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Friday, May 29, 2020

SAM HOUSTON SETS ITS SIGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF DISTRIBUTION

HOUSTON, TX (June 2020) – Major changes are coming to Hollywood in the wake of COVID-19 and the Sam Houston Southwest Film Investment Fund is taking steps to adjust to this ‘new reality’, including making significant changes to its long-standing business model for P&A investments.

“For years, distributors and exhibitors honored the standard 90-day minimum window between when a film opens theatrically and when it hits home video. To date, Sam Houston has adhered to this tradition,” said Steven Jon Whritner, Sam Houston’s EVP Production and Development. He continued, “However, the current pandemic has made us re-think this standard. A greatly reduced theatrical window or even a day-and-date release is quickly becoming a practical option for us, and a commercially viable one, as well. The extraordinary success of Universal‘s ‘Trolls World Tour’ only served to amplify our need to consider alternative distribution strategies.”

The ‘Trolls’ sequel dropped simultaneously in 21 drive-in theaters and on VOD, grossing an estimated $100 million dollars in On-Demand rentals in its first three weeks of release. It had a 48-hour rental price of $19.99 during a period of time when many viewers were sheltering in place due to COVID-19.

“In order to capitalize on heightened audience awareness surrounding a new film – it’s ‘buzz’, if you will – it’s important to consider unique options with regard to how a film is marketed and released in today’s rapidly-changing exhibition environment. Transactional VOD, with its countless distribution platforms, has largely replaced DVD and Blu-Ray as a vital revenue stream for motion pictures,” Whritner said. “Sam Houston has determined that, moving forward, we will no longer simply ‘default’ to the 90-day window strategy; rather, we will determine our P&A investment strategies on a film-by-film basis, using all available data to decide what mode of distribution best suits a particular film. After all, no film is created equal, so why should its distribution be?”

With its new ‘hybrid’ approach to distribution and P&A funding, in particular, Sam Houston will consider straight-to-streaming or a strategic combination of theatrical and VOD for all of its future releases.

“We used to insist on a wide theatrical release of between 1,500 and 3,000 screens with a 90-day lockout period for every picture whose P&A we financed,” said Steve Hill, Sam Houston’s founder and CEO. “Of course, we still see the inherent value in it, but with countless viable choices today, and audiences willing to pay for quality first-run content, that’s clearly no longer the sole option for distributors and savvy investors.”

With so many new and emerging streaming platforms, quality content is arguably in more demand now than ever. Because homebound audiences are craving it, streamers and television networks are clamoring for it. And although traditional cinemas are facing dire circumstances, with major theater chains now facing bankruptcy, it’s widely believed that, given time, audiences will return.

“Brick-and-mortar movie theaters aren’t going anywhere,” opined Whritner, “But exhibitors will be forced to change the way they attract audiences in light of today’s multitudinous options. COVID-19 has only served to expedite this long-gestating need for change. Moviegoers won’t be returning to theaters in pre-pandemic numbers for many months to come. So it would be frankly irresponsible for a film fund such as ours to ignore this fact. If nothing else, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our funding partners to change with the times.”

Sam Houston Southwest Film Investment Fund is chartered to promote filmmaking in the Southwest region of the United States, while fostering creative talent and bringing quality entertainment to a global audience. Through strategic alliances with leading production companies and distributors, Sam Houston provides financing for every phase of content creation, from development through production and distribution.

 

For more information regarding the Sam Houston Southwest Film Investment Fund, please contact Steven Jon Whritner at swhritner@samhoustonswfilmfund.com or go to samhoustonswfilmfund.com.


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