Among the more interesting new paid YouTube channels of the 30 unveiled today are the ones belonging to indie film distributors leading the charge into untested digital and outside-the-box models. Cinedigm relaunched their Docurama brand in April with a library of 1,250 documentary features, also plotting a streaming app for launch this spring which would make more than 150 Docurama titles available for free on multiple devices. Their new curated Docurama YouTube channel could similarly boost digital niche moviewatching and carve a path for other distributors and filmmakers exploring alternative distribution online. For $2.99 a month, users will get access to Docurama’s playlist of docu features and bonus materials refreshed each week, with 25% of those feature offerings being new or recent releases. (All of YouTube’s new premium channels will first launch with a 14-day free trial.) The ambitious growth plan set in motion last year under Cinedigm CEO Chris McGurk so far has also included a plan to help outfit drive-in theaters with digital projectors and last month’s Arthur Newman BitTorrent experiment.
David Bloom is a contributor to Deadline.
Cinedigm Chief Marketing Officer Jill Calcaterra said the company was delighted with the online uptake of their recent experiment with BitTorrent to promote Arthur Newman, the just-released film starring Colin Firth and Emily Blunt. Under the deal, the file-sharing site was used to distribute 10 minutes of the Cinedigm-distributed film to whomever wanted to download it. “We had 1.4 million downloads in just the first five days”, Calcaterra said today during a panel at the Digital Hollywood conference in Marina del Rey. “That was huge for this little tiny independent film”. Even more importantly, she said, 150,000 of the downloaders then went to the film’s website for more information. Of course, the deal might have attracted hundreds of thousands of possible audience members, but it couldn’t do anything about critic opinion — Arthur Newman’s Metacritic score is a rugged 42, and it made just $108K this weekend in its platform rollout in 248 theaters, a dismal $435 average.
The digital cinema company has a mixed report for the quarter that ended in September. The good news is that it installed 875 digital screens in the quarter for a total of 10,852, making this the second-highest installation quarter in its history. The bad news: It compares to last year’s quarter when it installed 1,455 screens, its most ever. That contributed to an increase in Cinedigm‘s net loss to $2.6M, from $230,000 in the period last year, on revenues of $22.6M, +7.5%. The revenue figure was short of the consensus forecast of $24.0M. The net loss of 6 cents a share was on target. But don’t read too much into the forecasts: Few analysts track the company; the average is only based on two projections. Cinedigm execs took pains in a conference call to point out what COO Adam Mizel said were “idiosyncratic events” that affected the quarter. He said that digital movie orders were depressed by the Olympics, studio reluctance to compete with Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises, reduced attendance after the theater shootings in Aurora, CO, and two major rescheduling decisions: Warner Bros moved Gangster Squad to January 2013 from August and Paramount delayed G.I. Joe: Retaliation to March 2013 from this past June.
After forging a partnership in January to buy distribution rights for independent films, Cinedigm says it will pay at least $14M to buy distribution firm New Video Group outright. The combination will “create a new full service end-to-end digital releasing studio” and enable Cinedigm “to acquire and distribute independent films and specialty content both theatrically and through digital, mobile and home media platforms,” the companies said. New Video co-Presidents Steve Savage and Susan Margolin were named co-Presidents of Cinedigm’s Entertainment Group, which will include their company plus Cinedigm’s theatrical marketing and booking services. They’ll report to Cinedigm CEO Chris McGuirk, who’s engaged in an ambitious effort to boost the company’s output of digitally distributed alternative entertainment for movie theaters. In conjunction with this announcement, Cinedigm says that it will underwrite a public offering of 6M of its Class A shares. Cinedigm’s stock spiked in early February but is down nearly 24% over the last 12 months. Here’s the release about the New Video deal:
In a move that creates another formidable buyer at Sundance, Cinedigm Entertainment Group and New Video will partner to bring more independent films into theaters nationwide by fully leveraging advanced digital technology. Cinedigm and New Video will together acquire North American distribution rights to indie films that will be released theatrically, followed by platform release across cable, VOD, digital, and DVD/Blu-ray. The partnership takes advantage of Cinedigm’s position as a digital exhibitor of independent film and alternative content in theatres, and New Video’s digital and physical distribution capabilities. Cinedigm CEO Chris McGurk and New Video co-president Steve Savage feel this gives indie filmmakers a viable alternative and a strong ride through the ancillary road these indie films travel.
Woodland Hills, CA, January 17, 2012 Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. (NASDAQ: CIDM) and ICAA, the Independent Cinemas Association of Australia, jointly announced today an agreement for Cinedigm to become the digital cinema integrator for independent cinemas in Australia and New Zealand.
ICAA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cinedigm to provide Virtual Print Fee (“VPF”) Contracts, VPF Administration, Theatre Management Systems (TMS) and other support resources, as well as assist ICAA and its members with the deployment of digital systems and service and compliance support services. ICAA will take on a number of local functions as regards the coordination of deployment and service, working with local installers and technical personnel. The arrangement is subject to the negotiation and execution of a definitive agreement between Cinedigm and ICAA and its members.
UPDATE: Cinedigm Plans Major Effort To Reshape Movie Theater Entertainment After Selling Distribution Biz To Technicolor
Cinedigm shares are up 8.7% in after hours trading following the announcement of a deal that clarifies the company’s growing focus on digital entertainment that exhibitors can show at times when many have trouble filling seats. Cinedigm will continue to help theaters install digital projectors, CEO Chris McGurk tells me. But it’s turning over to Technicolor the part of the business that delivers digital entertainment to theaters via satellite or hard drives. ”More and more our focus will be on software and content” says McGurk who ran Anchor Bay Entertainment before moving to Cinedigm in January.
Indeed, over the next two months he says he’ll begin to announce deals with theater owners who’ll let Cinedigm program venues like a TV network. “Monday could be action sports night,” he says. “Tuesday could be opera night. Wednesday could be Broadway night.” He says theaters could sell tickets on a subscription basis. One incentive to sign on: ”We’re going to cut exhibitors in on the downstream VOD, DVD, pay TV and free TV sales from content that debuts in their theaters. I don’t think anyone has ever offered that in exhibition before.” Cinedigm also will continue to offer one-off events similar to the 3D showing in April of a live concert by Foo Fighters.
Meanwhile McGurk says Cinedigm is looking for other deals to help clarify its new direction. “The company is in five different businesses and has had a confusing story to the investment community,” he says. “We’re looking to rationalize our businesses other than software and content.”
Here’s the announcement of the deal with Technicolor: