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postheadericon Alternative Content in Cinemas: A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel?

Recently we’ve been building on our work in “alternative content” to develop a newsletter-cum-release schedule, which we’ve called Cinema Events. You may have noticed the ad to the right of your screen. It’s got off to a good start, though like local newspapers, the people who like it most seem to be those that are in it – in this case distributors of opera, ballet, concerts and sports to cinemas. We predict an upsurge in the quantity of events available as these distributors become more aware of each other’s content and start to licence more of it.

Equally interesting, it seems alternative content does not always subscribe to the model which saw multiplex cinemas sweep through the international market, in which, basically, all films played all theatres.

In some territories at least exhibitors aim for exclusive access to some streams of content. In France Pathé Live and Côté Diffusion appear to serve their parent theatre circuits with separate streams of product. Les Cinémas Gaumont Pathé and CGR do not show content from the other’s alternative content arm. In the United States NCM Fathom has formal exclusivity arrangements in place with both distributors of alternative content and with exhibitors. Thus BY Experience, distributor for the Metropolitan Opera, only distributes through NCM Fathom in the United States; only members of NCM’s network can book Fathom events – and they cannot book anyone else’s.

Everybody loves to offer exclusive products. But we wonder if there isn’t a danger that this approach could result in much alternative content being sidelined as essentially a promotional tool, rather than develop into a market in its own right. One of the reasons we started Cinema Events is because so many of these events are still under nearly everyone’s radar. Without big promotional budgets like the movie industry, it is sometimes hard even for cinema professionals to know what is going on. Imagine being a consumer.

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