By Gillian Easson
Are you thinking of going to the cinema tonight to see that new independent film you’ve heard about?
Although I am a big fan of supporting local film theatres and I really enjoy the full cinematic experience; in reality, I’m ashamed to admit that I think about going to see films a lot more often than I actually get around to seeing films.
Fixed film showing times, limited runs and problematic/no transport links present challenges for audiences to see new film content. These issues are some of reasons why the project supported through Nesta’s Digital R&D Scotland Fund is particularly important for thinking beyond the venue’s physical walls.
Glasgow Film Theatre, one of the UK’s leading independent cinemas, is working with another independently programmed cinema, Edinburgh Filmhouse and technology company Distrify who offer online cinema experiences, to provide a Video on Demand (VOD) player service.
These integrated Players launched last month and the curated films can be watched anytime on your computer, tablet or mobile in the UK and Ireland. Having watched one of their films last week, their film prices are comparative with other online rental service; and offer a welcomed user experience.
Same date releases in cinema and simultaneously on VOD are still rare in the UK; but what makes these players special is their curated platforms. Film programmers select on the basis of content they feel their audiences would like to see. They don’t provide a film library like Netflix or Lovefilm and aren’t limited to working with set distributors, therefore their content can be more specialised and also diverse.
The new Glasgow Film Player and Filmhouse Player allow both cinemas to show a combination of new releases; favourite films that audiences might have missed on the big screen; and exclusive content such as films that haven’t yet been picked up by UK film distributors.
The really interesting part is that Distrify’s shareable Player allows anyone to embed the Player films into their own websites and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. With an affiliate’s share of 10% per film rental to those who share films in this way, this is a pretty unique way of sharing and extending the reach of the films.
Through the project, the organisations are gaining a lot of valuable audience data to inform future content, relationships with the rights holders and focusing on how to make this commercially sustainable. This valuable research on broadening audiences through digital will be important learning for the wider sector – we’ll be sharing the findings from the project next year.
Reaching people who can’t feasibly physically visit the cinema or those who live in isolated areas through these new platforms; and showing films which might not otherwise get viewed, can only be a good thing for both audiences and the independent cinema sector.
These options definitely won’t deter me from going to the cinema any less, in fact they may well encourage me to ‘go’ a lot more.