Just when VOD has settled into the lexicon, along comes TOD.
What is TOD you may ask?
As Scott Glosserman, filmmaker and founder of Gathr,
which launched in March 2012, sees it,
“We have coined a new term: TOD, or theatrical-on-demand. We allow people to pull movies to places those movies wouldn’t have a prayer of screening. We’re creating theatrical distribution from the bottom up and democratizing [this part of the business.]
I like to say it’s kind of like Kickstarter met Netflix and had a love child. We are consolidating and creating critical masses online, who preauthorize their credit cards for the cost of the ticket, promote the film and gather around the endeavor to screen the movie.
When we achieve our internal thresholds and tip, that’s when we charge credit cards. We don’t have to be a traditional distributor who needs a home run to cover our losses. We can outlay our costs and then react when people tip the movie.” (Scott Macaulay, FilmmakerMagazine.com, March 9, 2012)
Glosserman cites some sobering statistics in a recent article for Tribecafilm.com (July 20, 2012):
Of the 610 films released in theaters in 2011, the vast majority, 469, had only limited runs. Just 37 of the 469 were released by studio specialty divisions. Another 66 of the 469 were released by art house distributors and of these, only 3 screened in more than 100 theaters.
“That’s a real shame, because word of mouth, online media, social networking, and traditional marketing ensure that millions of people nationwide—to whom a particular film is relevant—will have heard about a film’s theatrical release. However, a high percentage of those people will not be able to attend a limited release in a theater near them. In smaller communities (i.e., urban/town centers of less than 100,000 residents), the audience for a film may total only several hundred people, making ‘traditional’ theatrical release untenable.”
When asked by David Zax (Fastcompany.com, July 6, 2012) how many people it takes to make TOD economically viable, Glosserman responded:
“… to boil it down, for a screen that seats 200 people, it generally takes 40-60 people to “tip” a screening. This wouldn’t have been possible before without the bottom coming out of the cost of delivery.
… We’re able to augment a traditional distributor’s plan by serving secondary and tertiary markets. To give you an idea, there are 3,300 towns in the US of 25,000 people or more. If a filmmaker has a movie that may appeal to 80-150 people one time in every town of 25,000, the filmmaker could be looking at 3,000 screenings.”
The Gathr site currently lists about forty films that can be made available through audience demand in small towns across the country. A variety of genres are available, including action adventure (Avatar, The African Queen) comedy (Napolean Dynamite, Raising Arizona), documentary (Marley, Music from the Big House), drama (Moulin Rouge, Memento) and horror (The Fly, 28 Days Later).
Gathr is not alone in its efforts to use the internet to try to democratize theatrical distribution.
Austin-based, Tugg, founded by Producer, Nicolas Gonda, and Marketing Executive, Pablo Gonzalez, was unveiled in February 2012. Partners include AMC Theaters, Alamo Drafthouse, Cinemark Theaters, and Regal Cinemas. Currently, over 500 films are available on Tugg.
“Tugg … takes the crowd-funding model of a site like Kickstarter and applies it to your local cinema:
Anyone can choose a film from Tugg’s library that they’d like to see screened, along with a participating neighborhood movie theater; those selections immediately create a signup page, with the film’s info, including showtime, date and ticket price”
“If enough people commit to buying tickets on the Tugg website, the movie “tips” and the screening is on. All buyers are on the hook for their tickets, and the movie theater is the on the hook to screen the film at that time on that date. It’s a win-win for consumer and movie theater: The theater is guaranteed a full, profitable screening, and the ticket buyers get to enjoy a movie they all really want to see in theaters.” (Jason Gilbert Huffington Post, April 30, 2012).
Joe Baily, Jr. sums up the Tugg proposition as follows (Tribecafilm.com, July 9, 2012):
“Audiences want content how they want it, when they want it. And as content creator-owners, we must give it to them that way—while politely reminding them: The cinema is where it’s at. Tugg puts the keys to the projection booth in our own hands, as audiences and independent filmmakers: we have the power to put worthy films back onto big screens.”
OpenIndie is a collaboration between American director, Arin Crumley, and British web developer, Kieran Masterton.
The duo received development funds through a Kickstarter campaign in 2010 and relaunched this year. According to the company site, the films listed on OpenIndie are all added by filmmakers, which gives them a chance to get their films into theaters and at the same time gives independent film lovers a new way to discover films they might not have otherwise heard about.
“OpenIndie is a theatrical distribution platform for independent film … We allow film fans to discover new indie film and say, “I want to see this film in my nearest city”. From the information requesters give us we generate precise goelocation data about that person. This enables us to establish demand for a film in a given geographic area.”
“Our next goal is to build a theatrical network of venues to exhibit these films based upon real demand for the film in their town/city. Next we hope to turn audience demand into screenings by digitally delivering films to venues.”
If you are a filmmaker searching for theatrical distribution or a film lover living in a small town who’s been lamenting the fact that you do not have more variety in your local film theater offerings, the efforts of fledgling TOC companies like Gathr, Tugg, and OpenIndie may be just what the doctor ordered.