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in Filmmaking
on Feb 15, 2008

Anne Thompson writes in Variety this week about the marketing challenge facing indies hoping to distribute their films online. In a piece headlined “Frustrated indies seek we distribution,” Thompson looks at all the unsold films out of Sundance this year and then talks with some of the current players in the online distribution space and wonders whether the needs of the former can be met by the current powers of the latter.

A passage:

The key question is, when will an alternative distribution outlet for indie films emerge — an outlet that can interest enough viewers to bring in meaningful returns?

The film industry is rife with eager alternative distributors pitching their wares — but making money isn’t usually part of the equation.

“The long-range outlook for specialty film is to move more to home markets. But the marketing challenge is enormous,” says Netflix’s Ted Sarandos.

She’s talked to a lot of people for the piece, and without spelling it out, the clear subtext is that the traditional Sundance film — the indie drama — is the type least-served by the current online options. Her best-case examples of films making a go of it online are mostly political docs, genre films, and sports docs. Those are the types of films that can launch into existing communities that not driven primarily by the major media. Films that require marketplace definition, that need to be formally introduced to the more general movie-loving consumer or to have their identities created and enhanced by critical support, are not finding the online distribution model to be a viable one at the moment.

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