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How to Become a Film Distributor

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Becoming a film distributor is one way to influence the movie industry and helping great movies reach an appreciative public. It is the distributor’s responsibility to create a strategy for reaching the largest paying audience possible, at the lowest cost. Some movies have a wide release, available at every cineplex, and other movies appear in only small, independent theaters. Either distribution method fits certain movies, and, after a few weeks and perhaps some Oscar buzz, movies might shift from one strategy to another.

Search out movies that fit your resources as a distributor. For instance, if you have connections in the independent film world, bidding on blockbuster-type films is probably not worth your time.

Agree on a distribution deal with the film’s producer or studio. Usually, the distributor pays a flat rate, in the leasing model, or a percentage of the profits, in the profit-sharing model. The distributor should decide which is more financially advantageous and work this out with the studio or producer.

Consider whether you want to acquire the ancillary rights. If a movie will have appeal to television networks or a video audience, then a wise distributor will obtain these rights as well.

Devise a strategy for releasing the film. The factors that effect a movie’s distribution strategy are the studio, star actors, the target audience, buzz, official reviews, and the time of year the movie is released. The final factor will effect a movie, since small films released in the summer are often crowded out by big blockbusters, and those released in the fall and winter reach a larger audience typically.

Make prints of the film. Each print costs about $1,500, so be frugal and wise in how many theaters and where those theaters are located geographically.

Negotiate with theater chains and buyers. Theater chains, like AMC Theaters, have specific “buyers” who work out these deals, while managers at small, independent theaters often work out the films themselves. Maintaining good working relationships with movie theaters is important. Offering a theater an exclusive deal in a certain urban area is attractive to many theaters.


John Yargo is a sports writer, living in Orlando, Fla. His work regularly appears in the "Jackson Free Press," and he has published articles on theater, fiction and art history. He has also received a master's degree in English.

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