How do film companies and festivals utilise online marketing? (PT.2) / by Sian Parker

On the 18th of August, A Film Club was kindly invited to a talk hosted by the Film Distributors' Association in London. The Film Distributors' Association is the trading body for theatrical film distributors in the UK, whom release films for cinema audiences; from certified full length features to event cinema.

During the afternoon, there were two sets of talks from a variety of industry insiders, all of which relating to social media, multi-platform releases and online distribution. The second panel was comprised of representatives from Peccadillo PicturesCurzon and Grapevine Digital, and here were our findings...

Poster for Peccadillo Pictures'  The Levelling  -  Source

Poster for Peccadillo Pictures' The Levelling - Source

Known for their LGBT films, Distributor Pecadillo Pictures has a core staff of five and works with a range of freelancers to get their films to audiences. Rather than work in conjunction with Producers, they liaise with Sales Agents in order to determine the true value of a film. As Theatrical Distribution is very important to them, and they aim to release 4-6 key titles a year, it is vital to understand a film's worth when determining cinema space.

For the first time ever, in 2017 Pecadillo Pictures worked on a few straight to VOD titles too. When asked if this was a potentially dangerous move, discussion turned towards challenges Distribution faces in relation to modern day cinema. In the 90s it would have been precarious to launch a film solely online, but as Distribution becomes more demanding with every year and technology evolves, Distributors are having to look to other options now - especially when it comes to indie film. 

Pecadillo are lucky in that they have support from Picturehouses and Curzon's amongst other indie cinemas too. Additionally they have a great relationship with iTunes, which is unusual for a smaller Distribution company. So, whilst their DVD sales are dropping after experiencing a dip last year, Video On Demand continues to rise, but not at the rate to replace these sales.

In terms of promotion for their films, they have found Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to be the best platforms for raising awareness. Adverts have simultaneously been found to blossom, with a Vice advertisement for Embrace of the Serpent securing good results as an example. Offline it has been found that rural films do not sell as well in metropolitan cinemas, and instead posters in rural areas have been seen to reap good results.

Still from inside of a Curzon Cinema -  Source

Still from inside of a Curzon Cinema - Source

When it comes to programming films and events, Curzon recognise that individual cinemas have personalities and therefore specific audiences too. There can be diverse programming at each cinema, but simultaneously the movies on show have to be the right films; on the right terms and with the right amount of showings too.

BAFTA award winners for their contribution to cinema, Curzon are famously known for their cinema chain, but also have on demand service Curzon Home Cinema. Much like iTunes and Amazon, the online service lets you rent out the latest Arthouse films to watch in the comfort of your living room. By offering these films online, it gives audiences a broader access to Arthouse, particularly if a Curzon cinema is not accessible to you for whatever reason. When asked if they were afraid of the online service killing off their cinemas, they responded with the belief that people will choose cinema if the choice to is afforded to them. Ultimately they believe getting a film seen is the most important thing.

Grapevine Digital ran Mad Max: Fury Road's entire digital campaign for its theatrical release -  Source

Grapevine Digital ran Mad Max: Fury Road's entire digital campaign for its theatrical release - Source

Grapevine Digital deliver marketing campaigns for a variety of book, theatre, and film projects. In the past they have worked with Warner Bros. and Vertigo, and have worked on projects from script stage all the way to home distribution, or even just weeks before its release.

They run competitions and giveaways, create gifs and trailers, and utilise online coverage through influencers and bloggers to drum up interest for a film. This is particularly interesting considering budgets for online promotion started off so small, but have have grown substantially overtime. As an example, the digital marketing team behind Little Manhattan (2005) had a mere 5% of the budget to use on online promotion.

As magazine interest continues to drop, Grapevine Digital are looking towards bloggers and influencers on YouTube and Instagram to promote films. With social media allowing for inexpensive and targeted advertisements to reach specific audiences, it makes sense to opt for this medium over physical media; especially when social media can also be used to grow a cast's presence online, alongside the film's.

Lastly, what are some tips to remember when promoting your own film or talking about someone else's? 

  • The best place to start is by looking at The Advertising Standards Authority's guidelines. 
  • Comparisons are always so important when it comes to talking about or promoting a film. Selling and distribution companies all use comparisons. Whether they are discussing figures or the actual films themselves, comparisons are helpful in identifying the positioning of a film and how to approach marketing. 
  • When using screengrabs from trailers (excluding those including the talent, which are best avoided) if you aren't making money or selling them, they would fall under fair use, just like film stills would.