The business of film
The business of film

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The business of film

2.2 The changing life cycle of the film

In this video, Alex Hamilton describes how technology and economics are producing pressure points along the value chain.

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ALEX HAMILTON
Cinemas have tended to look after their window pretty well because they feel that a delay before the film could be watched anywhere else is absolutely critical to their business. If the film is available in the home or on a platform, on a mobile, on a tablet, and the cinema, it's felt that that actually reduces the ability to get people into cinemas to watch the film. So I think there's a general consensus through the industry that people want to protect that window to an extent. But it is rubbing up against other interests.
 Now, other interests may want to- including distribution companies- may want to see that window shortened because what happens is a distributor often spends millions of pounds on the theatrical release window, then finds their film gone from the theatrical release, gone from cinemas in four to six weeks, but they can't actually exploit it anymore for another 10 or 12 weeks. And that actually creates an inefficiency. What's also happening is there's further pressure down the chain and that entities like Amazon or Netflix or Sky would like to access movies earlier. So that also puts pressure on the home entertainment transactional window when the film is only available to buy or only available to rent.
 Now the company who are clearly challenging that sequence most of the moment are Netflix, who are signing up top draw talent to produce films that will debut on their service. And at the moment, they're saying that actually they won't actually exploit the film in other windows. So there's a little bit of a ambivalent relationship between the studios and the distributors who create, produce, and distribute content, and the likes of Amazon and Netflix who are hungry for that content, but also want to have it more quickly and are going into the business themselves of producing and distributing content. So there's unique selling points for their platforms.
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Video 3 Alex Hamilton describes the changing life cycle of the film
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This system of controlled release has developed not by accident, but because the industry has created a system intended to make as much money as possible from an individual film.

For example, people see a film in cinemas because they enjoy the cinema experience, but also because they can’t yet see the film in any other way. Windows evolve and change over time. VoD only started taking off quite recently, in the 2000s. The airlines used to be a much later window, back when only one film was available on a flight. But now, having individual screens on planes has increased the demand for films and brought the window forward.

The system – sometimes referred to as an economics of scarcity – is vulnerable, however, in an age of digital technology. Pirated DVDs are attractive when commercial DVDs are not available in shops. So more and more independent films are released in different ways – for example, VoD alongside cinema.

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