The last link for digital media: DIY exhibition licenses

In which I suggest that making it easy for everyone to show movies and TV shows to various-sized audiences would revolutionise media.

In these days of democratic production and distribution through digital technology, it’s about time we had a look at the exhibition side of things.

In the UK there has been some support for indie film distribution through the Film Council’s Digital Screen Network. They’ve fitted out over 230 screens around the country with digital projectors. This means microbudget films could even be released on DVD to many cinemas around the UK.

How about adding a few thousand more screens to the programme?

I suggest it would be a good idea for the UK government to combine two aspects of movie exhibition to make it simpler for anyone to create a cinema:

1. Some sort of open-source digital rights management scheme, so that content owners wouldn’t be worried about making their work available for exhibition. This would include automatic payment for rights holders by exhibitors.

2. A one-stop licensing scheme so that amateurs can arrange to pay rights-holders, public liability insurance, get permission from local authorities (and whoever else needs to get involved) for a single price.

Maybe by 2011, movies will premiere all over the country on all sorts of screens.

Any person with a room and projector could simply create a permanent or one-off cinema for whatever content they wanted. Licence prices could be banded so that the economics was straightforward based on audience size.

Films could be made available at different screen resolutions. SD for up to 40 people, 2K for larger audiences. Most TV shows would be cheaper to show, unless you want to show the HD version with surround sound. People would then be able to promote screenings, knowing how many people they need to get to watch. You could set up a season of obscure films or have a weekend party based around watching 23 episodes of your favourite TV show (leading up to a final 24th episode).

Indie and short film makers might get their films shown as part of creative double bills. Once this form of distribution becomes common, producers will be able to calculate how many licences at which price points they’ll need to sell to justify producing an idea in the first place.

The easier it is for movies to find audiences, the better it is for the film industry.

Here’s a link to a previous post on charging for content based on screen size, which implies the size of the audience.

1 comment
  1. tvsoup said:

    I’ve been involved in planning quite a few events where an ad hoc ‘cinema’ would be a ‘good thing’, yet the costs involved invariably kiboshed the idea. In a few instances, we actually went ahead and ‘did the right thing’, but whilst it was fun, it made no economic sense whatsoever. In fact, it felt that the process was loaded in such a way that it would keep films in ‘proper’ highstreet cinemas with their poor quality prints, disruptive audiences, bad sound and high prices (though admittedly these are Berkshire cinemas).

    There is a huge gap between the perceived value in the minds of a potential audience and the perceived value in the minds of the distributors. If film distribution doesn’t get flexible, it will go the same way as the music industry. If it’s too difficult to do ‘right’, people will just go ahead and do it anyway – and this will be deemed ‘piracy’. Find a better price point and payment system (micropayments like the iTunes store), and suddenly piracy involves too much difficulty. Get a sweeter carrot and perhaps the stick is redundant.

    Is it worth re-iterating Bruce Nazarian’s great point that indie film makers contribute 60% to the DVD licensing pot?

    Easy licensing is better than DRM.

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