Real-Time Distribution Case Study, Week 49: Booking Theaters for a Platform Release

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Phoenix, Oregon will be released in what is called a platform theatrical release, meaning that we will open in fifteen to twenty select theaters and then expand into additional markets based on performance in the first weekend.

This model minimizes up front risk and makes efficient use of limited resources but also puts pressure on meeting or exceeding revenue goals for opening weekend.

Revenue goals are reported as a per screen average and are available to all industry decision makers. Theaters book films based on per screen average and are more willing to book a movie once they see other theaters making money.

Our theatrical booker works with buyers in each region who represent many theaters. For a platform release, each buyer considers placing the film in 1–5 of their theaters for opening weekend and then expanding to other markets once the film does well.

Our revenue goal for opening weekend is $2500 per screen average which is about 300 people per theater. This is a low number compared to studio indies which may look for a $15–20K per screen average for a platform release expected to expand to 1,000 screens. The platform release is, of course, completely different than the strategy for a blockbuster release which opens immediately on 3,000 screens.


During the tour, we primarily booked art house theaters, since we relied heavily on a theater’s built-in marketing and loyal audiences.

For the platform release, in partnership with our distributor, we will screen in a combination of art-houses in larger cities and cineplexes in regional markets.

In some ways, this contradicts our thinking from last summer to only play art-houses. But our current strategy is slightly different in that, for the under-served regional markets, we will focus heavily on saturating community outreach and making the film appear more like a studio independent release.

In addition, in order to keep the per screen average high, we must ensure that each theater has the ability to play the film multiple times per day. Some art-house venues only have one screening time per day. Cineplexes are more likely to play the film 4–5 times per day. Especially in the first week, it’s important that we have more screening times available for increased revenue potential.

In putting this plan together, we are working with an experienced theatrical booker who has had recent success putting independent films in under-served regional markets where the studios are spending minimal resources. There is opportunity to go into those markets and offer them extra attention which they don’t get from other films. Over the summer, we found that if people knew about the film, audiences in these markets responded extremely well — in fact better than some of the purely art-house markets.

Within the next week, we will have the opening weekend theaters booked, and then we will focus on outreach in those cities for the ten weeks leading up to release.

By keeping the theater count low, we are able to focus our marketing efforts. Over the summer, we always felt behind and couldn’t quite manage marketing to sixty cities.


We are currently booked in nine theaters including four in the Laemmle chain in LA. We may open in parallel in NYC, but the rest of the theaters will be focused in regional markets. We will count on those markets to carry our per screen average, as often the LA/NYC markets under-perform. We are only releasing in LA/NYC in order to obtain reviews which can be re-purposed nationally.

We will continue booking and prepping theaters in additional cities for the remaining weeks of the 90-day theatrical release window with a hope that the number of screens and cities will grow to between 50–100 total screens. This would meet our theatrical goals for the film and help drive digital revenue numbers for the June digital release.

In parallel with the theatrical platform release, we will run the bowling promotion starting in February and announce digital pre-orders in late March or early April.

In summary, the strategy is to:

  • release in under-served regional markets where the studios put limited resources, especially in the first few weeks
  • release in LA/NYC to obtain reviews to be used nationally
  • make the film appear like a bigger release in regional markets using saturated outreach and in-theater point-of-sale marketing materials
  • choose theaters with multiple showing times per day in the first week (to increase potential for a higher per screen average)
  • prime other markets for the remainder of our 90-day release window to be ready for expansion

As I have not been involved in a platform release before, I do not fully understand all the details. I will be learning from our booker and distribution team as we go and sharing with you what I learn!

♡ Annie


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