Watching Windows

Wednesday, October 9 2013
Watching Windows

Back in 2009, before the now failed Revolver earned a wealth of publicity over its day and date theatrical releases, before Icon and Lionsgate, as well as Curzon and its Artificial Eye imprint had furthered the concept of similar releases with high profile titles such as Bachelorette and A Late Quartet, one company was first into the fray when it came to simultaneous, or nearly simultaneous DVD and Blu-ray, video on demand and theatrical releases.

And now, some four years later, Kaleidoscope is still looking at different strategies and routes to market for its titles. The independent distributor is not following a one size fits all kind of approach, more a different line of attack for each title that comes to market.

Take its current slate – the likes of Smash And Grab, Greedy Lying Bastards and Camp 14 all have slightly different approaches, but each has some shortened window. They follow in the wake of recent releases such as The Great Hip Hop Hoax and 9.79*, which all had similarly smart strategies behind them.

So how did it come about? “Different release windows and strategies have always been something we are looking at,” says the company’s chief executive Spencer Pollard. “We were actually the first label in the UK to do day and theatrical and vod way back in 2009 with Little Ashes and The End – good films with potential far better than a small company like Kaleidoscope at the time could afford, so we multi-platformed them to ensure the widest reach possible.

““It’s hugely important to be able to look at different routes to market. It defines our release strategy and the P&A we can support a film with – especially with documentaries that are loved, reviewed well and deserve a wider audience, so we try to give it to them.”

It’s essential, Pollard says, to be as flexible as possible. “It’s the most important factor. The norm no longer should be the norm.”

And it certainly shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach. “We have some ideas and formulas – but the diversity of the titles, albeit mainly theatrical documentaries, has been influenced by current TV or SVOD deals already in place and our ability to work with each of those broadcasters or platforms and tinker with the release strategies,” explains Pollard. “Each of the films has its own unique selling point and we believe a film can be driven by theatrical, DVD or digital revenues – or hopefully, a cross of all three enabling us to widen the release plan and formats accordingly.”

Kaleidoscope has taken on someone to deal purely with the video on demand sector. “Since Lucy Savage joined us earlier this year.” Pollard explains, “we’ve had dedicated digital focus and it’s hugely increased the leverage we have and the direct relationships we can influence on a day to day basis. We’re very excited by the upcoming and current releases.’

He rattles off a list of those films. “Recently titles such as The Reluctant Fundamentalist, 9.79*, Much Ado About Nothing and The Body have all worked and we are very excited by Smash And Grab, Which Way Is The Front Line From Here and Camp 14 all of which come out in the next month.”

The company has more than its fair share of documentary releases on the way. “We have a strong focus through our own UK distribution and international sales business to work with great theatrical documentaries, films that review well, have potentially huge audience reach and are traditionally not pushed hard theatrically,” he explains. “By spending some P&A across multiple platforms, we can hopefully build a wider PR campaign and release reach. We know digital partners are excited by these upcoming releases and we have already seen some excellent results – far larger than previously generated and I think gives hope to distributors of genuine quality films. We ensure these films get a theatrical platform to widen the consumers knowledge of them through PR and reviews and build on the release from there.

Kaleidoscope has slowly shifted its marketing too. “We have started to support digital platforms and different release strategies with strong above the line and below the line support,” says Pollard, “whether that be national advertising specifically promoting theatrical and digital distribution release dates or strong PR and social media messaging on the release of these films.”

But there are still plenty of lessons to be learnt, the beauty of experimenting with new formats and platforms and different routes to market is that there are no hard and fast rules and you can, quite literally, learn on the job. Pollard says: “The more we engage with the consumer and the platforms, as well as traditional bricks and mortar and cinemas – both multiplex and independents, the more we will learn.”

The different sides of the new retail triangle – exhibitors, the video on demand operators in all their different forms and more traditional video retailers, both bricks and mortar and more recent additions from the online sector – have risen to the challenge and are, Kaleidoscope says, welcoming different routes to market. As Pollard notes: “Depending on the film and what you can bring to the traditional way of releasing a film they are open to ideas – whether it be a live gig, or a Q&A or in-store signing, or an early digital release to increase marketing and PR opportunities there are conversations that can be had always.

“I am a strong believer there are multiplex films that deserve and should keep to traditional windows, but when you have an independent film, purchased and released by an independent company, that deserves a wider audience, we will try and make that happen – we want to give each film the best chance to breakout.”

The public too, Pollard adds, are similarly taking up the challenge. “They are embracing it – they must be as the revenues have improved from previous experience. Anything that enables the viewing public to watch, tweet, consume and ultimately, pay for these films more easily is good news for all.”

Into next year, and how does Pollard and Kaleidoscope see things developing? I think there will continue to be groundswells of opinion over film release strategies,” he concludes. “Non-traditional release plans will continue to develop and evolve. So long as you don’t treat any film like the last, then you stand a chance of making it work.”

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