Film Distribution Explained | Films4U

Film Distribution Explained | Films4U

Film distribution

How does film distribution work?

Film distribution can be a confusing topic for many new film investors. Learning about the ways your film will be distributed can help you best understand where your film investment is going. First, let’s start with a definition of film distribution.

The process of film distribution refers to the launching and sustaining of new films in the film market.  

In more recent years, the way companies distribute films has changed a great deal. With the invention of streaming services, presenting your movie to a large audience has never been easier. However, box office viewings are still the main way films are distributed around the world. The type of film and the type of company making the film will determine how the film is distributed and how large an audience it will reach.

Here at Films4U, we connect film investors and filmmakers to produce some of the best films in the industry. We have partners throughout the film world, both in digital streaming and traditional box office viewings.

How do companies distribute films?

Film distribution is often a forgotten process in the journey of creating and releasing a film. However, it is one of the most important parts of the film industry. After all, without film distribution, there would be no way to see films that have been created.

There are different ways to distribute films depending on the type of film you are making. For example, a big-budget Hollywood film will have a different method of distribution to a smaller indie film. Below is a quick breakdown of the different types of films and how they are distributed:

Hollywood Blockbusters:

Big budget Hollywood films are often released under a process called ‘vertical integration.’ This refers to the way that the processes of production, distribution and exhibition are controlled under the same company. Meaning that once a film is ready to be released the production company is responsible for distributing the film.

For example, a Disney film will be released through Buena Vista, which is a major distributor that Disney owns. This saves Disney paying another company to distribute their films. The obvious downside to this is that if a movie flops at the box office there is no other company to share in that loss.  

Hollywood sign

Large scale movies (that may not have a big brand behind them):

These kinds of movies will use a distribution company to release their movies.  This is how most movies are released onto the market. These film distribution companies will have connections between film production companies and companies which show films (for example cinema chains).

 Film distributors will determine how many copies of the film need to be made and then who to show the film to. They will then negotiate with the companies who will show the film for the best price and terms of release. The cinema will then show the film for however many weeks the two parties agreed upon.

Independent Films

cannes film festival is used by independent films

Independent films often have a longer process to go through to release their films. This is due to a lack of industry connections needed to distribute a film. Once they have found a film distributor then there is a collaborative process which takes into account the smaller nature of the release.


Often independent film makers rely on events such as film festivals to first show their films. At these film festivals, distributors will then bid on films that they wish to distribute. If the film is popular then a distributor may make a decision to show it to a larger audience. 

How much does film distribution cost?

Film distribution costs obviously vary on the scale of the film distribution. The largest cost to a film distributor is the costs of making the copies of the film to show in cinemas.

Typically it costs around £1,000 to £1,500 to make a single copy of the film, so the film distributor must be careful about how many copies they make. They must know how many cinemas nationally (or globally) are going to release the film. This is obviously further complicated when multiple languages are taken into consideration. 

However, film distributors often make their money back by agreeing to take a percentage share of the profits when a film is released. 

There are other ways to distribute a film, such as using online platforms. In this sense you skip some of the physical film distribution side as a film can be sold directly to a streaming platform. The amount streaming platforms will pay varies on how successful they deem a film to be and which platform is buying the film.

Who makes more money: the producer or the distributor?

The answer to this question can vary significantly from film to film, depending on the contract between the film production company and the film distribution company. The film distributor is paid by taking a percentage of the profits (agreed upon by all parties). However, the percentage of the profits taken can range dramatically, from 10% to as much as 50%.

Another aspect to consider is that a film distribution company can often distribute multiple films at once depending on the size of the company. This gives them more scope to make more money off the films they are distributing.

The profits left after paying distributors and companies such as movie theatres, is then split between producers (and cast and crew) and investors.

Intrigued by the process of film making and want to get involved?

At Films4U we manage film investment and have years of experience choosing high quality, profitable films. We are able to guarantee distribution into the international marketplace through our own distribution channels as well as release films to streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, meaning we haven’t lost money on a single film to date.

If you are interested in investing in film contact us or call us on 08082 750 904.

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