Fithian Group Is Building Movie Production Studio, Direct Distribution

Three months after John Fithian retired as head of the movie theater lobby group, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), he was ready to return to work. What he didn’t realize was how much work remained to be done.

Fithian has worked for over twenty years to keep movie theaters relevant in the ever-changing worlds of entertainment and technology. He was on the front lines of issues ranging from movie theaters’ shift to digital projection to the advent of streaming films to the sudden closure of movie theaters due to the pandemic. Now, Fithian is facing perhaps its toughest challenge yet: making it easier for more films to be made and theatrically released.

When he announced the creation of the Fithian Group in November, many believed Fithian – alongside fellow former NATO leaders Jackie Brenneman and Patrick Corcoran, who are founding partners – would do an extension of the work they have accomplished within the organization: defending the theatrical experience. However, the three have much more ambitious plans.

“The basic concept is that there are a lot of things we think we can do to improve film production, distribution and exhibition, things we could never really do in NATO,” Fithian said to Business Insider in an interview alongside Brenneman and Corcoran. last month. “At NATO you represent the whole industry, so you can’t tackle competitive issues. I think all three of us enjoyed our careers there, but bringing the group together and focusing on business models and competitive aspects that we think can really improve the business, it’s very exciting.

Fithian Group hopes to boost industry with launch of European production studio and direct distribution platform

Although it has been in existence for just over four months, The Fithian Group has received immediate interest from businesses seeking help in the cinema industry, from M&A to consulting.

But there are two projects in particular that Fithian, Brenneman and Corcoran hope will become the main pillars of their company.

John Fithian, Jackie Brenneman, Patrick Corcoran

Fithian Group (LR) founding partners John Fithian, Jackie Brenneman and Patrick Corcoran.

Iah Bearden-True

One of them is overseeing the construction of a state-of-the-art production studio in Europe, capable of handling both virtual and traditional physical production. Fithian did not disclose where exactly the studio will be located and did not name the partners involved, saying only that they were European investors. But he added the plan was for the studio to rival that of the UK’s famed Pinewood Studio in its ability to support any size production.

“The major studios are well below the level of production that can sustain this industry,” Fithian said. “We want to bring more mid-range and independent films to exhibitors and, therefore, audiences. Having the latest and greatest virtual production technology will help the filmmaking process be cheaper.”

The studio is in the early stages of development and no construction start date is anticipated.

The other major project is an AI-powered, data-infused direct-to-consumer distribution platform that filmmakers, independent distributors and theaters can use to show more films in theaters at a lower cost. For decades, movie theaters – through bookers – have had an endless dance of negotiations with distributors and studios to get titles released into theaters with little more than, as Fithian puts it, “a lot spreadsheets and lots of phone calls.” This has led the company to often rely heavily on relationships rather than data.

The platform overseen by Fithian Group, which is in the early stages of development, will update this process and provide both parties with more informed decision-making capabilities, the group believes. A theater can use specific data through the platform to show a distributor why a particular type of film should be shown at their home. A filmmaker or distributor can also use the platform to show a theater data about why their film should be shown there.

“In the past, a distributor would say, ‘We never book this market, we never book this kind of theater,’ but now the theater is going to have data that shows that this audience is there for this kind of movie. Book the,” Corcoran said. “We want to remove a lot of the gatekeepers, a lot of the mystery, and open up and democratize the system using technology.”

Alamo Drafthouse AP

The Fithian Group is looking to bring more films into theaters and satisfy more audiences.


More data to better schedule audiences would be a welcome tool, says cinema director

Dylan Skolnick, co-director of the Cinema Arts Center, an arthouse on Long Island, New York, said new releases at his theater haven’t always filled his house like they did before the pandemic. It would be beneficial to have more data showing which stocks perform best in its market, he added.

“It’s important to rely on data to grow the audience of people who actually want to come,” Skolnick said when Business Insider spoke to him about the platform Fithian Group is developing. Skolnick is also the booker for his theater and said data is never talked about much in conversations with distributors. “We can slice and dice the internal data that we have to some extent, but they’re probably going to have a lot more data and a lot more computing power. So it could be great to use that platform, if we can we afford it.”

The founders said the upcoming platform would be available for free to movie theaters. A fee and a percentage of the box office will be charged to filmmakers and distributors who use the service.

Fithian, Brenneman and Corcoran said they believe the efforts they are undertaking will provide a boost to the film industry, which since the pandemic has suffered from poor box office, fewer titles released and a lack of variety in the types of films made. .

“We’re not just thinking about keeping the business the way it is and just participating in helping businesses get to the status quo and get established and do what they’ve always done,” Brenneman said. “We are at the dawn of a new era of cinema where distributing a film costs almost nothing. So there is a promise of digital cinema, that is, more films, more flexibility , a better understanding of our audience, and we” “We’re right there right now. There’s a lot of AI technology out there to really help target the right movies to the right audience, and we think we can really work with companies and individuals to bring more films to theaters and satisfy more audiences.”


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