Is Self-Distribution a Viable Route for Your Indie? MovieMaker Investigates

There’s been a lot of talk in the pages of MM recently about the ever-increasing opportunities available for moviemakers who go the self-distribution route.

Indies around the country have taken notice including MM’s own publisher, editor-in-chief and resident auteur, Timothy Rhys. As co-director of No Limit: A Search for the American Dream on the Poker Tournament Trail, a new documentary that explores the poker world behind the glare of cable TV crews and celebrity dabblers, Rhys had originally envisioned going the traditional theatrical route with the picture, or at least bringing on a mini-major distributor to handle the release. But despite serious conversations with studios like Sony Pictures Classics and THINKFilm, Rhys and his producers came to the conclusion that a straight-to-DVD route would actually deliver a faster return for their investors even if they decide to sign with a distributor at a later time.

Although we are initially putting the DVD out ourselves, we do expect to eventually go with a mainstream distributor, says Rhys. So what makes Rhys so sure self-distribution can work for No Limit now? Because we’re concentrating mainly on our built-in demographic, Rhys says, referring to his group’s grassroots marketing strategy, which will take advantage of the continuing popularity of poker. In fact, this niche is estimated to be between 50 and 80 million people in the U.S. alone, and Rhys notes that there are hundreds of magazines, Websites, blogs, etc. all targeting this demographic. But it’s not just the target audience that is large; so are the potential returns. Profit per unit for the grassroots method is roughly $8 to $20 per DVD, as compared to the roughly $2 to $3 we could expect from a traditional distribution deal, Rhys notes.

Time will tell whether the DIY avenue will work for the No Limit producers, but so far the strategy seems to be paying off. MM

For more information, visit the No Limit website.

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