Online platforms and film circulation is a research project that examines the role of Netflix, Amazon, MUBI and other video-on-demand services in an era of content abundance. It draws on in-depth analysis of specialised films that circulate beyond the mainstream to analyse how they are introduced and promoted to audiences on online platforms in Germany. Given the rapid development of the online market, there is a need for greater insight into distribution and exhibition processes that influence audience outcomes.
Online platforms and film circulation
Different types of online platforms that operate in Germany
What are specialised films and why are they relevant?
- They are loosely referred to as a category of less familiar feature films that circulate mostly beyond the mainstream, involving independent films, art-house films, festival films and world cinema.
- As a category, they are roughly located between mainstream, commercial films and experimental, non-commercial films.
- They are commercial productions that are often associated with an appreciation for their cultural, aesthetic and/or social values.
- It is often asserted that they make an enriching contribution to the diversification of film culture and the ways that individuals and groups in society are represented on screen.
Why is it important to conduct more research?
- Marco-level perspectives about the influence of online platforms on audience consumption have been developed (such as the long tail), but empirical research at meso- and micro-levels reveals greater insight in the processes at work that influence audience outcomes.
- Little is known about online platforms in relation to the circulation of specialised films. A comparative study of platforms can demonstrate how they engage with such films in different ways.
- The film industry benefits from a better understanding of strategies developed by online platforms. Generating commercial value for specialised films is often identified as a key challenge for industry practitioners.
Homepage of the specialised subscription platform Realeyz in Germany (screenshot taken on 17 March 2020)
- Producing a database of 150 specialised films with information about their availability on online platforms.
- Analysing the visibility of 150 specialised films on online platforms.
- Analysing online platforms as gatekeepers with influence over the consumption of specialised films.
- Analysing how processes of access, power and control in the online market impact on the circulation of specialised films.
- Analysing how programming practices in the online market compare with the theatrical cinema market, television market and DVD/Blu-ray market.
The Florida Project (2017) on the specialised subscription platform MUBI in Germany (screenshot taken on 16 March 2020)
- “Challenging Distribution 2020”. Film industry event organised at the European Film Market of the Berlin International Film Festival, 25 February 2020.
- “Film Audience Movements and Migrations”. Academic-industry conference at the Oxford Brookes University (UK), 6-7 April 2020.
- “Media Industries 2020: Global Currents and Contradictions”. Academic conference at King’s College London (UK), 16-18 April 2020.
- “Transitions: Moving Images and Bodies”. Academic conference by the European Network for Cinema and Media Studies (NECS) at the University of Palermo (Italy), 18-20 June 2020.
The project is undertaken by Dr. Roderik Smits, who has worked on various projects related to the changing nature of the screen industries and recently published the book "Gatekeeping in the Evolving Business of Independent Film Distribution." He was awarded a research fellowship by Postdoc Network Brandenburg to undertake this project with guidance and mentorship from Visiting Prof. Skadi Loist.