Posted on November 17, 2017 by staff

‘Netflix for indie films’ is billion-dollar opportunity


The entrepreneur behind the ‘Netflix for independent films’ believes it could become a multibillion-dollar business.

Serial entrepreneur and film producer Martin Warner founded Flix Premiere in 2015 as a platform for movies which premiere at festivals but are not picked up for distribution.

He says there are more than a thousand movies outside the studio system with a budget of $1 million or more which do not find an audience – and that is a huge opportunity.

“Only ten per cent of movies come from the studios – which make all the revenue – while the other 90 per cent premiere at festivals,” he told BusinessCloud.

“In the last three years the number of film festivals has doubled around the world. There are so many films that are nominated for awards but never get any laurels – but that doesn’t mean they’re not great movies.

“There are even some that win categories at the tier B or tier C festivals which are incredible and still don’t get picked up!

“Imagine if someone was able to master the single point of destination for all those thousand movies: you could turn a very niche market into a very big market.

“We can have more movies with more awards and more appeal than Netflix – that’s a multibillion-dollar business opportunity, for sure.”

Kent-based Flix Premiere signs up movies that have not found a commercial distributor, while occasionally giving top-notch films that have failed to find an audience on other platforms another chance.

It looks to the top festivals such as Tribeca, Sundance and Cannes for inspiration, as well as lesser-known festivals and even the film arms of wider events such as South By South West.

Potential movies are assessed by a community of film-lovers then signed on an exclusive basis, usually for a single year with an option for another six, if targets agreed with the rights holders are met.

Warner is also a technology inventor and investor. As co-founder, he sold 3D printing firm botObjects for £50m before starting Flix Premiere.

“I got into this market because, while I do love Star Wars and blockbusters, there wouldn’t be a film business if there wasn’t an independent scene,” said film buff Warner, adding that starting the business felt like coming home after a varied and successful career which included banking and management consulting.

“We wouldn’t appreciate life through the lens if it wasn’t broader than these franchise movies.

“We’re trying to repair a broken model in this industry and get smaller film-makers which have a really worthwhile movie paid in this industry. That’s tough.

“We want to recognise these hidden gems from around the world that deserve to be seen: that’s at the core of this.”

Members in the platform’s UK home and US pay £3.99 a month for the platform, which hosts up to 200 movies at any one time. There are deals available for six- and 12-month subscriptions, as well as a free month-long trial period.

They can then watch movies either through the Flix Premiere website, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV or via Apple and Android apps on mobile devices.

The support for film makers extends to the firm’s community approach, which sees it promote the film alongside actors and directors and hold a premiere night.

It recently premiered multi-award-winning movie The Other Kids, directed by Chris Brown.

“We are where the cinema meets the distributor,” said Warner. “We do all our own marketing for our movies: we have a bunch of technologists who help us figure out how we want to curate and market them.

“We’re the only platform that allows our membership to introduce new people to the platform by sending free movie gifts, for example.”

There are no plans to deal with the studios, according to Warner, who says that the online TV market is also “saturated”.

On the move from DVDs and Blu-rays to online consumption of content, he said: “The difference between the fixed costs of managing a server infrastructure versus the distribution and production of DVDs is vast.

“But a lot of that money is then re-shifted into marketing because you lose the presence of the physical product.

“It’s like iTunes versus the record store – it used to be that you could only get a record contract if you could get your CD in the store.”