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Distribution: Marketing: Prints and Advertising by David Sin


image from Distant Voices Still Lives (1988)

The key elements of Prints and Advertising (P&A) that a distributor must consider at this stage are:

The quantity and production of release prints and trailers:
Specialised films will often be released with fewer than 10 prints into key independent cinemas, with these prints subsequently 'toured' over a 6-month period to all parts of the UK. On the other hand, commercial mainstream films will often open on over 200 prints, simultaneously screening in all major UK towns and cities.

Press materials, clips reels, images, press previews, screener tapes:
For the majority of releases, favourable press response is a key factor in developing the profile and desirability of a film. Distributors consider both the quality and breadth of coverage, and this is often inscribed into the nature and scale of a press campaign.

The design and printing of posters and other promotional artwork:
The cinema poster - in the UK this means the standard 30" x 40" 'quad' format - is still the cornerstone of theatrical release campaigns. Numerous recent examples indicate that the poster design is highly effective in 'packaging' the key attributes of a film for potential audiences. Distributors will also consider other poster campaigns, ranging from Underground advertising to billboards.

Advertising campaign - locations, ad size and frequency:
Advertising in magazines, national and local newspapers works in tandem with press editorial coverage to raise awareness of a release. Press advertising campaign for specialised films will judiciously select publications and spaces close to relevant editorial. For mainstream films, scale and high visibility is the key. The cost of print advertising in the UK is comparatively high, and is seen as making distribution in the UK a riskier business than in most other countries. In order to extend the reach of advertising and develop more effective communication with audiences at low cost, distributors are looking increasingly to 'viral marketing' - different forms of electronic word-of-mouth via the internet, email and mobile phones.

Press campaign / contracting a PR agency:
Many independent distributors in particular do not have press departments, and will consequently hire a press agency to run a pre-release campaign. This is especially the case if the distributor brings over key talent for press interviews to support the release.

Arranging visit by talent from the film:
The use of talent - usually the director and/or lead actors - wins significant editorial coverage to support a release. The volume of coverage can far outweigh the cost of talent visits.

Other preview screenings:
A distributor will consider the use of advance public screenings to create word-of-mouth and advance 'buzz' around a film.

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