Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Local Hero

David Puttnam, advertising wizard, legendary film producer and one-time head of Columbia Pictures has recently become the head of the Film Distributor's Association (FDA) and on the 20 July he addressed distributors at BAFTA.

From an exhibition perspective his views were welcome: If product is the crucial business driver, that’s only part of the story. The key to extracting value from intellectual, and recycling it back into the industry, is distribution – forging and sustaining the connection between filmmakers and their audiences, wherever they may be. Last year 531 films were released in the UK, unless there is flexibility how we will be able to tap into future audiences?

He seems to be saying distributors need to abandon their old ways of demanding all shows and respond to audience demands and work with exhibitors to ensure everyone is a winner in the industry. He also advocated more flexibility when it comes to theatrical windows (the time frame between when a film is released in cinemas to when it comes out on DVD and TV).

As an exhibitor, I like long windows (as people are more likely to come to the cinema if the film is unavailable elsewhere) but to ignore the way people consume culture these days is to bury one's head in the sand. As Puttnam says: Don’t get this wrong: the UK distribution position is not that there should be no window of theatrical exclusivity, but rather that these business decisions should be made on a case by case basis, subject to all manner of individual circumstances. So let’s sift through the evidence and see if a way forward can be found that works for everyone.

Finally, a message for the doomsayers: History shows that there has never been a time when the competitive film business was not besieged by threats and uncertainty. The halcyon days of yore were, much as they sound, always a myth. Television, video and the internet, all in their time have caused seismic shifts in the cinema world. What’s different today is that change has moved from rapid to super-rapid.

It's refreshing to hear these words from the FDA, and Puttnam is certainly someone with the respect, authority and vision to lead the sector in these turbulent times of uncertainty.

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