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FIX IT! Film Distribution Links Need Fixing

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

THE world is moving at such a fast pace, with almost every aspect of our lives being altered with the advancement of technology. It is either one gets with the programme or gets left behind.

The world of filmmaking has embraced the digital revolution to a greater degree than ever before, moving towards an on-demand world to allow streaming, day and date releases across a host of devices from PC, tablets and smart TVs to game consoles.

The Ghanaian movie industry has not been spared the drastic changes technology has introduced and, of course, filmmakers who have been unable to tag along the swift movement have been left behind.

Many have embraced the new trends, producing movies and selling them online – doing away with long periods of the movies staying in the cinemas, the ‘hustling’ in the markets and the burden of distribution.

Others are also not enthused about the technological alterations to the business, considering how marketers and traditional distributors have been rendered redundant by this new trend.

Resurgence in movie releases

The Ghanaian movie industry has been in the doldrums for the last couple of years and the pandemic made it worse.

Fortunately, there seems to be some form of resurgence. Movie releases have been quite encouraging in the last year, thanks to some resilient producers who have braved the odds to continue churning out productions in spite of the challenges.

For obvious reasons, Kumawood has lost its vibrancy and verve amid all the ‘dumsor’ and COVID debacle but in the last year, it has also found ways to experience some revitalisation with the release of movies and skits but on a whole different platform – digital.

Producers’ conundrum

Typically, the Ghanaian movie producer would have to look for funds to shoot a movie and cast quality actors. After going through the production and post-production, he/she must contend with distribution and marketing of the product.

At the end of the day, the producer goes to make claims for his profit and guess what? He goes home extremely disappointed. He’s made a loss!

Some producers have embraced the digital distribution of their movies, as they get to reduce stress and cut off all the linkages that connect their products to the market.

After post-production, they look out for the best online streaming service, negotiate and put the movies there, end of story – for them.

The challenge is that the digital distribution points are very limited!

Laxity in distribution

Marketing and distribution are the essential elements in how successful a movie is or otherwise. With a strong marketing strategy and an effective distribution format, a substandard movie can sell, not to talk about a good product.

Some years ago, the marketing and distribution wing of the Ghanaian film industry was effective – made up of many experienced professionals who worked tirelessly at major distribution points like Opera Square and Kantamanto, both in Accra and Adum in Kumasi.

Digitisation killed the physical sale of movies thereby rendering all the distribution points redundant.  The expectation was for the movie industry to tag along and adapt to the changes but that was not to be.  The industry failed woefully to alter its mechanisms to fit into the digital space, leaving such a gap that it is finding quite difficult to catch on.

The challenge is that the appropriate means of distributing movies made in Ghana to reach its audience has become a major factor in the slow growth of the industry.

Piracy

The biggest canker in the film industry all over the world has been piracy. It is a global crime that commenced way before the establishment of any film industry in Ghana and its perpetuation continues unabated in every corner of the world.

The emergence and development of new formats for film distribution using digital technologies like CDs, DVDs, VODs and online streaming platforms have done little to curb piracy.

Every stakeholder, every government and every investor knows piracy is and has been the biggest threat to the industry for decades, but strangely, not even Hollywood has been able to find lasting solutions to this canker.

Interestingly, most of these producers who thought they would find solace in online distribution and not get affected by piracy got it wrong. There’s a high percentage of pirated works online, where the pirates even operate easily and quickly without having to worry about the packaging and marketing of their pirated materials.

Let’s fix it!

Ghanaian film producers and production houses are turning to digital and that’s better than having them ditch the trade. They being in business means actors will stay in business, so would crew men and post-production personnel.

Digital distribution is the new norm but unfortunately, the avenues in that space are not enough to project the number of releases. The current situation does not also offer movie producers with enough options to market and sell their movies.

Aside YouTube, which is open for all, few Ghanaian producers like Shirley Frimpong Manso and Ivan Quashigah have set up their respective digital platforms to distribute their movies.

If distribution links are limited, it discourages any business entity from venturing into an endeavour that would not yield any meaningful results.

A surge in digital distribution links would encourage other investors and producers who have given up on the trade to get back to the fold and reap the many benefits that come with the business.

It has become imperative for producers to devise mechanisms of initiating their digital domain or partner with already-existing distribution links to sell their movies.

The many distributors and marketers who have become redundant should also upgrade. They must get familiar with the new technological trends and fit into the new wave or get submerged.

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