According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the combined creative industries in the UK contribute more than £110 billion a year to the country’s economy. Vital to this and to the health of the entire film ecosystem, is a vibrant theatrical distribution sector.

At its core, film distribution is the commercial and cultural enterprise by which feature films are launched into the public sphere, with an eye to reaching the broadest audience possible. Working hand in hand with partners in exhibition, distributors date, market, promote, publicise, deliver and ultimately protect their titles, as the films make their way into the fabric of our culture.

Distributors, whether studio owned or independent, leverage the various film licences they hold in a specific territory. These rights can cover theatrical release, DVD, blu-ray, video on demand, online, pay and free tv amongst others. The theatrical rights see exhibitors pay distributors an agreed rental share from their box office receipts.

The box office revenue passed back to distributors for the theatrical hire of their films will then be used to cover the costs of film production, acquisition, marketing and distribution. A portion of the revenue will also be returned to producers, filmmakers and key talent in order to help continue the cycle of producing new content.

Distributors invest over £350m a year launching titles in the UK and Ireland, close to half of that going to nationwide advertising campaigns across various digital, social and physical media. The remainder covers a wide variety of costs such as digital distribution, poster and trailer production, local/national publicity and Premiere costs.

To gain a deeper understanding of film distribution and discover more about how films reach audiences in the UK and Ireland, sign up for the FDA’s free online course, Connecting Films with Audiences.

Learn more about the key roles and functions within the film distribution sector.