Real-Time Distribution Case Study, Week 23: Distribution Strategies & Influencers

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The tour is becoming more fun as we settle in to a routine, finding time for both work and play. The most rewarding part is meeting new friends each night at the screenings.

In some ways, this has been the hardest week — the middle of the second act: we can’t see the ending, our path twists & turns, and we occasionally navigate bumps and potholes in our strategies. We’ve spent a lot of time this week evaluating the tour, analyzing successes & mistakes, and discussing how to shape & improve the second half.


Audience demographics, outreach & “influencers”

  • most of our audience has been over 50. They seem to be the folks who have time and money to go to the movies, are looking for something different than standard Hollywood fare, and who keep an eye on new indies coming to their local cinema. They’re a proactive movie-watching audience, seeking out cinematic entertainment.
  • we haven’t yet cracked how to consistently reach: bowlers, graphic artists, film groups or fans of cast. Sometimes our outreach works; sometimes it doesn’t.
  • Facebook ads work but not consistently. We’re testing the timing and targeting.
  • Our most rewarding events are still the ones where one individual (a theater owner or host) screens the film for their community, an audience who trusts that host’s taste. In these cases, the audience comes out in droves, with great trust and loyalty to the presenter. In addition, these audiences most readily rave about the film and go on to share future screenings either on Facebook or with their friends across the country.

We’d like to create more of these experiences.

Not every independent cinema reflects this scenario. When it works, the theater owners (or presenters) act as “influencers”. Their “followers” trust them and take their lead.

This is the new style of marketing that is being taught: partner with influencers. I’ve been in an online marketing class for a year, and they’ve been hammering this into our brains. I don’t think I fully grasped the concept until just this moment.


Distribution Strategies

We’ve been talking in circles around distribution strategies. Conceivably, there are endless options, just as there are endless audiences to reach.

We’ve narrowed the options down to a few core paths.

1) Sell all rights to a distributor. Step away from the release completely. This is the most traditional option, although in many ways, the least likely for an indie.

2) Finish the tour and partner with a digital distributor. Allocate marketing money to the digital release.

3) Finish the tour and make direct deals with as many platforms as possible without the help of a distributor. Allocate marketing money to the digital release.

4) Allocate money to a publicist and an established booker to execute an expanded theatrical release in the Fall in 10–15 bigger markets. Then execute either 2 or 3.

We’ve experienced all of the above on past films, but with each new film, the best path is not always obvious. We’ll be continuing these discussions over the next week and will make a move towards one or a combination of the above strategies.


Audience vs Industry-Gate-Keeper Responses

As we’ve screened, we’ve heard rave reviews from audiences and have also peripherally listened for industry responses anticipating future partnerships.

It’s been fascinating and perplexing, especially in light of finding the best way forward. The variance in response may indicate why it is so difficult to insert new or different content into the studio system.

Audience responses night after night:

  • best film I’ve seen in a long time
  • moving, inspiring
  • my new favorite film
  • thank you for making this
  • you made a film about me; no one makes films about me
  • why aren’t more films made like this
  • I wish everyone could see this

A handful of industry gatekeeper responses:

Has the industry really become this disconnected from the audience? Or is it that the audience who likes our content isn’t large enough for the industry to spend time on? Or is it something else altogether? It’s also quite possible we haven’t found the best-fit industry gatekeeper.


Highlights from the week

  • A Lundgren family reunion at the Modesto screening. Grateful to reconnect with Idaho family we haven’t seen in years.
  • 4th of July fireworks watching party from the roof of the RV
  • A quick stop in Las Vegas with perfect timing. Gary & Luis caught an historic MMA evening of fights, and Flannery & I walked the strip taking in the lights, the Bellagio fountain, and the New York New York city scape.
  • A day at the Grand Canyon. We walked for miles along the rim taking in the grandeur and watching the light sweep across the colorful canyons.
  • Figuring out Airtables thanks to a tip from tour buddy, Naomi (Bite Me). I’ve finally figured it out, and now I’m hooked. If I could have created a tool, this would be it. Spreadsheets + databases + endless UI presentations? Yes, yes please.
  • Thanks to everyone who helped and gave comments on our generator and air conditioning. The AC works when we are plugged in. We’ve narrowed it down to an electrical issue between the solar, generator and AC when they all are operating or overloaded — possibly the transfer unit. Thankfully, we have an appointment in Albuquerque on Thursday. For now, we are staying cool enough.

Next week: Meet the Team

Thanks for following!

♡ Annie


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