Summary:

The struggling independent film sector believes it has stumbled onto an effective release strategy, combining various forms of online and ca…

Sundance Film Festival

The struggling independent film sector believes it has stumbled onto an effective release strategy, combining various forms of online and cable VOD distribution that occur simultaneously with cost-efficient theatrical release. And mixing their respective peanut butter and chocolate together, digital cinema content company Cinedigm and New Video, a video label with deep inroads in online distribution, believe they’ve created just such a one-stop solution for indie producers.

At the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah Sunday, the two companies are announcing a 50-50 partnership in which they’ll jointly acquire indie films and release them on myriad digital platforms in the U.S. and Canada. Cinedigm will handle theatrical marketing and release into digitally equipped movie houses, while New Video will back digital distribution, as well as DVD and Blu-ray output.

Given both companies’ strengths and the demand for multi-platform distribution in the indie film sector, the partnership has the chance to instantly become a major force in the film business.

Based in New York, New Video Group has enjoyed a ground-floor position in the online distribution of video content, partnering with Apple’s iTunes as far back as 2006. With more than 4,000 movie titles and 6,000 TV episodes in its library – none of it controlled by studios or networks – New Video distributes about 12 percent of the video content available on iTunes.

The company has also been an early partner with Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), Hulu and Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), and has been a leader in helping independent producers access internet VOD channels.

Under the direction of former Overture and Anchor Bay executive Chris McGurk, meanwhile, Cinedigm has quickly streamlined itself into a leading distributor of alternative digital content for theaters, programming everything from the FIFA World Cup to the BCS Championship game to Phish concerts in 3D digital cinema to theater locations across North America. It also released on digital cinema nine titles for indie label Arc Entertainment last year.

“New Video is so strong in the online video space, and when you combine what we do theatrically, we feel like we’re in a unique position,” McGurk told paidContent. He expects to release 12-13 independent films this year through the partnership.

While there are other online distribution service providers for indie film including SnagFilm, few companies outside the major studios — and so-called “mini-majors” — have the ability to facilitate release across theatrical and online channels all on their own.

“For an independent filmmaker, the Holy Grail is still showing your film to a group of people in a theatrical setting, and that has been missing from our formula,” said Steve Savage, co-president of New Video. “Now, they get the best of both worlds.”

The independent film business has been hit as hard as any media sector during the economic downturn, with funding for production and wide theatrical marketing in short supply.

However, indie producers have been energized recently by several success stories that have combined low-cost digital production methodologies and successful VOD release occurring on or before theatrical distribution.

At Sundance, the model has been the Wall Street drama Margin Call, which was made for just $3.5 million and shown at the festival last year, before it went on to take in more than $5 million each in both the theatrical and VOD platforms.

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