Distributors irked by holdbacks
Australian independent distributors are facing problems with the requirement to delay the release of some films until after their US or UK premieres.
Compounding the issue is the increasing trend in the US to launch films simultaneously in cinemas and on demand.
In those cases, if the films opens theatrically in Australia on the same day as the US, the distributor has to wait 120 days for the home entertainment window.
Transmission Films co-founder Andrew Mackie tells IF, “The biggest pressure on our business is from international holdbacks and VOD release patterns, which hamper localised strategies and often create an unavoidable piracy issue.
“It's a complex issue unique to independents. The territory-by-territory model of indie film financing creates its own set of release date issues, with the US inevitably dictating what the rest can do, even on local productions.
“We are often held back to the US theatrical, which is sometimes the same day as their VOD. If we pursue a traditional release here, then we must release theatrically when they go out on theatrical/VOD and then wait a further four months before we can go out on VOD, with ensuing piracy for the entire window due to the US VOD release on day one.”
Madman Entertainment co-CEO Paul Wiegard says, “Increasingly there are scenarios whereby Australian and NZ distributors are beholden to major territory release dates due to piracy concerns.
“It is becoming more challenging to calibrate campaigns to allow for seasons, holiday periods, Festival dates etc. To illustrate how sensitive the concerns can be, we had push back against releasing a film on a Thursday in Australia when the US wants to release on a Friday, their opening day for new films.”
Mackie says recent Transmission releases A Little Chaos, Slow West and Strangerland were affected by holdbacks.
In the US Slow West was launched by A24 and DirecTV on multiple platforms on May 15 while Alchemy released Strangerland in cinemas and on VOD on July 10.
In an initiative dubbed SFF Presents, Transmission released Slow West and Strangerland in Palace cinemas and in select regional locations in June immediately after their Sydney Film Festival premieres, and on DVD/VOD a month later. As mini-festival releases neither title was subject to the 120-day holdback.