Here is part three of my ongoing series detailing my personal experiences with digital cinema surrounding the production of my first film April Showers. The original article, in its entirety, can be found on Theo’s Roundtable.


Following a collapsed economy and an R rating by the MPAA (don’t get me started), my first film or foray into the world of Hollywood digital cinema wasn’t off to a smashing start. Soon after wrapping post production on April Showers, it became very apparent that some form of DIY-style distribution was going to be in order. Let me rephrase: We had several distribution “offers,” but as I quickly learned, sometimes not taking the “deal” can be as advantageous as taking it.

The distribution game—at least 5 years ago—is one comprised almost solely of middlemen and women, meaning your film has to pass through nearly a half dozen hands before it ever reaches its audience. Each time it’s passed along you, the filmmaker, lose a portion of the proceeds. Distribution deals are structured in such a way that they almost always favor the distributors. (Surprised?) This is what I mean when I say that not accepting a deal can be as prosperous as accepting one. Not wanting to accept a deal just to say we did, my producing partner and I began looking at the ins and outs of digital distribution ourselves.

Every time there’s a technological shift or changeover in the consumer space, it typically is accompanied by a lot of belly aching and posturing over whether or not the move is right or wrong. The same is true in the pro or commercial realm too. Five years ago, digital cinema was in its infancy, in that the changeover from film to digital had just really started in earnest. Like consumers weighing what they can and cannot afford, exhibitors found themselves a little strapped for cash when it came to being able to purchase the state-of-the-art 2K—and even 4K—digital projectors of the time. That is how content distributors such as Cinedigm and others came into being. I’ll use Cinedigm as an example, since they’re the company we dealt with when bringing April Showers to movie theaters across the country.

Back then—and perhaps even now—digital-cinema projectors—be they 2 or 4K—were prohibitively expensive for exhibitors to simply buy and replace all their 35mm film projectors with, so they turned to companies like Cinedigm to help them out. Cinedigm had the capital to buy these projectors and thus place them in the theaters while charging the exhibitors a leasing fee—like a car payment. This allowed for more and more theaters to jump aboard the digital-cinema bandwagon in a more expedient manner, which was a good thing.

However, it also meant that companies like Cinedigm now controlled the flow of content—after all, they owned the projectors. With the digital-cinema projectors in place, Cinedigm created a physical and virtual infrastructure that allowed them to serve their projectors—and thus the theaters with D-Cinema content. The studios signed on, and in short order companies like Cinedigm became the gatekeepers of what you really saw come Friday night.

In the past, if you wanted…