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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Distribution: The key to a box office success
UK Cinema
Many cinemas in Britain are owned by US studios, which show their own films
Distribution is the most profitable part of the film business, and an essential component in the success of a picture.

If a film fails to appear in the cinema, its chances of major success on video are slight. Yet between a third and half of all British films are never screened.

Part of the problem is down to the large American studios whose in-house distribution arms are in charge of the job. These companies naturally favour their own product and tend to prefer US-backed films over British ones.

The difficulty is compounded by the fact that many of Britain's major cinema chain's also have strong ties with US studios, giving US movies a head start at the box office.

The Full Monty
The Full Monty's runaway success was, in part, thanks to a major US distributor
But on occasions the system can actually benefit British film makers. The runaway success of The Full Monty is due in part to the American firm which distributed it to hundreds of UK cinemas.

There have also been accusations of "bundling", where a US studio will insist cinemas show two of their less successful pictures in return for screening a blockbuster.

British film producers are trying to sidestep these difficulties by forming international alliances with established distribution arms.

Meanwhile, the British Arts Council is looking inwards and is keen to build a small but robust distribution circuit at home.

In the past, home-grown films, for better or worse, have often been tagged "cult", "quirky" or "arthouse". While such labels can suggest artistic integrity and a welcome diversion from some of Hollywood's big budget output, they inevitably hamper wider distribution.

The business is now learning to swallow its pride and distributors are pushing more British movies into the multiplexes and big West-End screens in London.

See also:

31 Dec 97 | Events of the year
12 Mar 98 | UK
24 Mar 98 | film
24 Mar 98 | Oscars
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