In the fifth part of Screen International's analysis on the effect on the industry of the Sept 11 attacks on the US, the threat of recession on distribution and marketing is assessed.

Abstracted from Screen International

Distribution and marketing
"The indie distribution business will be good long term, but the next year will be brutal. The banks are simply not lending against estimates," says Miramax's Rick Sands. "This is a product-driven business. Films with appeal to the public will get people out of their houses and into the cinemas," says UIP boss, Oneile.

Merrill Lynch's Tubeileh suggests that distributors which have made the right choices of films and have a pipeline of varied material will emerge successfully. "The ones which will really suffer are those who have paid out licence fees already for slates of action movies. The best they can hope for is that they will have to have to wait an extra six months to see any money back." He is impressed by companies such as Senator which are handling low-budget, locally made films with obvious audience appeal. "Senator's Lammbock for instance is a comedy which only needed 350,000 spectators for it to break-even. They are 40% over that already, having managed 600,000."

"There will definitely be a shift in the kind of film people want to see. In economic downturns and from the Gulf war we saw that people want light relief, comedy," says UIP's Oneile. Many commentators point to the already hugely anticipated Harry Potter film as the archetypal beneficiary of the increasing popularity of light drama and family entertainment.

Making even the right films connect with the public is likely to change as stars and directing talent become warier about travelling abroad - either for fear of an attack or being stuck somewhere miles from home.

"There was an immediate short term effect on marketing - unfortunately we cannot tell how long that short term will be, because we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop. "With American Pie 2 and The Fast And The Furious which were rolling out in Europe, we experienced first hand the impact on marketing campaigns [of stars reluctance to travel]. We have to react by doing more long-distance interviews, make more use of electronic press kits and more use of local stringers. There will also be a more creative emphasis than in the recent past on trailers and the use of TV spots."

Miramax's Sands has similar concerns. "We are using more satellites and junkets out of LA. The big question is how the London Film Festival and the next A-list festival, Berlin, will hold up. They thrive on directors and talent appearances. It impacts on the amount of newsprint they get and we've found that it makes a difference to the results the distributors get.