Conventional Distribution of Features
by James Jaeger

The following information is proffered to give one an idea of the conventional release sequence of feature motion pictures.

Features that are exceptional enough to compete in the theatrical marketplace, are released in conventional theaters utilizing the services of MPAA or AFMA motion picture distributors. Initial theatrical release is usually for 2 to 6 months and it is observed that many distributors release features in the foreign market first, especially if foreign pre-sales have been obtained.

About 3 months after theatrical release starts, each picture starts either home video or pay-per-view (depending on the advance minimum guarantees that can be arranged) and continue to play such market for at least 7 months. The norm is for a picture to start home video with a 90 day window before starting pay-per-view, however, due to rapidly advancing digital delivery technologies, pictures may regularly go to pay-per-view in the near future, or replace the home video market all together by the turn of the century.

About 6 months after theatrical release starts, each picture is released to pay-per-view (if previously released to home video) or to home video (if previously released to pay-per-view). Such picture is simultaneously released in the foreign markets (if the picture had started in the domestic theatrical market prior). The picture plays in the home video or pay-per-view market for about 6 months and in the foreign markets for at least 13 months.

About 13 months after start of theatrical release, each picture goes to pay cable for about 6 months.

Extremely successful features may play network TV for about 2 years after initial theatrical release. After network TV, such features return to pay cable for another year and a half.

Low-budget pictures will most likely skip Network TV (except as otherwise discussed), and go directly into syndication (in the thousands of independently-owned television stations nationally and internationally). In this case, syndication will start about three and a half years after initial theatrical release and continue for at least two and a half years -- possibly for as long as ten years per picture.

In consideration for reduced distribution fees, a financing entity may allocate funds to create, or augment, an initial marketing campaign -- mainly for original artwork & graphics, advertising and promotional costs.

NOTE: Permission is granted by the copyright owner to disseminate this article in whole or in part provided credit is given to the author (with a link to the article's source URL)
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