ICAA response positive to cinema on demand initiative

30 April, 2014 by Emily Blatchford

A cinema on demand service may be available in Australia later this year should the roll out of American web platform Tugg prove successful.

The company, which has been operating in the US since 2012 and has partnered with David Doepel's Leap Frog Films for its Australian roll out, works much the same as traditional crowdfunding models, only in this case interested parties pledge to buy movie tickets should a cinema agree to screen a certain film at a specified session time.


The session only goes ahead (and credit cards are only charged) in the case there are enough people to make up a decent audience.

Tugg co-founder Pablo Gonzalez spoke to ICAA Conference attendees yesterday about how offering a cinema on demand service can help cinemas attract new audiences, build new communities and attract patrons during quieter session times.

"There is nothing to lose making cinemas available to audiences during typically quiet times," Gonzalez told IF. "Ninety percent of TUGG events in the US have taken place during Monday to Thursday, a period where theatres can often be empty."

Given the threshold for each film is around 70 sold tickets (and Gonzalez said most exceed this and average an audience around 110), it's an attractive prospect for cinema owners who are looking to fill quieter sessions. Particuarly for independent cinema, who are already embracing opportunities provided by ditial such as screening alternate content in the less popular session times. 

The cinema on demand model has already proved popular in the US, in particular with documentaries which attract a certain demographic. One such example is the motorcycle flick Why We Ride which attracted a solid following from bike enthusiasts.

Another success story was the comedy sci-Fi Iron Sky, an Australian/Finnish/German production about Nazis living on the moon. The film, which received its production funding through crowd sourcing, was then able to draw on that community to once again reach for their pockets, this time for the opportunity to watch the finished product on the big screen.

Through Tugg, around 80-90 screenings of Iron Sky were successfully carried out.

Speaking at ICAA yesterday, Gonzalez also pointed out that Tugg has never spent a dollar on advertising, and events gain momentum purely from word of mouth. The main "promotor" of a particular Tugg event (which can be an organisation or cinema) pockets five per cent of the ticket sales, while TUGG takes home ten per cent.

The overall reaction to the premise from ICAA members yesterday seemed positive, particularly in regard to the possibility of drawing audiences to the cinema during quieter session times.

It was also noted that some regional areas which may not necessarily have access to some independent cinema titles could then campaign for these to be shown in their community.

Gonzalez said Tugg plans for a slow roll out through Australia in order for the company to best understand different Australian communities and subsequent possibilities.

After talking at ICAA yesterday, Gonzalez will head to Melbourne tomorrow and then Perth before back to the States.

The ICAA conference is being held at the Dendy Opera Quays in Sydney and will conclude tomorrow.