Activities Film

David Puttnam calls for end to “one size fits all” approach to cinema release windows

Lord David Puttnam, president of the Film Distributors’ Association (FDA) has issued a new call for the cinema sector to accommodate more flexible and innovative release windows.

David Puttnam’s statement

“The film eco-system continues to evolve rapidly and, in some cases, quite ruthlessly. We are witnessing new waves of convergence and a seemingly unstoppable trend towards direct-to-consumer relationships.

“The core skills of distribution, data-driven marketing and partnerships that connect individual titles with their audiences remain fundamental to the industry’s well-being as audiences enjoy an ever-expanding plethora of good content, delivered via an array of trusted brands. 

“This brings particular challenges for the sector of the industry that remains closest to my heart.

“In 2018, the top 50 releases, led by Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, generated almost three-quarters (72.4%) of the year’s UK box-office receipts, leaving more than 800 other titles competing for the remaining quarter.

“Such polarisation suggests that even the leading blockbusters have precious few weeks to play before they find themselves churned off screen; whilst also presenting increasingly existential questions for independent cinema and diversity of choice.

“To succeed fully in today’s world, it’s clear that traditional companies must re-think their operations root and branch. The solutions of previous decades are unlikely to best serve the digitally empowered audiences of today. To my mind, this will require ever greater flexibility regarding release windows, jettisoning the ‘one size fits all’ approach that can only serve to stifle audience choice along with digital innovation.

“It’s equally vital that, at awards time, there’s a level playing field among film distributors. Box-office data for every single release should be transparently reported, not least as an indicator that public audiences have enjoyed appropriate opportunities to see the titles involved.

“At its best, the cinema continues to deliver an unrivalled, visceral, out-of-home experience that can be shared by people of all ages. Nobody can wish more fervently than me that the media and entertainment sector continues to grow and thrive.

“But a year from now, the landscape could look very different, and we can therefore take nothing for granted. The imperative for ‘brand cinema’ is to move with the times, in such a way as to retain the affection, trust and respect of its audiences. The time to cement that trust is now.”