There was a time when distribution used to be a massive undertaking in releasing a film. The raw stock was expensive, so there was a limit on the number of prints a filmmaker could develop. Even after the film was developed, the theatre owners had to physically take delivery in large cans and mount them on the projector to screen the film. This model put a huge strain on the capacity of theatre owners to screen the film immediately on release. Generally, smaller cities would wait for the film reels to arrive after having screened in larger centres. Blocks and villages fared worse. Film prints could reach such places as late as a year of their initial release. Also there was a danger of loss as these films are highly inflammable and distributing them is hazardous.
Cinematic technology changed the whole distribution process. Digital projectors have become standard mode of screening. Digital projection offers far superior image quality due to the absence of imperfections such as dust and scratches which are commonplace on film prints. Many theatres use Digital Cinema Package which is a collection of digital files used to store and convey digital cinema (DC) audio, image, and data streams. It comes in the form of USB pen which has a license on it.
An even more economical mode of distribution is the satellite technology. In this method, a film is downloaded from a secure server and the film is activated for use via a satellite. Movies are loaded onto a central server, and served on to each projector based on need, along with pre-show ads and trailers. Everything is fully automated. Satellite is getting a major push from advertisers, who are a major source of revenue for theatre owners. It has cost advantage by multiple times for advertisers to move to satellite distribution.
Low cost of distributing a film allowed producers to release their product in thousands of theatres all at once. This changed the way a film was declared hit or flop. Earlier a hit film would run in theatres for months on end to make money. A hit film could be a silver, golden, diamond or platinum jubilee depending on the number of weeks it ran in theatres. Such longevity is probably no longer feasible. The most money is made in the first two weeks of film release. Other subsequent streams of revenue are the TV channels, DVD sales and streaming services like Netflix.
As technology evolves, there will undoubtedly be further changes in distribution of content. Web series are already an alternative to shows on TV channels. It’ll be interesting to see how cinema evolves to leverage the new technologies being developed every day.
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