Indie films await sign of VOD, Web download success

Wed May 5, 2010 3:52pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Like an actor waiting for a big break, the nascent market for watching independent movies on TV video-on-demand channels or online via streaming or downloads still needs a big hit to make believers out of moviemakers.

Last month, the Tribeca Film Festival launched an unusual effort to acquire films and release them on video-on-demand (VOD) in an effort to help kick-start the market. Typically, film festivals screen movies, not distribute them.

As the festival wound down earlier this week, the success of Tribeca's effort was still unknown. But market players said VOD and online sales are not likely a financial game-changer anytime soon for the beleaguered independent film industry that in recent years has fallen on hard times as too many indie movies competed for space in too few theaters.

"They (VOD and Web downloads) have generated meager revenue at best. The total revenue has not been up until now anything resembling financially compelling," said Eamonn Bowles, President of Magnolia Pictures.

Still, Tribeca organizers and industry executives agree the old financial model of a film creating buzz at festivals and being acquired for theatrical release needs changing.

"So many filmmakers still want that traditional route, they want to be able to walk down that red carpet at a cinema," said Tribeca's chief creative officer Geoff Gilmore.

"But I can't make that world exist any longer when it doesn't," he added. "I can't tell (filmmakers), 'you are going to have a number of different buying opportunities' when in fact it has been more and more we are trying to create new opportunities."

Tribeca's distribution arm, called Tribeca Film, acquired more than a dozen films and over half were shown at the festival, including "Climate of Change" and "Metropia."   Continued...