I want to start a cinema. Where do I purchase new release films before they reach the big screen?

Question by SunKing: I want to start a cinema. Where do I purchase new release films before they reach the big screen?
Where do cinemas in general go to find their films to show? I need a contact or website to buy these new releases as they get released from the producers or studios before they even reach the rest of the theaters. How do I go about? I am starting a small independent cinema in my home town.

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Answer by Bean

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  • Justin H June 20, 2013, 5:59 pm

    First thing first, you need to learn how the movie theatre business works.

    Your first lesson: theatres rent movies from the studios, they do not buy them. Films are rented for a percentage of the gross which will often net out to about 55/45 for the studio.

    Your second lesson: just because you want a movie in your theatre does not mean you’ll be able to get it when you want it. When you can get a movie will often depend on the kind of business your theatre does and how long your theatre can play the movie. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, the studios are often more concerned with weeks on screen than the actual gross – at least for first run theatres. If you can not guarantee at least 2-3 weeks on screen for most new releases, you will not be able to get most movies the opening weekend.

    Your third lesson: not all movie releases are created equally.
    -Some movies are wide releases which are available to virtually any theatre nationwide on the opening weekend.
    -Some movies are wide releases, but are not available to smaller theatres/markets during the first few weeks.
    -Some movies are limited releases which only play in major cities; some limiteds eventually expand to nationwide, some do not.

    Finally, you will need to find a film booker who will work as your go between with the studios. It is possible for you to do the film bookings yourself, but it will be difficult without industry contacts. You really need a booker who has the buying power of several hundred screens. This makes it much easier to get what you want than if you’re just a couple screens all by yourself.

    I should also add that unless you have some really good connections within the movie industry, you have absolutely zero chance of getting sneak previews, advance screenings, or test screenings in a small town.

    If you’re interested in becoming an “art house” where you specialize in smaller studio releases, independent movies, and foreign films, you should understand there is completely different set of dynamics at play.


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