RED blows feature film distribution wide open

Earlier this year I wrote a brain bump rant of a blog about everything that is wrong with film distribution today – read here.

Ironically, the cinema screen has remained the final screen that is unconnected to the digital world. The technology exists to connect up, but the will to open up this tightly gripped market place does not. As we all know though, the more you tighten your grip, the more opportunity slips through the fingers. And someone smart will collect those opportunities and exploit them.

This lack of innovation is largely down to an industry that does not want to move with the times. In the UK we have a kind of racket going on with expensive DCP production, expensive drive costs and a truly ridiculous Virtual Print Fee for simply ‘existing’ in a cinema. The distribution and exhibition industry wants me, the filmmaker, to pay for their investment. And I don’t want to pay for their outdated view of the world.

Today, I just discovered that things are changing.

RED, truly the biggest, most ambitious and filmmaker friendly innovator of new technology, have just announced they are getting into distribution. Enter the RedRay ‘player’ and Odemax 4k distribution platform.

This is distribution built from the ground up for a future facing industry.

What is it?
A hardware player and web / cloud based platform allowing delivery of high definition movies to anywhere equipped to play that movie.

  • What does this actually mean? Well details are still sketchy, but my guess is this…
  • You will be able to make a cinema version of your movie from your desktop with RED software tools
  • You will be able to work at full 4k
  • You will upload your film yourself
  • You will be able to sell / rent you movie from within the system – you will be your own distributor
  • The hardware and software will connect directly with theatres around the world offering easy and robust delivery of your movie – confidence and quality
  • Accounting will be centralized and you should get direct access to your own rentals and sales money
  • The system will talk directly with box office ticketing so you actually get a real cut of all tickets sold (currently set at 50%)
  • You will be responsible for marketing and pushing your movie – make a rubbish movie or don’t market it, and your film will fail. You can’t blame a distributor now.
  • Marketing tools are rumored to be part of the new system – it’s exciting that RED are thinking this way.
  • New theatrical ecosystems will evolve that will cater for smaller but more niche audiences.
  • The technology will also open up to home markets, like iTunes, meaning you can offer you film for home viewing as well as cinema (that means all screens including computer, tablets, phones etc). This is a REALLY big deal as it finally removes the ridiculous date release barriers (that fosters piracy) – and they are offering a 30% split in your favour.
  • You will set the rights available – your film can be made available for just one viewing, or a date range, or geo-location, or buy and own forever – you choose how and when people can see you work.
  • If the tech goes global, and RED have the might to make that happen, this will directly compete with existing distribution channels.

For a long time now I have felt that Apple could have done this – they have the money, know how and vision. I never understood why they didn’t give an Apple TV away free with every iPhone, making a killing on the movie sales and rentals, nor why they didn’t take over theatrical distribution.

Now it looks to me like RED may have their lunch. RED have listened to filmmakers and built a distribution platform that will work for them, one that is future facing..

In my view, this is the final step we have been waiting for. No doubt there will be real challenges ahead. But unlike almost ALL current distribution technologies and businesses, I am sure that RED will actually listen to and help the content creators build a truly scalable business out of what we love doing most, making movies.

Every film has a market – some very small, others larger.

For too long, distribution has felt like a one size fits all – if what RED have got cooking works, it means even the smallest films will monetize in a healthy way – if you can make your film at the correct budget level, if you can connect with an audience, and finally deliver a great experience, you will have a sustainable, even healthy, business.

At last, digital filmmaking and the internet are going to deliver on that long held promise of democratization, great tools and connectivity.

Thanks to @DonMcVey for bringing this new tech to my attention via Twitter.

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones
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My Twitter @LivingSpiritPix




3 Responses to RED blows feature film distribution wide open

  1. Bert De Blert December 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    If even half of your listed bullet points come true, this is a veritable game changer.

    THEY won’t let it happen though, will they?

    You know… THEM.

    • Chris December 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

      Consider this… they is actually you and me. We are now becoming the ‘establishment’.

  2. Adrian Winchester December 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    I can imagine some independent and art house cinemas making use of this but there could be a lot of films competing to be screened. It could mean quite a few local ‘premieres’ and screenings of films that can draw an audience despite having limited commercial appeal. I wonder if the major cinema chains would support it, though? Ironically some of the independent cinemas that might potentially have been interested are liable to be killed off because they can’t afford the high costs of switching to digital by whatever the cut off date proves to be next year. This could prove to be a major scandal that isn’t yet getting the attention it deserves.

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