Theatrical Distribution: Five Lessons For Indie Filmmakers

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.

Despite these challenges, I was happy when my movie, “Ask Me to Dance,” was shown in more than thirty theaters in the United States. We were able to do this because we planned and worked hard. I also learned five lessons about how theatrical distribution works.

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 if they will keep showing a movie based on how much money it makes per screen. This is called the per-screen average. And the number is calculated by taking the total amount of money a movie makes and dividing it 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 it, 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.

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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.