Blog Home

Streamers and the Changing Landscape of Film Distribution

Director/Producer Daniel Farrands on strategies for success in the time of VOD
September 14, 2021

Staff Writer

Releasing films direct to streamers versus the movie theater is one of the hottest debates in the entertainment industry right now, as filmmakers forge a new path in the world of distribution.

Popular streaming contenders, Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and Hulu are vying for audience's attention while brick and mortar theaters work to re-imagine the theatrical experience. But, will it be enough to entice us from our comfy couches and exchange a homemade bag of popcorn for a giant tub of it at the theater?

Independent film director and producer, Daniel Farrands, is at the forefront of this conversation with a slate of upcoming new releases, and shared with Entertainment Partners his thoughts on the current climate and how it is shifting his release strategies.

Movie Theaters vs. Streaming

When it comes to going to the theater, Daniel points out “There is something communal about watching a movie together with strangers sitting in the dark with you. It’s just having that energy of an audience around you. Nothing can compare to that. And I think that will always remain part of our culture... The goal [for filmmakers] is to get your movie in theaters. A lot of times it’s that dream you’ve always had.”

On the other hand, he admits, “But I don’t think that’s the end all be all anymore. I think there is such a market in video-on-demand that the stigma of it has worn off, and they [the streamers] are seen as just as viable.”

2018 and 2019 were some of the most groundbreaking box office years — each one bringing in nearly 12 billion in domestic revenue. Will it ever go back to that?

Daniel believes, “Having that choice for people who don’t or can’t have that experience [of going to the theater], should also have the opportunity to experience films in a home venue... I think we will eventually figure out a way where we will have a nice balance of both the theatrical and streaming world.”

Person-in-movie-therater-1k.jpg

The Challenges

The big question still lies in how movies are going to make back their money, especially now that sales are split between streamers and box office tickets. Business models for pricing are changing all the time as different streamer platforms experiment with how to release their slate of films. According to the Hollywood Reporter in comparing polls, it found that audiences are more willing to pay a higher subscription and additional fees to have access to new movie releases at home.

Yet, releasing films direct to streaming doesn’t always work. The industry is seeing backlash, as in the case of 'Black Widow', which was released both online and theatrically at the same time, potentially drastically impacting theatrical sales and the revenue due to its cast.

Movie theaters need help, but the changes they need may not be what we are expecting. Farrands had this to say: “We all want to go back to normal... movie theaters need the product of big movies to sustain them. And if you can just click a button and watch it at home, you are putting a big segment of the entertainment business out of work.”

He also notes that rampant piracy issues impacting streaming sales is yet another challenge to combat when new films are released directly online.

The Opportunities

While the industry is still figuring out a viable working model where theaters and streamers are both invited to the party, Farrands says we can’t deny the benefits of streaming, “It’s opening us up to very interesting opportunities on how to get our films shown and seen by audiences who might not have otherwise seen them before... I might have seen an interesting trailer on my streaming platform, and then may want to rent that movie. It never came to theaters and I never heard of it, but I think it looks really interesting.”

Ultimately, audiences want to choose where and how they want to experience a movie, and the industry is trying to play catch up on the way we consume content.

“I think the whole market can’t be denied at this point. We can’t turn back time and make it the way it used to be” Farrands says, “we just have to find that place where the business model makes sense for those who are marketing and distributing films, but also making it accessible to audiences now who want choices.”

What could be a solution? “A lot of it is marketing,” Farrands admits, “and I think we have to be more creative in the way we market and sell movies.”

Dan-farrands-2-450.jpg
Director and Producer, Daniel Farrands

Marketing for Streamers

Whether a film is released for us to watch on our personal devices or the big screen, it comes down to getting audiences excited so they want to click “play” or buy the ticket.

Daniel’s advice to filmmakers to cut through all the noise:

  1. Create buzz through social media: Actors are becoming their own marketing platforms. Use their social platform to spread the word. You really do need the people who have developed a following and name for themselves. It’s going to be a struggle for movies to get noticed and turn a profit if they don’t have a social presence prior to their release.
  2. Make it interactive: Turn the streaming experience into an event. Some companies are creating shipped kits and designing pop-up experiential marketing tactics to accompany the release of new films to get audiences excited about the story. We’re even seeing the resurgence of drive-in movies.
  3. Get a publicist: If you have a budget of any kind, get a publicist. You need someone who can get behind your movie, put you on the red carpet of film festivals, and blitz the internet with as much content about your project. The more visibility you can bring to your project, the more it can be a success, and then word of mouth can then take over.
  4. Submit to film festivals: Film festivals are seeing more engagement since it’s getting increasingly popular to earn the spotlight that way and build hype for a project before it is released. As studios are starting their own streaming platforms, there is an increased demand for new content, and we’re seeing bidding wars go down to pre-buy films in the festival circuit. We’re even seeing studios forming partnerships with production companies, so they can have first dibs on their award contenders.

The Future of Distribution

While streaming has changed the game for the studio business model, it could open up so many more opportunities for independent players to have a seat at the table, and expand their audiences. Farrands says, “I hope there is more of a resurgence in smart, independent films — because some of that stuff has gotten squeezed out by these giant tentpole comic book movies.”

Palmer, released directly on Apple TV+, is a great example of an independent film that turned into a hit.

With every network now offering its own streaming services, we are still drawing out the map of film distribution, and Daniel admits that the destination is unclear, “Now, it’s more about choice, which is a good thing, but we don’t want to go so far that we are inundated with content, and our attention is diverted in so many ways... it’s a big question and nobody has a good answer yet. Everyone is dipping their toe in the water right now.”

In this wild west of building a new world, where streamers and theaters can go-exist together? Where do you see us headed as a collective entertainment industry? The future remains to be seen, but we will all be watching.

Are you looking to get started on your next project? Reach out to the expert team at EP. From incentives and financing to production technology and payroll, we'll help you every step of the way.

Related Content

Anthony De La Rosa EP Residuals

The Beginner's Guide to Film and Television Residuals

7/7/2021
Important details every producer should know as they budget for their next project
Topic: Residuals
More

Meet the Producer

6/15/2021
From concept to the red carpet, the producer is there to keep the production moving forward
Master Series Return to Work Agreement Panel

Understanding the COVID-19 Return-To-Work Labor Agreement

11/12/2020
EP's Legal experts explain the entertainment industry's safety guidelines
Pressing Play in Eastern Canada Panel

Pressing Play in Canada: From Nunavut to Nova Scotia, Production Returns to the Eastern Provinces!

10/29/2020
Producers from across Eastern Canada come together to discuss the exciting work coming out of the...

Meet the Paymasters

9/9/2021
The hard-working payroll professionals behind Hollywood's paychecks
Equity Financing Panel-thumbnail

Film Financing Explained: Equity Financing

7/15/2021
James Schamus and Michael Helfant join our panel to share expert advice on funding film and television...

The Beginner’s Guide to Equity Financing

7/15/2021
Expert advice to help producers secure funding for their next project
Celebrating Pride Month Panel

Celebrating Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Film and Television

6/24/2021
Celebrate Pride month with us as our panel of groundbreaking producers and activists discuss the past,...

Diversifying Hollywood Through Better Hiring and Training

6/22/2021
How new legislation and production incentives are promoting diversity and inclusion
Sarah Westman-liu and Jennifer Liscio

Canadian Incentives and Legislation News

6/10/2021
The latest updates on incentives, CRA guidance on COVID-19 related costs, and more!

Choosing the Right Production Incentives

6/2/2021
5 questions to ask when selecting your next incentive-based filming location

The Path to Better Diversity and Inclusion in Hollywood

5/25/2021
How production incentives are helping to promote inclusivity
Spotlight on Georgia Production Panel

Spotlight on Georgia: The Producers' Perspective

4/28/2021
A dynamic group of producers, industry experts, and incentive specialists discuss the state of production...

Innovations in Production Incentives

4/27/2021
How emerging local initiatives are driving productions to new jurisdictions

The Beginner's Guide to Production Financing

4/6/2021
What to know before starting your next film or television project
Producing through COVID women producers panel

Producing Through COVID-19: A Discussion with Six Prominent Women Producers

3/25/2021
Stories of navigating the entertainment industry and producing during a pandemic
Pantea Ahmadi and Joe Scudiero

SB 973's Impact on the Entertainment Industry

3/15/2021
How California’s new pay data reporting legislation, SB 973, applys to the entertainment industry
Topic: Legal
Watch
Melissa Lintinger NBCU

A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU

1/7/2021
How television crews are getting back to work during COVID-19
Paul Steinke

A Conversation with Paul Steinke, SVP Production Finance at Walt Disney Studios

12/9/2020
Mark Goldstein and Paul Steinke discuss the state of the industry, emerging technology and more!
Nordic Countries Lead Production Return from COVID-19 panel

From Domestic TV to Mission Impossible 7: Nordic Countries Lead Production Return from COVID-19

10/15/2020
Lessons learned about producing through a pandemic, and how the Nordic countries got it right
All eyes on Florida panel

All Eyes on Florida: Spotlight on Florida Productions

10/1/2020
Producers and Commissioners from across Florida discuss production, crews, infrastructure and incentives
Christine Davila, Jairo Alvarado, Sonia Gambaro

Authentic Latinx Storytelling Starts with Inclusion

9/22/2021
Christine Dávila, Jairo Alvarado, and Sonia Gambaro work to amplify the talents of underrepresented...

How to solve a compounding problem?

9/8/2021
The perennial shortage of production accountants has been made worse by the competition for resources, but...

Film Financing Explained: Soft Money Financing

9/2/2021
Vivian Hua joins our panel of financing and incentive experts to discuss funding film and television...
Canadian flag

5 Things to Know Before Working in Canada

8/31/2021
Prepare for your next job in Canada with this checklist of payroll considerations
Topic: Canada
More

New Terms Under Return-To-Work Agreement

8/30/2021
RTW extension includes new two-part delineation, and the role of the vaccine
Topic: Legal
More
 John Hadity-Guide to Soft Money Financing-sq

The Beginner’s Guide to Soft Money Financing

8/25/2021
How filmmakers can capitalize on incentives, film funds, and more to finance their next project

Designing for Horror

8/13/2021
How filmmakers create fear through visual techniques
Paul Beyers prop master on set

Meet the Prop Master

7/28/2021
From script to screen, the creative mind behind the props from film and television

5 Things to Know Before Relocating for Your Next Job

7/20/2021
What production workers need to consider before moving to a new state
actors on set

Safety on Set Amid Changing COVID-19 Guidelines

6/9/2021
What productions should know as they head back to work

Meet the Production Accountant

5/18/2021
From budgeting, to billing, to payroll, the financial powerhouse behind every production

Meet The Costume Designer

5/4/2021
The artist behind a character's signature style

Editorial Spotlight: Dana Belcastro

3/30/2021
Producer and executive, Dana Belcastro, on how women are changing the way Hollywood does business

Editorial Spotlight: Nancy Savoca

3/23/2021
In celebration of Women's History Month, director and producer, Nancy Savoca, shares her experience in...

Women Impacting Hollywood

3/16/2021
From Storytelling to Set Design, Female Voices are Shaping Entertainment

Diversity and Pay Reporting in California

3/6/2021
Your guide to understanding SB 973 and its application to the entertainment industry

SB 973, California Pay Data Reporting Law FAQs

3/6/2021
The new pay data reporting law and its impact on the entertainment industry

Returning to Production: Hair and Makeup Teams Apply COVID-19 Protocols to Life on Set

2/26/2021
Getting back to work: a look inside set life during COVID-19

The Beginner's Guide to Production Incentives

2/17/2021
EP helps filmmakers navigate the complex world of film and television incentives
Pantea Ahmadi and Alan Wu

California & New York Employment and Privacy Legislation Changes in 2021

1/27/2021
EP's Legal team breaks down important legislation changes impacting production hubs
Topic: Legal
Watch

How Television Crews Are Getting Back to Work

1/12/2021
A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU
Becky Harshberger and Neddy Alonso

Preparing for 2021 Payroll Tax Changes and the New Form 1099-NEC

12/10/2020
EP's payroll tax experts walk through the 1099-NEC and other important changes
Christy Guilbault, Annette Martinez-Novo

EP Cares — The Industry's Leading Health Insurance Program

11/24/2020
Learn how to get your production company on the industry’s leading health insurance program for non-union...

Film Tax Credit Programs Face Uncertain Future

8/31/2020
Tax incentive programs draw high profile productions, cautious optimism for California