PeopleForCinema get close to the action

PeopleForCinema invites internet users shape the promotion and distribution of films and share in the box office takings.

By Rosie Lavan

P4C members fundraise and help promote films in return for access to exclusive content and events

Unlike other web services which offer an alternative to traditional distribution, the French PeopleForCinema (P4C) works with distributors, and only on films that have been guaranteed a theatrical release. Films are posted online several months before their scheduled release along with a target distribution budget for internet users to raise. With a minimum €20 investment, P4C members gain access to exclusive online content and invitations to special events leading up to the film’s release.

For their contribution, members are invited to participate in key areas of the distribution process. They can voice views on how the film should be advertised and promoted – such as the choice of posters and trailers. Crucially, they are encouraged to take promotion into their own hands, spreading information about the film and its release through promo mails and their own blogs and social networks. They then stand to gain once the film is released with a cut in box office takings proportionate to their original investment and level of involvement in promotion.

The P4C relationship works both ways. By providing finance it enables distributors to mitigate their risk on films. It also offers invaluable access to otherwise impossible to reach internet communities, allowing them to enjoy a new type of viral marketing.

The fans’ investment creates an important sense of ownership which is in turn a powerful safeguard against piracy. Co-founder and president Serge Hayat explains: “For somebody who has some money in the movie, even if it’s only €40, it’s his or her film, and then with his or her friends they are going to become the best ambassadors for the movie.”

P4C is essentially a new take on pre-sales. “I have always been interested in the fact that the best way to finance movies are pre-sales,” Hayat says. “It seemed quite interesting to pre-finance it – to pre-sell it – to the people.”

Currently only operating in France, P4C plans to open subsidiaries in other countries – particularly those, like Italy and Germany, where there is a strong and important tradition of cinema.

Before P4C, Hayat worked with some of France’s leading film production and distribution companies. His co-founder Simon Istolanein was behind the runaway internet success MyMajorCompany.com, which invited users to turn music producers and generated €1,000,000 within its first few months.

Next for P4C is a crowdsourcing platform for its own fan-produced films, scheduled for launch before its fifth anniversary.

P4C is a new force in a fiercely competitive environment: 15 new films are released in France every week. “P4C is not going to revolutionise the finance of the industry,” Hayat says, acknowledging that its model, which welcomes small investments from fans, cannot hope to raise more than €200,000 or €300,000 per film. Instead, it offers alternatives to financing and distribution routes which engage both audiences and distributors.

“We provide a new way for people to experience cinema and have a new way of enjoying the movies, not only by going into theatres,” he says. “We are hoping that we will provide for the industry new ways of involving the audience.”

Key projects

Les Petits Ruisseaux: the most successful film on the platform to date which after just weeks in cinemas has earned three times the box office target needed to guarantee a return to P4C investors

L’Age de Raison: starring celebrated French actress Sophie Marceau, the target of €100,000 for P4C users to raise is the largest on P4C to date

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