Typical Paths of Distribution for an Indie Feature Film

  • Festival run, no distribution other than perhaps via internet / direct DVD sales [usually no soundtrack, other than perhaps via website]
  • Direct to Retail DVD distribution [no theatrical release or television] [usually no soundtrack, unless bundled with DVD and/or sold via website]
  • Direct to TV cable, DVD, and foreign [sometimes a soundtrack, depending upon strength of TV promotion]
  • Four-walled, limited domestic theatrical release [self-distributed, renting out theatres] – this is often done by makers of art films, without much financial gain [usually no soundtrack, other than perhaps bundled with eventual DVD or via website]

[NOTE: DEFINITION OF TERM: “P&A” – Prints & Advertising – refers to that part of a theatrical distribution campaign where distributors pay for film prints to be shipped to theatres around the country, and the advertising campaign in theatres, television, print and radio to promote the movie – oftentimes referred to as The P&A Campaign]

  • Arthouse theatrical release [less than 100 screens] – film released by a distributor who believes in the project though feels the project is too artsy or non-mainstream and therefore too big a risk for greater expense on P&A [soundtrack usual]
  • Limited theatrical release [500 to 1000 screens] – film released by a distributor in order to secure wide enough domestic exposure to drive up value of domestic television licensing deal, domestic DVD sales, and foreign sales – relatively modest distributor expenditure on P&A — $5-to-15 million [soundtrack definite]
  • Wide theatrical release – 2000+ screens – mainstream release, with significant expense on P&A — $25-to-40 million or more. While at one-time movie theatre exhibition was the only way for a movie to earn revenues, now there are multiple ways. While a film may in fact be seen by more viewers on television, the function of a domestic theatrical release these days is to act as a marketing driver to dramatically boost sales of domestic DVDs, dramatically boost domestic television licensing fees, and foreign sales. Without such exposure, a work going directly to retail DVD or to television has much less domestic and foreign exposure, thereby reducing its revenue potential. [soundtrack significant part of promotion and sales]