Streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix have widely been seen as a huge threat to theatrically focused indie distributors — but some are actually welcoming the upstarts.
Daniel Hammond, chief creative officer of Broad Green Pictures, sang the praises of Amazon Studios, its partner on the upcoming Elle Fanning movie “The Neon Demon.”
“They are a tremendous ally and asset and they are paying for things in a way that people have become really cautious about,” Hammond said Saturday during a panel at the Produced By Conference at the Sony lot. “They are supporting material that you usually wouldn’t have that much excitement for. They are willing to bet on things.”
“What’s been fantastic about Amazon in terms of ‘Neon Demon’ is they are respecting the traditional theatrical window,” he added. “They are great partners and are great at finding how that movie is best going to play.”
Andrew Karpen, CEO of Bleecker Street Media, echoed a similar sentiment about working with Netflix, with whom they distributed the Idris Elba drama “Beasts of No Nation” last year in a controversial release that allowed streaming at home on the same day the movie hit theaters.
“Both Netflix and Amazon are players in the space and their ability to bring product to audiences is one of their strengths,” said Karpen. “It’s easier to make content than ever before. Not financially, but technologically. But also, audiences can consume easier than ever before. … What it offers is an opportunity for more films to find audiences and to have a financial return.”
But elsewhere at the Produced By conference, FX CEO John Landgraf said streaming platforms like Amazon, Netflix and Hulu are a “terrible model for the future of creative and I think that’s therefore a terrible thing for our society.”
The challenge for indie filmmakers and studios comes not only from emerging streaming platforms but new technologies that change consumer patterns.
Molly Smith, partner of Black Label Media, said that it’s become increasingly difficult for traditional forms of marketing to reach audiences.
“The world has changed how people are learning about films,” she said. “You are not watching TV the same — people are binge-watching TV. Reaching people and [building] awareness has become tougher.”
Karpen agreed, noting that “the audience has gotten more fragmented” as individualized communication on social media has supplanted mass-market sources of information like newspapers and broadcast television.
“Who is that core audience? We have to have that understanding when we get involved in a project,” said Karpen, who added that Bleecker Street Media’s core audience is people over 35. “If we can’t determine that core audience, then chances are we are not going to get involved in a film because it’s that important in the marketplace.”
Jonathan Saba, vice president of marketing at Saban Films, added that merchandising is vital to the success of a film as well. “Merchandising is extremely important,” he said. “Walmart is still a vibrant business for physical media … You need to have the film in front of audiences in order to attract.“