Homevid taps Web core and mass-market muscle

The Internet is increasingly being used to steer independent films to both their core audiences and the mass market, panelists said Saturday at AFM's seminar on exploiting ancillary markets.

Filmmakers can sell DVDs directly to core audiences via their own movie Web sites, while third-party video and theatrical distributors simultaneously push the titles through traditional channels.

"There's a revolution in distribution" among independents, said Peter Broderick, president of consultancy firm Paradigm, who pointed to motorcycle-racing doc "Faster" as a case in point.

"Faster" grossed a hefty $14,000 in a weekend at one Los Angeles theater on the strength of just Internet promotion to biker enthusiasts, with no paid ads.

"We let them know online, it cost us nothing and they all showed up," Broderick said.

"Faster" will sell about 12,000 DVDs directly from its Web site prior to a traditional video release later this month via New Video later this month. Broderick expects to move 100,000 more DVD units.

Broderick said filmmakers should set up movie Web sites even before their films are made -- to promote the pics to target audiences and build up mailing lists for marketing.

In a twist, video distributors increasingly push for a token theatrical release to generate awareness for video release, and sometimes provide theatrical marketing costs as part of their rights deal, said Paul Colichman, chairman of Regent Entertainment.

Regent made the hit "Gods and Monsters." One or two years ago, a small theatrical release was viewed as not worth the expense for a modest independent film, Colichman said.

Such a release might involve just $100,000-$500,000 in marketing costs for a theatrical run at a single theater in five-10 cities, "the purpose of which is to get noticed by the media," said David Garber, president and CEO of Lantern Lane Entertainment. In the domestic market, filmmakers can access broader audiences inexpensively by mounting joint promotions with special interest groups --which have ready-made mailing lists of members interested in specific topics -- and by entering film festivals.

Producer Robert Greenwald launched docs "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" and "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War" via inhouse direct sales, then enlisted outside distributors for broader circulation.

"You need both," he counseled, saying third parties are in a better position to collect from stores or movie theaters, promote broadly and manage labor-intensive physical delivery.

Independent Feature Project/Los Angeles programmed the seminar, which was moderated by Michael Donaldson, a partner at Donaldson & Hart.

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