Cinema-on-demand launches in Oz

28 April, 2014 by Don Groves

A successful US scheme which enables moviegoers to select a title from a library and  screen it at a participating cinema is being introduced to Australia.

David Doepel’s Leap Frog Films is partnering with the US cinema-on-demand platform Tugg to pitch the service to cinemas, producers and distributors in Oz and New Zealand.


Leap Frog piloted the scheme on March 24 by holding a crowd-sourced screening of its film Half of a Yellow Sun at the Piccadilly cinema in Adelaide.

Doepel said there was a sizable turn-out for the drama which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Thandie Newton (The Pursuit of Happyness) as an upper class couple whose marriage is put to the test when Nigeria breaks into a crippling civil war in 1967.

The first US title from Tugg’s library to be screened in Australia will be Why We Ride, a US documentary about the passionate devotees of motorcycle riding, which played on more than 140 screens in 37 States.

Following requests from residents of Alice Springs, the docu will be shown at the Alice Springs Cinema on May 11 and 13. Tickets are selling fast including among biking groups who plan to ride to the Alice for the screenings.

Launched in the US in 2012, Tugg has amassed a library of more than 1,700 titles and last year facilitated more than 1,500 screenings throughout the US.

Tugg invites people to select a film from its library, nominate a venue and screening time, then spread the word via social media. When a minimum number of tickets is sold, Tugg reserves the theatre, manages ticketing and ensures delivery of the film. If not, no one is charged.

Co-founder Pablo Gonzalez told IF the typical threshold in the US is 70 tickets per screening and the average event sells 110 tickets. The service makes money by collecting a percentage of each ticket sold.

He’s confident the US platform will prove attractive to Australian producers who find it hard to get theatrical release for their films or in cases where the US rights have lapsed.

Gonzalez is in Sydney to make a presentation at the Independent Cinema Association of Australia conference and to meet with exhibitors, distributors and producers.

“We spent 11 months talking to the US studios, independent distributors and exhibitors before we launched and we will take a similar approach here," he said. "We want to learn about the market and adjust the model if needed.”

Tugg is piloting the scheme in Canada with the co-operation of the giant Cineplex circuit. In the US its line-up is a mix of B-grade fare (Toxic Hot Seat, Chastity Bites, Tentacle 8, Comedy Warriors), docus (Citizen Koch, Silk, Anita),  faith-based movies (Different Drummers, The Saviour) and horror (The Return of the Living Dead).

Gonzalez was looking at the idea of expanding to Australasia when he met Doepel through mutual acquaintances in Hollywood and they agreed to form a joint venture.

“There is high demand for different distribution models that can bring additional value to cinema and producer alike,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t curate films. If there is sufficient audience for a film we will facilitate the screening.”

Doepel believes the Australian platform will suit films that may not otherwise get released in cinemas or on the scale of a typical theatrical release.

“We look forward to proving that the idea of consumer-driven distribution has relevance for Australia and New Zealand and that it can grow the box office pie, delivering additional revenue to stakeholders; particularly producers and cinema owners,” he said. “It has the yield management potential to be of value to cinemas. We are very optimistic.”








  • Brian

    An excellent idea, something that has been able to be done for quite a while with the advent of digital, however, too many parties are afraid of to rock the five sisters boat!