Last week I started a new Blog Series called 'Behind The Box Office', check out last weeks post about Ticket Sales, this week we're looking at Movie Rights.
The movie industry would look very different if Thomas Edison and his posse of businessmen ran the industry the way they wanted to. In 1908 they had the craziest idea of monopolizing the entire industry by controlling, selling and maintaining rights from the actors and film used in production to the projectors and buildings that were used in distributing the films. If it wasn't for the opposition that was faced, the movie industry might have seen some of the most creative individuals shut down before they even started.
Of those 'pirates' that pushed to move control from Edison, was Carl Laemmle. He was one of the founding fathers of Universal Studios, and the first studio to move from the New York area to Hollywood. Laemmle got started in the industry as an owner of a Nickelodeon in Chicago. He got frustrated with the strict regulations of Edison's company and started up the Independent Moving Pictures Company (IMP). IMP allowed Laemmle to produce and purchase films to use on his own screens and to not have to pay ridiculous surcharges and fees to Edison. The face of the film industry would forever be changed. From this bold move, other independent studios were born, from Paramount to Fox Studios and Hollywood was suddenly on the map as THE place to be.
Today's Theatres & Studios
All that said, if you look at the way studios distribute their films today, you'd almost think that things have reverted back to the way Edison did things.
When a studio (Universal, Sony, Paramount, Disney etc.) produces and releases a movie, they maintain and demand certain rights they want met in order for theatres to play them. These rights vary depending on the movie. I already covered how the ticket sales works, with studios taking the majority of sales.
Other rights that studios want met for distribution are things like no splits (screen sharing with another film) on movies that open within the first one to three weeks, no shared screen space with competing studios, certain play lengths (some studios depend their movies play from anywhere up to 3 weeks before they can be taken off), theatres are only allowed to do one night a week for lower ticket sales (like Cheap Tuesday or thrifty Thursday, etc.) among other various little stipulations.
What happens to independent movie theatres if they are forced to meet bigger and bigger demands from studios?