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Sarajevo 2021 - CineLink Industry Days

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

At Sarajevo, industry panelists explore alternative models of distribution


The talk, moderated by producer Paula Alvarez Vaccaro, took place online on 16 August

At Sarajevo, industry panelists explore alternative models of distribution

In this delicate phase where the pandemic is accelerating the shift from cinema to platforms, and traditional theatrical windows are being disrupted, what alternative distribution models are in sight? One of the open sessions held during this year’s CineLink Industry Days at the Sarajevo Film Festival (14-19 July 2021) provided several insights on the topic. The debate was moderated by producer Paula Alvarez Vaccaro and took place online on 16 August.

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After Vaccaro’s introduction, Kinema’s Head of Film Ryan Harrington talked through the troubled state of US theatres, where 50% of screens are located in just four states, and sometimes it can take up to one hour and a half for a US citizen to reach “an arts centre or a traditional cinema venue.” He spoke about the work done at Kinema, a new social cinema platform acting in the non-theatrical event space, adopting a “non-exclusive” distribution model. The platform is also accessible for very small theatres. Usually, 80% of the profits goes back to the content creators, and 20% stays with Kinema when their licensees decide to buy or host a screening that viewers can access for free. When these decide to sell tickets, instead, 50% goes back to authors, 40% goes to the event organisers and 10% stays with Kinema.

Ester Bernal from Mexico’s Piano Distribucion stressed the importance of favouring occasions of encounters between viewers and filmmakers, and explained how they are trying to develop more “stretched” release models for the post-pandemic phase, with a lower amount of theatres and screenings involved in the first week, aiming for a more balanced (and more successful) run for independent films.

Next, Andy Caley spoke about his work for UK distribution outfit Bohemia Media, whose main mission is to champion diversity and support individual voices. Meanwhile, producer Amy Hobby from US outfit Tangerine Entertainment defined her career as “bifurcated,” serving as a “for hire producer for streamers” but also willing to produce content “outside of the box and auteur-driven.” While this duality has been “utterly exhausting” but nevertheless “exciting,” Hobby highlighted how important it is to retain (or even regain) IPs for independent filmmakers, and to rely on self-distribution models, which can cut “all the middle people” sucking money and resources.

Speaking about the much-discussed topic of data transparency, Lobby said that, sadly, many independent filmmakers and smaller studios believe that their film is doing better than it is in reality. She believes that studios’ and streamers’ refusal to share clear insights is “embedded in the system” and the only viable strategy is to present common demands by building up networks. Harrington explained that, from their side, they share insights on a dashboard, including “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

The session was brought to a close by a Q&A session with questions from the online audience.

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