Theatrical Distribution: Five Lessons For Indie Filmmakers

Theatrical Distribution

Theatrical distribution is a lofty goal for many filmmakers.

You compete with major studios for movie screens.

Marketing and promotion are expensive and time-consuming.

And if your movie doesn’t make money in the first few days, the theater will drop you.

theatrical distribution
Theatrical Distribution

Digital Movie Posters

In the past, you had to create, print, and send posters and other physical assets to every theater featuring your movie.

But these days, everything is digital.

You can send different poster formats, log lines, descriptions, cast lists, and other deliverables online.

This saves time and money.

And with our movie, our distributor handled most of this for us.

Digital Cinema Packages

Movies used to arrive at theaters in big, heavy containers.

But now, films are sent as files on hard drives.

These files are called DCPs or Digital Cinema Packages.

With a DCP, theaters can easily download the file and show your film digitally.

This type of delivery saves time and money.

Promotion and People

It takes a lot of people and companies to help prepare your film for theaters.

You need someone to book the theaters.

And it would help if you had someone to oversee all the marketing details, like creating promotions and running ads.

You need a PR company to tell people about your movie.

And if you have a premiere, you might need even more help to plan and run the event.

All of this needs to be overseen by your distributor.

Per-Screen Averages

Theaters decide whether to keep showing a movie based on how much money it makes per screen.

This is called the per-screen average.

The number is calculated by dividing the total amount of money a movie makes by the number of screens featuring the movie.

For example, if an independent film is shown in ten theaters and makes $100,000 in total, that would be a $10,000 per-screen average (which is excellent).

Always Be Promoting

Even if you have the best theatrical distributor in the world, nobody will be more passionate about your movie than you.

If you want people to see your film, you must keep promoting it and getting the press to build your audience continuously.

Because without an audience, a theatrical release is pointless.

Learn Film Distribution

If you like the tips above, you will love my course on film distribution.

In the course, I teach everything you need to know about how to attract and negotiate distribution deals so you can sell your movie globally for maximum profit.

Enroll in the online film distribution course today.


Theatrical distribution is a complex but rewarding process. Success involves digital movie posters, Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs), a solid promotion strategy, and constant attention to per-screen averages. This article highlights five lessons learned from distributing the movie “Ask Me to Dance” in U.S. theaters.

  1. How Has Digitalization Changed the Way Movie Posters Are Distributed for Indie Films?

    Digitalization has significantly streamlined the distribution of movie posters for indie films. Nowadays, everything is digital, and filmmakers can send different poster formats, log lines, descriptions, cast lists, and other assets online to theaters. This saves both time and money.

  2. What are Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) and How Do They Benefit Indie Filmmakers?

    Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) are files on hard drives that contain the film. These files are sent to theaters and can be easily downloaded to show the movie digitally. This delivery method is more efficient and cost-effective than shipping films in large, physical containers.

  3. What Role Does a Distributor Play in Indie Film Theatrical Distribution?

    A distributor plays a pivotal role in the theatrical distribution of indie films. They handle many logistics, including sending digital assets to theaters, coordinating with various people and companies for promotions, and overseeing marketing details like running ads and managing PR efforts.

  4. What is a Per-Screen Average, and Why is it Important for Indie Films?

    The per-screen average is a metric used by theaters to decide if they will continue to show a movie. It is calculated by dividing a film’s total earnings by the number of screens showing the movie. A higher per-screen average generally means better performance, making theaters more likely to keep showing the film.

  5. How Can Indie Filmmakers Promote Their Films for Theatrical Distribution?

    Indie filmmakers should adopt a continuous promotion strategy to build an audience for their films. While a distributor will handle many logistics and promotional activities, filmmakers must remain actively involved. No one will be more passionate about promoting the movie than its creator.

  6. How Can I Learn More About Film Distribution?

    Tom Malloy offers an online course on film distribution, where he teaches everything you need to know about attracting and negotiating distribution deals. The course is designed to help filmmakers sell their movies globally for maximum profit.


Digital Movie Posters: These are digital versions of traditional physical movie posters. They include various formats, log lines, descriptions, and cast lists that can be sent online to theaters for promotional purposes.

Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs): These are digital files stored on hard drives containing the film to be screened. DCPs can quickly be sent and downloaded by theaters, providing an efficient and cost-effective method for film distribution.

Promotion and People: This term refers to the collective efforts of various individuals and entities in preparing a film for theatrical release. This includes roles like booking agents, marketing managers, and PR companies, all coordinated by a distributor.

Theatrical Distributor: An entity that handles the logistics and coordination of getting a film into theaters. This includes sending digital assets, overseeing marketing efforts, and collaborating with other companies and individuals for promotional activities.

Per-Screen Average: A key performance metric used by theaters to decide whether to continue showing a film. It is calculated by dividing a film’s total earnings by the number of screens on which it is being offered.

PR Company: A public relations firm engaged to create and manage a strategic communications plan to publicize the movie, thereby aiding in its promotional efforts.

Continuous Promotion: The ongoing marketing and publicity activities undertaken by filmmakers to build an audience for their movie, even after securing a distributor.

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Tom Malloy is a film producer, actor, and writer. Over the course of his career, he has raised over twenty-five million dollars to produce, and distribute multiple feature films. If you're ready to "level up" your film producing, make sure to check out Movie Plan Pro. The video training and downloadable film business plan template will provide you with the same tools Malloy uses when approaching prospective film investors.