Selected FDA Positions
As the trade body representing the non-commercial interests of UK theatrical film distributors, FDA advocates positions on various generic issues affecting the sector, in representations to government and the UK Film Council, the government's 'strategic agency' for film.
Here are summaries of our positions on a few matters: P&A support
In 2004, FDA member companies invested £283.5m in prints & advertising (P&A) to drive cinemagoing. We believe the UK Film Council's P&A support fund for specialised films, currently worth around £2m a year, is too small to make a significant difference. We have urged UKFC to commit support to the distribution sector broadly equal to that for the production sector.
A P&A fund in the region of £10m may be able to pack more of a punch for the hard-pressed specialised titles - even though that would amount to a contribution of merely 3.5% of FDA members' spend.
P&A investment is the lifeblood of the film industry. With 8-10 new releases every week, many people believe there is already an over-supply of films - both mainstream and specialised - into the UK market. There is no point in adding to the excessive competition without giving due regard to audiences and consumption patterns.
Furthermore, with the digital screen network expected to start its UK-wide roll-out in 2005, it is essential that UKFC makes available ample funds to help create digital masters for specialised films where none exists.
We believe UKFC has talked a great game in terms of the importance of film distribution, but has not substantiated its words with sufficient action. Arguably, investing in the release of a finished film is a less risky use of (public) money than investing in a new production when nothing exists other than a treatment or a screenplay.
Unreleased British films
Apparently more than half of all British films produced are not released in cinemas. Whilst FDA obviously appreciates the political sensitivity about this issue - as tax incentives and public monies are given to films that the public does not see on the big screen - to label this a 'distribution problem' is a fallacy that appears to betray a misconception of market reality.
We contend that this theoretical market failure is not an actual one. It is simply not the case that viable British films are not acquired for UK theatrical distribution. With so many local distributors competing to license available properties, if not one of them regards a particular title as viable, surely that suggests more about the property itself than about the business experience and judgement of every single distributor.
As prospects for acquisition, new titles are considered individually, including their earning potential in ancillary platforms. There is no real merit in any distributor, operating in such an intensely crowded, competitive market, knowingly releasing more lousy films for which there is no demand or interest. Indeed, it could be counter-productive to do so, as unfortunately every British film that fails serves only to erode the confidence of the trade, media and public in other home-grown works.
Intervention via P&A support is not a practical answer here. No amount of marketing will turn a bad film into a good one, or a flop into a hit. Naturally, duplicating more prints does not of itself deliver more cinemagoers. This is why distributors must have the flexibility to allocate P&A support entirely on an individual film basis.
Broadcasters' role in film
FDA joins many other film industry bodies in encouraging UK broadcasters to invest more resources in acquiring, producing and scheduling viable British films. We also believe that, with the possible exception of the BBC, terrestrial broadcasters fail to give film the editorial coverage it merits. On some channels, there is a total absence of original magazine / review programmes about film and cinema, despite the hours assigned to other leisure / lifestyle pursuits. A greater editorial investment would assist the UK film industry on many levels as well as fostering our film culture.