How to Get Your Movie Into the Movie Theaters

By Amanda Sposato-Felber
Some filmmakers opt to bypass distributors and promote on their own.

With the abundance of big budget films being made in Hollywood, not every small filmmaker may be able to get his movie shown through a distributor. Self-distribution is an option that many new, and even some established, filmmakers are utilizing to get their works into theaters. The process is time consuming, expensive and frustrating, but a successful self-distribution venture can be well worth it.

Preparation

Have your film completed and ready for distribution.

Budget for expenses. Take into account advertising costs, theater fees and rentals, wages for assistants or crew and transportation expenses. Have a source of funding readily available.

A crew and an assistant can help with the already stressful process of self-distribution.

Decide if you'll need an assistant or a travel crew for the distribution process. Hire them early enough to prepare for promotion and travel.

Invest in promotional items about the movie, such as posters, buttons and general programs.

Make a list of potential theaters. Decide how far you are willing to travel and find theaters that are in your travel range. To find theaters appropriate to the content of your film, research venues that have played similar movies to yours.

Scheduling

It may take multiple calls to get in touch with theater programming staff.

Call the movie theaters on your list. Ask for the person in charge of programming and explain the concept of your movie. If applicable, compare it to another movie the theater has shown. Request that they give you a chance to show your film.

Follow up with an email. If you talked to a person, thank her for her time. If you left a message, send the information about the movie and a request for a chance and time to show your film. Include a phone number for contact purposes.

Persist until you get an answer. Alternate calling and emailing the theater. After leaving three messages on voice mail or answering machine, do not leave anymore. Keep in contact until you confirm your first date.

Set a two month window. If you're planning for a DVD release, your first theater showing should be two months before the release to maximize press benefits.

Advertising

Generate information about your movie on social network platforms. Post information on any scheduled showings, including dates, times and locations of where viewers can see your film.

Contact local radio stations. Request air time to talk about your movie and buy ad space to promote any scheduled theater viewings.

Take out ads in local newspapers and special interest publications to showcase where and when your movie will be shown.

Being open and honest with viewers can earn you fans.

Attend film events. Pass out promotional information and participate in question and answer forums to tell people about your work.

Design or maintain a website to keep fans apprised of any new showings and information regarding your movie.

During and After the Event

Attend the first showing and as many subsequent showings as possible to show that you are actively promoting your film. Filmmaker Todd Sklar says " I compare it a lot to when companies will build a brand, in order to create a name for themselves amongst their target audience, or when a politician will (take) it (on) the road to raise awareness of his campaign."

Thank the theaters that allowed you to show your film. Offer advertising on your website to maintain good relations for possible future endeavors.

Hold a question and answer forum before or after the showing to answer questions about your movie and process and to establish rapport with potential fans.

Give away promotional items to establish your film and to continue to cultivate interest through those you've already reached.

Highlight your successes and use them to schedule more screenings and continue to market your film. Post pictures and good reviews on your website and share them on social networks.

Tip

Be prepared to put in the time needed to successfully self-distribute your film. Zachary Levi spent 30 to 40 hours a week just making calls and follow-up emails to theaters when distributing his documentary "Strongman."

Applying to film festivals may help generate reviews and conversations about your film before you attempt to bring it to individual theaters. Events like the Sundance Film Festival cost $70 for a submission.

In conjunction with distribution in theaters, the internet and DVD releases are viable ways for filmmakers to get their work seen by the public.

Warning

Self-distribution can be costly. It is important to evaluate whether the income from the film is going to be worth what you pay to distribute.

Not all films are well received by the public and not all ventures into self-distribution are successful. You are likely to experience many rejections and negative reviews on the way to having a film shown in theaters.

About the Author

Amanda Sposato-Felber has been writing professionally since 1999. She's been published in "The Compass" student newspaper at Lake Superior State University. Sposato-Felber has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Lake Superior State University with a minor in English.