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How do cinemas get films?

The film distribution process

At Regent Street Cinema we pride ourselves on the high quality of film content we choose. Cinemas must oblige to a certain number of screenings of certain stand out films, but we offer a mix of indie films and blockbuster movies, so we always provide the best curation of content.

How does the interesting mix of films we show get to our screen? How do cinemas get films?

The process starts once a film is completed and is sent to a studio who makes a licensing agreement with a distribution company. The film is then screened to prospective buyers representing cinemas and film festivals.

As buyers, we negotiate with the distribution company on which films we wish to lease that we feel will offer a wide variety of content and bring in good ticket sales. Negotiations will include the terms of the lease agreement and the number of weeks we plan to show it. We will then receive the film a few days before the first day of showing is due to start.

Digital files are delivered to us in one of two ways; the first method is by a hard disk drive containing both the films and all the trailers that the studio wants to have shown beforehand. The other distribution method, which is growing in popularity, is to download the movie through a high-speed internet connection or by satellite.

With either distribution method, the movie is encrypted with a digital key that is sent to the theatre for each server, with one key that will unlock only that one movie on that one playback server, for the specific time period of the engagement. If the film’s run is to be extended, then a new security key will need to be sent to us.

With this advanced encryption system, a single version of a movie can be distributed to thousands of cinema auditoriums, but the presentation of that movie is authorised and controlled entirely by the distributing studio - right down to the individual auditorium and the hour of a particular day.

The next step is where you come in… you buy a ticket from our box office and enjoy the film!

Some of the steps we mention may be combined, and in the case of smaller independent films, additional steps may be necessary. So, as you can see, there is a lot that happens before a film is even shown to a paying audience, which all goes towards us setting fair ticket prices that cover these costs. Come and visit us at the Regent Street Cinema, just two minutes north of Oxford Circus at 307 Regent Street and see for yourself all of the hard work put to good use.