips approved by the producers; making-of material shot on set during production; and one or more trailers. Probably the single most cost-effective marketing technique, trailers play both on the big screen to a captive audience of active cinemagoers and also online for any interested viewers.


Full trailers, screened shortly before a film opens, may be preceded by early teasers (typically up to 90 seconds). Specialist agencies or production companies are briefed by local distributors to create a trailer from the available material. Naturally, in aiming to sell the film, they want to include a representative glimpse of the most dramatic sequences but, early in the production, the editing and special effects will not be finished. Trailer making is a filmmaking art in its own right. Exhibitors, who programme their own screens, select trailers appropriate to the feature film before which they’re played. Distributors fund the duplication, and often the production, of trailers; a wide release will often have 2,000 copies circulated to cinemas. Sometimes trailers for new theatrical releases are added to the front of compatibly targeted DVDs too.

Online and mobile Fizzing with networks of film fans, the internet plays a pivotal role in shaping many cinemagoers’ perceptions of new releases. Most films have an official website – sometimes hosted by a partner company or social network site – offering trailers, stills galleries, production information and behind-the-scenes footage. The web helps distributors to start building awareness of a new film at an early stage. Even before principal photography begins, they may post updates online containing news snippets or teaser images, seeding interest among fans. During shooting, they may gradually accelerate the flow with video diaries or blogs from the set, so the core audience feels part of the filmmaking process. Sony

Walt Disney

Warner Bros.

Film clips are among the web’s most searched-for content, available across many sites. Ever more user-generated material, often including film or soundtrack grabs, draws comments on video sharing sites. Sometimes filmmakers and distributors invite ideas online and bloggers’ suggestions have been known to make it into finished films! Film distributor websites direct traffic to exhibitor sites where tickets may be purchased online. Members of databases receive weekly email reminders of the new films opening locally and occasionally also surveys and special offers.

The immediacy of social media The internet being a two-way street, the moment a film is screened, comments are shared instantly and constantly around the world, as online communities swap opinions and feedback in a galaxy of chat rooms. Not just opinions, but content too, can spread virally like wildfire via Facebook and Twitter, which have many millions of participants. Distributors are eager for their films to be part of the conversation in online networks, but word of mouth – or word of click! – trends ebb and flow very rapidly. A social media profile has become a must for every film! Paramount

Broadcast, ambient and print media Media proliferation and fragmentation have given all advertisers a multitude of options. For example, the UK has approximately 250,000 poster sites by the roadside or railway platforms, thousands of local newspapers and radio stations (each with their own websites), and hundreds of digital TV channels where advertising and promotions may be placed. Advertising placed on broadcast channels, outdoor panels and in the press is usually the largest expenditure item on a P&A budget. Television and outdoor can deliver ubiquity – relatively high coverage and frequency – to films and brands that advertise on them. Terrestrial television is traditionally the most effective visual means of reaching a mass audience. But TV advertising costs, running into many hundreds of thousands of pounds or more for a package of spots in all regions, are prohibitive for most film releases given their potential returns. Event films/blockbusters with top stars need heavy advertising spends to support their wide releases. But with limited budgets for any release, distributors try to work up fresh, inventive ways to target specific audiences. TV viewers often fast-forward through advertising that doesn’t quickly engage their interest. When planning their advertising schedules, distributors must bear in mind that different audiences react to advertising, and reach their decision to see a film, in different ways. Older audiences may respond best having seen the film advertised on television or in the press, while for younger audiences it’s more appropriate to promote it online and on radio stations or bus panels. UK film distributors currently invest £170m a year in media advertising alone to launch and sustain their releases. Television and outdoor, taken together, account for 70% of expenditure. Entertainment companies overall spend more than £0.5 billion on advertising each year.


Publicity As readers tend to accept independently-written news items more readily than paid-for advertising, editorial coverage of a film can be highly persuasive. But column space and airtime are limited, and the subject of heavy competition in their own right.


Film publicists compile press kits for journalists, containing cast and crew lists, biographies, notable facts about the production and a synopsis. It’s very important to have a selection of fine images from the film approved for publicity use, taken during production by a specially hired unit photographer. All these materials are disseminated via online pressrooms and distributors pro-actively devise ‘hooks’ or ‘angles’ for feature articles and media promotions. What are the key themes of the film and what will get people talking about it? ShortList/Paramount

ShortList/20th Century Fox

The publicity team, frequently supported by specialist agencies, arranges media interviews with available members of the film’s cast, and chaperones artists visiting the UK for junkets or premieres. Creative talent and filmakers tend to have very tight schedules and they may only be in the UK for a few hours. Many digital channels and outlets are interested in entertainment news and features – the more the film’s talent is willing and able to support the worldwide publicity effort, the better! Screenings for national critics are normally held on the Friday, Monday and Tuesday before a film opens to the public; those for journalists with longer lead-times are scheduled further in advance. Although positive reviews are no guarantee of commercial success, critics’ plaudits can still be important in helping to distinguish and champion certain films, and extracts are often included in advertising. Universal

Warner Bros.

We’ve got it covered: Captain America and Rise of the Planet of the Apes were among the summer 2011 action thrillers, skewing towards male audiences, promoted via the cover of ShortList, the free weekly men’s magazine. That summer, Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids and Todd Phillips’s The Hangover: Part II were two of the comedies that achieved blockbuster status and some plaudits from reviewers.

Awards buzz: The build up to the major awards (see page 17) is an important time for publicists promoting the films vying for consideration. The season of mounting speculation lasts up to five months before the Oscars®, and costly trade campaigns unfold to secure voters’ attention to particular titles, performances and craft contributions. Shortlists of nominations are announced 3–4 weeks prior to the presentation ceremonies, which deliver global profile and prestige. Set visits: As with any product development, the film production process is conducted confidentially behind studio doors or on guarded locations. Film sets are normally strictly closed to the public. But distributors may have valuable opportunities to visit the set, especially of UK-based productions, along with key journalists, exhibitors or marketing partners. In making such visits, arrangements will be made with the unit publicists and producers.


Promotional partnerships Depending on the film’s theme and target audience, the distributor will endeavour to arrange promotional partnerships. Such tie-ins generate displays for the film in places where conventional advertising cannot reach such as shops, restaurants or on packs. They also enable customers to interact with the film characters by collecting premium items or entering a competition. Importantly, too, tie-in advertising under license by a promotional partner or a brand with product placement in a film can add substantial weight to the distributor’s own campaign.

Flying high: Set in Brazil, Rio (2011) was a colourful, energetic animated adventure written and directed by Carlos Saldanha, a creator of the smash-hit Ice Age series. With the fourth Ice Age film coming to cinemas in 2012, a UK promotion in Gap clothing stores celebrating Rio’s release offered as its exceptional star prize the chance to record a character voice track for Ice Age 4. 20th Century Fox

Merchandising Many releases, particularly family films, have merchandising programmes co-ordinated by the film company or an external consultancy. Manufacturers may be licensed to use approved logo devices, images or character likenesses on specific products, normally in exchange for an advance fee set against subsequent royalty payments.

Media promotions, placed on an appropriate channel or publication, can make effective use of film merchandise or location holidays as prizes. Such exposure helps to stretch the film campaign and create additional talking points. Walt Disney


Tie-in merchandise can embrace toys (below), action figures, ringtones, clothing, stationery, calendars, anything. Films regularly have official soundtracks, games and books, which can generate significant revenues in their own right.

Occasionally, a film becomes a ubiquitous event, saturating the media as well as appearing in advertising, partner campaigns and other outlets. It may develop into a popular cultural phenomenon and become an international news item. That audiences worldwide can take a new set of characters to their hearts, often within a very short period of time, indicates how powerful and influential a storytelling medium the movies can be. Premieres and experiences Perceived as glamorous and exclusive, but painstaking and expensive to organise! Distributors’ publicists organise premieres as an official launch for a film, reflecting an event stature and providing a platform for photo opportunities and red carpet interviews. At premieres, fans can enjoy exceptionally close access to film stars and collect autographs and photos.

Star-studded premieres and after-show parties are covered by celebrity publications and news media, and often transmitted worldwide. A gala screening in aid of charity can raise a substantial sum via ticket sales and donations, while from the distributor’s professional perspective the main goal of a premiere is to give the film a high-profile, entertaining launch, boosting the all-important buzz factor. Most premieres in the UK – around 50 a year – take place in London’s Leicester Square, which has recently had a substantial make-over.

In addition to premieres, distributors may consider other ‘experiental events’ where fans and visitors can interact with the film characters or situations, for example via touring displays in shopping centres or themed presentations at movie conventions. Ideally these activities are bigscale but essentially simple, and able to Entertaining the generations: Lego is a classic brand that refreshes its mass appeal by launching be delivered well new ranges themed to family movies, including Harry Potter, Star Wars, Cars 2 and Pirates of the at short notice. Caribbean (above). Danish-based Lego accounts for as much as 7% of global toy sales.

Preview screenings A useful way to fuel pre-release word of mouth among audience segments that the distributor wants to motivate to see the film. Preview screenings are targeted carefully, with tickets offered to readers of a particular print/online publication, or listeners of a radio programme, matching the film’s core audience.

Distributors sometimes choose to launch films at a suitable international festival, where critics and insiders may discover them and go on to champion them in early reviews and columns. The eyes of the film world and the mass media are focused on the leading festivals, such as Cannes (below) in May, which accommodates many premieres and junkets. Trade papers publish daily editions in print and online for industry members and journalists. Other important events in the international calendar include the American Film Market in Santa Monica, and the Mercato International Film e Documentario (MIFED) in Milan.

Sometimes a film is previewed widely to the public a few days before its official release date. This is a way to satisfy demand to see it as soon as possible and boost the opening box-office.


These festivals, each with their own personality, serve various functions: ❯ a market, where distributors seeking to acquire product may meet with sellers (agents, producers, studios); ❯ a competition, where new titles may be screened to juries of filmmakers and awarded prizes. Such accolades flashed on a film’s poster can add prestige but may also pigeon-hole it as ‘arty’; ❯ a high-profile platform where films can be showcased prior to release.

Dozens of film festivals take place around the UK, with a variety of themes and purposes. The top festivals, aimed mainly at public audiences in Edinburgh (summer) and London (autumn), showcase a panorama of new cinema from Britain and around the world but neither has a market attached.


Festivals There are dozens of busy film festivals in towns and cities worldwide, but the main annual events attended by thousands of international film buyers and sellers, and almost as many journalists, are presently at Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Venice and Toronto.

Tracking and refining Research companies working for the distributors track levels of awareness among younger/older, male/female audiences as a release date approaches. With four or five weeks to go there may be low awareness: each campaign is effectively a new product launch, generally running in the media for a few intense weeks.


Distributors hold weekly marketing meetings, reflecting on the films they have in current release and progressing plans for forthcoming titles. Some aspects of marketing, such as a major promotional partnership, can require a year’s lead-time, while others, such as running extra advertising to capitalise on good reviews or awards nominations/wins, may be turned around at very short notice.

Inspiring young audiences The film industry reaches out to young people – the next generation of filmmakers and film audiences – in various ways. For example, distributors may commission study resources themed to a new release, which is then offered to primary and secondary teachers as appropriate, for use in class. An organisation named Film Education also promotes schools’ use of local cinemas by arranging screenings for school parties, special events such as the annual National Schools Film Week, and teacher training seminars. Schools can also join a national Film Club scheme which supports film screenings on DVD out of lesson time. Film Education

Film Education/FDA

Film Education/FDA

Accessible cinema Hundreds of films are released each year with digital subtitles and audio description. New titles are made available to cinemas every week as a service to cinemagoers with less than perfect sight or hearing. Some film trailers are presented online in accessible formats too. Paramount




29 20th Century Fox

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Whenever you see these symbols (above) on a film advertisement, you’ll know that subtitles and audio description tracks have been produced for its release. Around 700 screenings of subtitled films, and many thousands of shows with audio description, take place in UK cinemas every week. For current information, please visit:

“Do you want to have an adventure?”: Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a 12 year-old orphan living within the walls of a Paris railway station. His very survival depends on secrecy and anonymity, but his destiny changes when he gets engulfed in a mystery involving young Isabelle, a heart-shaped locket, a robot, a fierce station master and his late father. A 3D family adventure, Hugo was made by award-winning director Martin Scorsese, usually associated with dramatic thrillers such as Shutter Island (2010) and The Departed (2006). Released in cinemas for Christmas 2011 and subsequently on other formats, Hugo made extensive use of studio facilities and locations in the UK as well as Paris. Its fine cast has Ray Winstone, Sir Ben Kingsley, Sir Christopher Lee, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer and Jude Law. Meanwhile, Anonymous (also 2011) is a spectacular thriller, brimming with mystery and intrigue, from director Roland Emmerich, best known for his apocalyptic disaster movies, 2012 (2009) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004). Set in the reign of Elizabeth I, Anonymous deals with who actually wrote the plays of William Shakespeare. Its stars include Rhys Ifans, Jamie Campbell Bower, David Thewlis, Sir Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave.


licensing films to exhibitors A key consideration in any distribution plan is where the film should play. Which sorts of cinemas and screens are most appropriate? Given the intended audience, how can the theatrical release achieve its greatest impact? How many screens and prints are likely to be sustainable?

Walt Disney

Print management Distributors’ technical managers arrange for a print to be despatched to each cinema playing the film. As films are ‘locked’ (completed and signed off) ever closer to their release dates, so the time available to make and transport prints gets tighter. Strict quality control procedures are applied to ensure the film director’s intentions regarding colours and tones are matched.

Every theatrical release is effectively a joint-venture: the distributor supplies the film, the exhibitors provide the screens, and the arrangements are reviewed from week to week. Like all retailers, cinema operators must be persuaded to ‘stock the product’. Distributors screen their forthcoming titles for cinema bookers, discuss release dates and make marketing campaign presentations.

For most screens, now digitally equipped, a hard drive is despatched and the data are ingested into a server connected to a digital projector. These are completely different machines from the 35mm projectors which they have largely replaced. The screen’s content for each playweek can be loaded in advance to run at pre-programmed times.

The distributor’s sales and marketing strategies go hand in glove, with the film’s target audience kept front of mind. For each film, the sales team negotiates a confidential license agreement bilaterally with each exhibitor interested in playing the film. Under English law, the maximum booking period for a new release is two weeks, after which, by mutual agreement, the film may continue to play week by week if it is drawing a significant audience. Many cinemas aim to show a broad spectrum of titles. Others may specialise in particular segments of film according to their catchment area. Potential blockbusters tend to be booked into every available multiplex simultaneously, while for smaller releases, particular screens are likely to be identified and the release nurtured carefully week by week.

A quite different procedure applies where IMAX® (large-format) prints are needed or 35mm capacity is retained. These celluloid prints are delivered broken down into reels contained in sealed cans. On arrival at the cinema a few days before first playdate, the reels are physically joined together and laced on to the projectors. When we are put to the test, it is the one thing we must always be: Brave is the 2012 release from the Pixar team behind Toy Story 3 (2010), Cars 2 (2011) and a string of other much-loved animated blockbusters. Set in a rugged, mythical Scotland, Brave is the tale of impetuous Princess Merida, who pursues her passion for archery against her parents’ will and inadvertently unleashes a danger that jeopardises her father’s kingdom. Among the stars in the voice cast are Kelly Macdonald (as Merida), Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly and Julie Walters. A full year prior to its UK cinema release, a teaser trailer had already notched up millions of viewings online.

Security protocols adopted across the industry ensure that film prints are kept safe throughout the theatrical run. After use, the hard drives are returned and reused. Eventually most celluloid prints are destroyed under supervised conditions with as much material as possible recycled. A print is usually archived for future generations.



The distributor’s marketing effort builds up to the opening weekend, which normally draws by far the largest audience of any weekend in the theatrical run. It’s quite common for a film to generate 30% or more of its entire box-office during the first three days of release. Although films conventionally start in UK cinemas on Fridays, distributors quite often open on other days or run previews the weekend before. Around 60% of cinema visits take place over the weekend (Friday–Sunday), with the other four weekdays accounting for 9–12% each. Monday is traditionally the least busy day; Orange Wednesday has become the busiest weekday. Courtesy of Rentrak, you can keep track of the top films at the UK box-office every week via FDA’s website,, and elsewhere. Distribution plans usually assume that the revenues and number of screens on which a film plays will decline, often rapidly, as competing titles are launched in successive weeks. But such

plans are necessarily flexible: better than expected grosses may lead to a quick investment in some extra advertising and the film may even be scheduled into more screens than on its opening weekend. An impressive opening frame with a box-office running into millions can become a news story.

exhibitors must pay for each ticket sold. This net share is traditionally known as the distributor’s ‘rentals’. Icon

Box-office returns Since every film is its creators’ intellectual property, the prints are rented to, or hired under license by, the exhibitors, rather than being sold outright as with most packaged or manufactured goods. Exhibitors, many of whom have long used computerised box-office/ticketing systems, submit a weekly return for each title, indicating to its distributor how many tickets were sold and at what price. Cinema ticket prices are always set by the individual exhibitor. Box-office takings – the gross receipts including VAT – are often reported in the press. But the sums that distributors actually earn are substantially less than these figures. Revenue from ticket sales is normally shared between the distributor and exhibitor. The percentage each party takes varies film by film and week by week. Very generally, UK distributors receive 25–40% of the gross. So, if a film grosses £5m in cinemas, its distributor may eventually collect around £1.5m, allowing for the deduction of VAT which


No second chances A film can only be launched once. Its first weekend in cinemas is crucial to further progress, because if it is deemed to have opened ‘below par’, it is likely to lose screens or switch to screens with smaller capacities very quickly.

Golden boy: As well as appearing in Captain America, My Week with Marilyn and The Devil’s Double (in two chilling roles) in 2011, Londoner Dominic Cooper also voiced a character in the 3D animated adventure, A Turtle’s Tale (left). He has a strikingly different thriller, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, set for release in 2012.

Out of the net share, the distributor aims to recoup any minimum guarantee plus the P&A costs incurred in releasing the film. Any outstanding balance is then shared with the producers according to a preagreed formula set out in the distribution contract. Alternatively, the distributor may simply retain a distribution fee, with all net proceeds remitted to the producers.

A vital fixture in the working week, these bilateral negotiations take into account: ❯ all the new releases coming into the market ❯ any previews planned for the coming weekend, intensifying the competition for the available screens ❯ the screen average (the average box-office gross receipts per screen) of every film on current release, with only those ranked at or near the top likely to retain screens

Distributors do not participate in exhibitors’ revenues from advance booking fees or the drinks, confectionery and popcorn sold in cinema bars and foyers, or in any proceeds from screen advertising. Distributors’ businesses depend on the income they receive from licensing content.

The hold-over challenge Computerised till systems enable the performance of any film, in terms of ticket sales and advance bookings, to be tracked hour by hour. On Monday morning, with the weekend’s box-office takings collated, the distributor’s sales team discusses with each exhibitor the hold-over of current releases for a further week from Friday (four days later).

Sustaining a release week by week, and keeping it in a screen with appropriate capacity, is one of the key challenges in such a fastchurning market place. Films can be years in the planning and production phases, and then barely a few weeks in cinemas.



Screen legends: The late, great Ayrton Senna and Bobby Fischer were both world champions – in motor racing and chess, respectively. Documentaries made for the cinema, such as Asif Kapadia’s Senna and Liz Garbus’s Bobby Fischer Against the World (both 2011) can captivate audiences as tightly as a suspense thriller.

Competition beyond other films During the year, films in cinemas face competition from major sports events such as the Olympics, World Cup or Wimbledon (especially when there’s strong home interest!); massively popular TV shows such as the live finals of The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Strictly Come Dancing; and the launch of a hot PC/video game. The weather can also be a factor: very hot temperatures which entice people outdoors, or extreme winter conditions with the opposite effect, will affect any title’s commercial destiny from day to day. As ‘leisure experience’ venues, cinemas compete with restaurants, wine bars, clubs and shopping malls – as well as entertainment options in the home.



the wider picture The UK is an important hub for both film production and consumption. Cinemagoing as a form of quality escapist entertainment has proven to be resilient during times of economic downturn.

The global filmed entertainment business (all forms of consumption) has annual revenues of approximately $100 billion. The UK is one of the world’s largest filmed entertainment markets with a 7% share, behind the US/Canada (41%) and Japan (9%). Significant growth potential remains, especially in large markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, and of course analysts expect the rising trend towards online consumption of films and other content to continue. The film industry has never been one to stand still. Over the last century, new media technologies have successively opened up fresh ways to make, share and market films. Many films secure their production finance from more than one source. The US studios may share the costs of a big production or split the distribution rights between, say, the US/Canada (domestic) and the rest of the world (international). Some films are licensed piecemeal, territory by territory; others are handled by the same company via a network of offices worldwide. For local distributors, dubbing or subtitling may be an additional release cost. Accelerating distribution patterns Traditionally, films would open first in US cinemas, then roll out gradually in other countries. It’s now common for films to earn more internationally than domestically, another trend that will endure.

In today’s digital world, in an effort to capitalise on global publicity and combat piracy, there is often no gap at all between the US and international releases as more and more films open practically ‘day and date’ in many parts of the world. With master prints arriving in each country ever closer to launch date, such releases represent huge logistical and technical exercises for the distributors involved.

Distributors’ expert knowledge of local tastes, cultural sensitivities and market conditions guides a film through its openings around the world. Cinema release boosts subsequent prospects Although most films don’t recover their production and launch costs from the theatrical release alone, there are other opportunities in the business model. In fact, the cinema box-

Economic multiplier effects With box-office ticket sales currently worth more than £1 billion a year, the UK is the leading cinema market in Europe and one of the most valuable in the world after the US/Canada. In addition to the UK, cinemas in the Republic of Ireland yield annual box-office receipts equivalent to about £100m. When you factor in the extra spending during a cinema visit on food, drink, travel and other items, the theatrical market alone pumps well over £3 billion a year into the UK economy. The performance of British films here in their local market can have a significant influence on the attention they receive and their commercial prospects overseas. Nevertheless, releases that perform well in one country’s cinemas will not necessarily do well in all countries, and may need to be positioned and marketed differently.

office constitutes just over a quarter of overall filmed entertainment revenues. With a title’s profile and stature established, significant and much needed income may be derived from the release for home entertainment. This is well established as the largest slice of the film revenue pie, currently yielding around £1.5 billion of gross value a year. DVD or Blu-Ray discs remain the leading formats for home viewing but there is more and more inter-operability between digital formats. Indeed, further big shifts in home film consumption patterns are anticipated as the increased uptake of internet-enabled televisions opens up the potential for direct online delivery of films to TVs and other devices. As viewing on physical media (discs) continues to dip over time, downloading / streaming on demand will increase.


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The third slice of the film revenue pie – television – accounts for just over £1 billion of gross value – similar to that of cinemas. Licenses to pay-TV channels currently account for just over half of this value, while those to other (free-to-air) channels deliver the rest. It’s important to distributors that TV stations acquire a broad range of films during the year and that the public’s widespread interest in the world of film – along with other leisure pursuits – is reflected in TV programmes. Older films can deliver strong ratings on television when scheduled to coincide with the cinema release of a new sequel. Some films, especially in the action or horror genres, may perform better, relatively, in the home entertainment arena than in cinemas. Notwithstanding the haemorrhage from film theft (see opposite page), cinemagoing has been positively affected by new digital media formats. Most films that succeed theatrically go on to do well throughout their release cycle – the relationship is symbiotic, the audiences complementary.

Global phenomenon: The world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, held in London’s Trafalgar Square on 7 July 2011, had worldwide media coverage including live streaming of the red carpet arrivals on an official YouTube channel. The eighth and last in the sensationally successful series of British films that began in 2001, it quickly amassed the biggest box-office of them all, due partly to its release in digital 3D as well as 2D and IMAX® formats. A behind-the-scenes tour revealing The Making of Harry Potter opens in 2012 at the vast studio complex in Leavesden, near London, where the series was produced – please visit

Discover more at:

Although it’s sometimes difficult to see, especially when transacted via computers, piracy feeds organised crime networks to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds a year. It also cheats people of the full viewing experience and can reduce local jobs and future investment. Without revenues via distribution, further films simply can’t be made.

You can also report film piracy anonymously at any time. Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit


FDA/NFTS Artificial Eye

Distributors take steps to protect the security and integrity of the properties they are releasing. It’s a criminal offence to record a film from the cinema screen onto a mobile phone or other device – and rightly so – how would you feel if it was your work being copied and exploited for criminal gain without your permission? But films remain especially vulnerable to illegal copying during the early or pre-release stages of their existence, and pirated copies may be disseminated very quickly via file-sharing websites and on DVD.


Intellectual property theft So-called ‘film piracy’ – but actually just a form of theft – is of great concern to people employed in the entertainment industry.

Love cinema? Hate piracy: These images are from the shoot of FDA’s latest anti-piracy trailer, which was written and directed in 2011 by Jae-ha Myung, a student filmmaker from the National Film & Television School. Called “The Last Cinema”, the piece imagines a dark near-future world in which film theft has rendered the shared experience of cinema a thing of the past.

Tangled webs: A Separation (2011), written and directed by Iranian, Asghar Farhadi, dealt with the dilemmas facing a couple deciding whether or not to leave Iran for Europe for the sake of their daughter, Termeh. The film’s realistic portrayal of human conflicts attracted awards and acclaim, including from Mark Kermode on Kermode and Mayo’s Film Reviews, broadcast weekly on BBC Radio 5 Live and available online as a podcast. Films from dozens of countries are launched in UK cinemas each year.


working in film distribution A challenging career releasing films in a fastmoving market place – how does that grab you?



The film distribution sector is small, considering the scale, profile and influence of its output. Fewer than 500 people work in UK theatrical distribution – about 1% of the film/cinema industry’s total workforce – although people working at media, PR and design agencies collaborate closely on the planning and execution of their clients’ film campaigns. Digital rights management A distributor’s managing director normally supervises a small staff with specialist roles:

39 ❯ Marketing & promotions ❯ Publicity & media relations

❯ Acquisitions ❯ Legal & business affairs

❯ Sales

❯ Finance & accounting

❯ Technical

❯ Administration

In some ways, these departments function similarly to their demand-side counterparts in any industry, seeking to work as sustainably and efficiently as possible. But for film distributors, the products they handle are among the most thrillingly creative, emotionally charged, technologically advanced and hotly anticipated anywhere – see the selection on the right! Soda





Diversity – fundamentally good for business The UK today is made up of many communities. It’s not just desirable, it’s essential, for film distributors to stay in tune with audiences’ tastes and wider culture and society, and to appreciate people’s differences as well as their similarities. Distributors strive to recruit from as wide a talent pool as practical so that their companies remain competitive in the future. As opportunities arise, considering suitable candidates with various perspectives and backgrounds helps distributors to remain lively hubs of contemporary ideas. Sharpen your skills Distributors’ offices often contain stacks of film scripts. Each one is read carefully, either because the project is being considered for acquisition or because the film is already in production and a release campaign is being prepared. Being able to appreciate and evaluate a script is an important skill – read widely among different writers and genres to get into practice. Good experience for a film industry marketing position may be gained at an advertising or media planning agency, especially by working with a film or entertainment client, or by projectmanaging in another area of intellectual property. As a marketing team member, you’d be a bold, creative thinker and a fast, careful worker, able to justify your plans to colleagues and those involved in the film’s production. Lots of ideas and sound judgement are called for when developing

both the creative and media elements of a film campaign, and decisions are carefully evaluated. If you’re into design, why not consider movie posters, an art form in themselves. But you’re unlikely ever to have a completely free hand – depending on the film stars, there may be tight restrictions on what can and can’t be done, and there is sure to be a list of mandatory elements such as credits to include in a particular order or style. For publicity, prior experience as a journalist or press officer is useful. No two days are the same, but you should be able to write succinctly and imaginatively, and to remain level-headed under pressure. Knowledge of today’s evolving media landscape is crucial, as are good professional relationships with journalists and TV producers. Sometimes distributors need specialist public relations or event management expertise to help arrange a premiere or a junket, and external agencies may be assigned to a particular project. Sales staff, who deal with the licensing of films to exhibitors, use various strategies depending on the film and the agreed scale of its release. Clear commercial instincts, cool negotiation skills, absolute discretion and the ability to get on with a range of customers are vital attributes. Key administrative roles include invoicing exhibitors or paying suppliers; ordering and checking film prints, trailers and posters; and

arranging for materials to be delivered to the right place at the right time. You must be well organised with lots of drive and stamina. If you’re working on the technical or operational aspects of a release, you’ll need current knowledge of digital formats, 3D and IMAX® presentation, servers and their storage capacities, and laboratory processes. It’s vital that films are supplied for exhibition on time and in superlative quality. Getting started As you would expect, competition to break into the film industry is fierce. Being passionate about films is a great start. But it’s only a start, not enough on its own. The distribution business offers relentless yet rewarding work and sheer tenacity is an important quality in itself. If you’re really determined, keep at it! Note how and where different genres of film are advertised and discussed, and on which local screens they tend to play. Try to keep informed about media trends and developments as well as the films themselves. Some distributors employ runners and holiday relief to help out, while from time to time others offer work placements. Inevitably, vacancies in a small sector like distribution are relatively few and far between. A digest of placement opportunities is posted at FDA’s website,

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

It may also help to keep an eye on publications where media jobs and placements are advertised. A little relevant experience can count for a lot. Once you’re in and have shown your aptitude, you may find that training courses are offered to help refine your knowledge and skills. Sometimes, in due course, opportunities arise to work in head offices or affiliates overseas.


For anyone who is in, or thinking of getting into, the creative industries, Skillset exists to support UK-wide workforce training and skills development. Visit As many filmmakers are quick to point out, the vital blueprint for a film is its screenplay. FDA commissions training sessions to help distributors refine their script reading skills. We work with training experts The Script Factory: more at

Best of luck.

A Game of Shadows: Guy Ritchie directed Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in a second big-screen Sherlock Holmes thriller, shot in London for cinema release at Christmas 2011. With schools, universities and many workplaces on holiday, this is a peak period for cinemagoing (UK cinemas are open every day except Christmas Day). Other treats lined up for a spectrum of audiences during the festive season: Arthur Christmas, Happy Feet 2, Puss in Boots, Hugo, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and more.


about Film Distributors’ Association FDA is the trade association for UK theatrical distributors. Films released by our member companies account for 96% of UK cinema admissions.



FDA’s mission is to give our member companies and other contacts the generic support they need to make the most of their individual business opportunities. What we do FDA has a busy work programme including audience research, sector training and ‘one voice’ representations on behalf of our sector where appropriate. We produce editorial planning tools for the media, such as central schedules of pre-release screenings for critics and preview events for other journalists. As well as this Guide, we also publish a Yearbook and some ‘best practice’ guidelines. FDA

Under FDA’s auspices, senior representatives of our member companies meet to discuss matters of generic (noncommercial) interest to the sector and the industry as a whole. We promote the cinema line-up for the next season via media supplements (above right), online vodcasts (right) and compilation trailers. With launch events hosted by Alex Zane (above) and others, our campaigns motivate a range of audiences to consider extra cinema visits.

43 FDA is actively engaged in the fight against film theft, which threatens the jobs of people working in the film business here in the UK and restricts the choices available to audiences. We work closely with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and other industry bodies such as the Alliance Against Intellectual Property (IP) Theft, the Creative Coalition and the Industry Trust for IP Awareness. We’re also a member of organisations such as AIM (All Industry Marketing for Cinema), the British Screen Advisory Council (BSAC), the International Federation of Film Distributors’ Associations (FIAD) and the European Digital Cinema Forum (EDCF). And we are proud to be a long-standing sponsor of the UK’s National Film and Television School whose graduates populate the crews of many films released in cinemas. FDA

FDA members Artificial Eye Film Co. Ltd. > 20–22 Stukeley Street, London WC2B 5LR | Tel: 020 7240 5353 Dogwoof Ltd. > Unit 211, Hatton Square Business Centre, 16-16a Baldwins Gardens, London EC1N 7RJ | Tel: 020 7831 7252



Entertainment One UK Ltd. (eOne) > 120 New Cavendish Street, London W1W 6XX | Tel: 020 7907 3773 Entertainment Film Distributors Ltd. > Eagle House, 108–110 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6HB | Tel: 020 7930 7744 Eros International Ltd. > Milner House, 13 Manchester Square, London W1U 3PP | Tel: 020 7935 2727 Icon Film Distribution Ltd. > Charlotte Building, 17 Gresse Street, London W1T 1QL | Tel: 020 7927 6900 Metrodome Group plc > Garfield House (2nd Floor), 86-88 Edgware Road, London W2 2EA | Tel: 020 7535 7300 Momentum Pictures > 20 Soho Square (2nd floor), London W1D 3QW | Tel: 020 7534 0400 Paramount Pictures UK > 12 Golden Square, London W1A 2JL | Tel: 020 7534 5200 Park Circus Ltd. > 1 Park Terrace, Glasgow G3 6BY | Tel: 0141 332 2175 Pathé Productions Ltd. > 6 Ramillies Street (4th floor), London W1F 7TY | Tel: 020 7323 5151

Reliance Big Entertainment Private Ltd. > 26–28 Hammersmith Grove (4th floor), London W6 7BA | Tel: 020 8834 1250


Revolver Entertainment Ltd. > 48-49 Princes Place, Holland Park, London W11 4QA | Tel: 020 7243 4300 Soda Pictures Ltd. > 17 Blossom Street, London E1 6PL | Tel: 020 7377 1407


Sony Pictures Releasing > Sony Pictures Europe House, 25 Golden Square, London W1F 9LU | Tel: 020 7533 1111 STUDIOCANAL Ltd. > 50 Marshall Street, London W1F 9BQ | Tel: 020 7534 2700 Twentieth Century Fox Film Co. Ltd. > Twentieth Century House, 31–32 Soho Square, London W1D 3AP | Tel: 020 7437 7766 Universal Pictures UK > Oxford House, 76 Oxford Street, London W1D 1BS | Tel: 020 7307 1300 Verve Pictures Ltd. > Kenilworth House, 79-80 Margaret Street, London W1W 8TA | Tel: 020 7436 8001 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, UK > 3 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, London W6 9PE | Tel: 020 8222 1000 Warner Bros. Entertainment Ltd. > Warner House, 98 Theobald’s Road, London WC1X 8WB | Tel: 020 7984 5200 The Works UK Distribution Ltd. > Fairgate House (5th floor), 78 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1HB | Tel: 020 7612 1080

Future Publishing

film everywhere Here are a few UK websites you may like to explore, depending on your particular areas of interest: FDA


Accessible cinema: > Alliance Against IP Theft: > Annual film awards round-up: > BBC Films: > British Academy of Film and Television Arts: > British Board of Film Classification: > British Federation of Film Societies: > British Film Institute: > British Screen Advisory Council: > British Video Association: > Cinema Exhibitors’ Association: > Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund: > Coming soon to UK cinemas: > (right) Department for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport: > Fastest way to find any film in any format: > (above right) Federation Against Copyright Theft: > Film 4: > Film Club: > Film Education: > Film London: > Free preview screenings: > Industry Trust for IP Awareness: > National Film and Television School: > Producers’ Alliance for Cinema and Television: > Rentrak: > Skillset: >

A wider range of links and information is available at FDA’s website,

UK film and cinema factsheet ❯ Every person watches an average of 81 films a year. The vast majority (around 80%) of these viewing occasions are when films are shown on television, especially among people aged 40+. Cinemas account for around 3.5% of total film viewings, with the home entertainment sector delivering the rest. ❯ In early 2011, the UK had 716 cinemas – a familiar and welcome part of urban landscapes – accommodating 3,671 screens, most of which are now equipped to show digital content. ❯ 62% of the UK population goes to the cinema at least once a year. 19% goes at least once a month. There are 14m cinema visits in an average month, with holiday periods tending to be the peak times. ❯ Every week, 10–11 films are released in UK cinemas, generating annual box-office gross receipts (including VAT) of about £1 billion. ❯ Distributors invest more than £300m a year to bring all these titles to market, launching and sustaining them in cinemas. £170m of this is allocated to media advertising, the rest to film prints, advertising production, publicity, premieres and related costs. ❯ In terms of total gross value, a cinema release accounts for just over a quarter of the filmed entertainment business, home entertainment 40–45% and television the rest. ❯ The highest grossing film of all time in cinemas is Avatar, released in December 2009. Its UK cinema admissions were equivalent to a quarter of the population. ❯ The filmed entertainment industries as a whole employ around 48,500 people in the UK, nearly two-thirds of them working in production. ❯ Of the top 200 films released in cinemas worldwide over the last decade, no fewer than 34 were based on stories and characters created by British writers – one indication of the UK’s hugely impressive creative track record in the world of film. ❯ The total public funding of film amounts to around £260m a year, including fillm production tax relief, lottery funding and broadcasters’ investments.


contact FDA FDA

FDA welcomes any approach where UK film distributors’ generic interests are concerned. If you have a general enquiry, or feedback on this Guide, please email


You can also write to us: Film Distributors’ Association Ltd. 22 Golden Square, London W1F 9JW We aim to respond appropriately within three working days of receiving your enquiry. To keep in touch with the fast-evolving world of UK film distribution, visit FDA’s website, You’ll find a weekly film release schedule to download or search, a bank of industry data, a gateway of links and much more.

Get the insiders’ views of the film business You can explore UK film distribution further, and watch some people who work in the business talk about their roles, at our dedicated website:

© 2011 Film Distributors’ Association Ltd. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form by any means or for any purpose without the express prior permission of FDA. FDA thanks all contributors to this revised and updated edition of the Guide, which supersedes all previous editions. Information correct at time of going to press but subject to change.

ion 2012 t u ib r t is d to UK film

ion 2012 t u ib r t is d to UK film

Designed and printed in England for Film Distributors’ Association by Wham Media Ltd

FDA Film Distribution Guide  
FDA Film Distribution Guide  

Detailed overview of UK Film Distribution