I often meet numerous people who ask me: “You say you are a film distributor. But what is the role a film distributor after all?” Whenever I come across a question like this, I like to first get a hang of what the other person actually thinks, and in most cases, people are clueless.
Another question I come across quite frequently is: “How is a film actually made? How do they take a script, then produce it and then take it to the theatres?” It is a complicated procedure, as you would have guessed.
Here is how a movie is taken into theatres:
Every year, the Hindi film industry or, Bollywood, as we call it, produces more than 800 feature films, but more than half of this lot never hits the theatre. Reason? Because these films fail to secure a distributor. A distributor is the ‘connection’ who’s responsible to take the produced film from the producers to the theatres. The entire process is called distribution.
The game isn’t as easy as it sounds! Once the film is made, the producer usually looks for a suitable distributor.
There are two ways a distributor works – he either takes a revenue share (taking a certain percentage out of every ticket earnings) or buys the theatrical rights of the film from the producer for a definite amount.
The entire country has been demarked into 9 different territories owing to distribution, called ‘circuits’. Sometimes, the producer has to look for a different distributor for every territory. Aahh, big task!
The next thing is to finalise a release date. Many films go wrong here. You might have heard of the famous SRK-Salman war for an festival release – the release date plays a very important role; festivals and holidays fetch a better audience turnout, obviously.
Keeping the film, its content, and its actors in mind, the producer and distributor decide which screens the film should go to: is the film made for a rural audience? In that case, the target is single screens across rural regions. Is the film made for only posh multiplex audience? Films like Dabanng, Rowdy Rathore, etc. have mastered the art to target single screens and multiplexes simultaneously.
The other part of the distribution is to know which screenplays films in what format. Nowadays, with technology playing a good part, most of the screens are equipped with digital projectors, wherein the films are sent through the hard disk (and they are 500GB each!).
Few screens still operate on the ‘reel’ based analog projectors, for which the reel (also called the ‘print’) needs to be developed. The hard disks and the prints are sent to each centre a day before the release.
The distributor arranges for the maximum and best number of shows for each screen. For example, if a film is releasing in 1000 screens, the distributor has to negotiate the rates and shows with 1000 screen owners. All this happens in the week before the release.
Finally, we the audience, reach the theatres overjoyed on the day of release, to watch the film of our favourite actor. We never realize that to take the films to theatres is as big a task as making the film itself, and although not a creative one, but definitely tiresome.
– Written by a Freelance film distributor for DU Times