Launching Films


Research & databank

How film distributors drive cinema admissions Logout

UK film distributors invest more than a quarter of a billion pounds a year to launch and support their releases in the competitive marketplace. Around 450 new films receive a theatrical release in the UK every year.

The vast majority of distributors' investment in prints and advertising (P&A) is always made before the film is released - and before it has taken a penny in cinema ticket sales. Few cinemagoers set off for the cinema without knowing in advance which film they intend to see. It is the distributor of each individual title who creates the vital awareness, interest and urgent desire to see a new release.

For more information about how distributors position and market films, see FDA's guide to UK distribution.

Film prints

FDA estimates that £124m was spent on 35mm film prints and trailers in 2004. In future years, digital distribution may reduce this cost significantly, though this is only one consideration when planning a release. Including cross-overs from cinema to cinema, around 117,000 individual print movements were tracked in 2004.

UK film releases 2004 2003
by number of prints    
Up to 50 prints 257 229
51-200 prints 59 42
20-500 prints 85 77
501-800 prints 17 22
801+ prints 7 5
Total 425 375
    Source: DFS
Film advertising

In addition to their commitment to prints, UK distributors invested a record £158.5m in media advertising in 2004. This was £10.7m more than in 2003, with most of the increase accounted for by extra spending on TV spots. Media costs in the UK are relatively high, making film distribution in this market more expensive and risky than in many other territories.

UK film distributors advertising 2004 2003
spend by medium    
Television £69,813,958 £61,169,502
Outdoor £49,874,877 £46,618,383
Press £30,891,438 £30,134,492
Radio £7,912,248 £9,683,219
Other n/a £111,319
Total £158,492,521 £147,754,915
    Source: Nielsen Media Research

In the States, the MPAA reported in 2004 that the average cost of releasing a US film domestically had risen to $39m, in addition to the average production cost of $63.8m, making an overall average production/distribution cost per film of $102.8m.

Assessing the total economic impact of UK theatrical distribution

FDA recently commissioned a generic tracking study from research company TNS, designed to monitor the extent to which a film’s theatrical launch drives consumption in subsequent platforms. It values the overall impact of theatrical distribution in the UK at £2.4bn, of which only one-third is accounted for by cinema ticket sales.

The most obvious beneficiary of theatrical distribution is the home entertainment sector. On average, 20% of retail DVD/video buyers in the UK had previously paid to see the same film at the cinema. 8% of feature film video renters did the same. This equated to a combined £314m of video sales/rentals that related directly to a previous cinema trip notwithstanding the awareness established by a theatrical release among video consumers who did not see particular films in cinemas.

Furthermore, 79.8% of cinemagoers made some additional spending, over and above their tickets, when a cinema visit was the main reason for their excursion. Mostly this was on food and drink, either inside or outside the cinema or both, but extra items included travel and other leisure activities such as bowling and arcades. The average additional spend per cinemagoer per trip was £2.72 inside the cinema plus £4.77 outside, a total of £7.49. With 171.3m admissions in 2004, this equated to £1.3bn of additional spending.

Adding this £1.3bn to the £314m cross-over sum (above) and the £838.6m spent on tickets produced the massive total of £2.4bn a more complete picture of the real outcome of UK theatrical distributors' investment.