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Changing old movie models

Consumers and indie filmmakers are the driving force

Posted: August 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Reza Rassool is a serial entrepreneur with patented technology, with a focus on digital media and entertainment. He serves as Chief Technology Officer for Gathr.

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Technology is reshaping the entire movie industry — from the way money is raised to make a film, and now, to the way independent films can make their way into traditional theaters.

In Santa Clarita, “King: A Filmed Record” is scheduled to play on Aug. 28 only at 7 p.m. at the Canyon Country Edwards Theater — thanks to a new crowd-sourcing platform.

“Technology is disrupting the status quo on movie distribution,” said Reza Rassool, Stevenson Ranch resident, serial entrepreneur and chief technology officer for Gathr Films.

For local theater-goers who are tired of the usual fare shown by mega theater chains, the new distribution model gives film fans an option to bring independent films to their community to see.

For theater owners, it gives them a chance to fill empty seats on typically slow days. (As much as 99 percent of theater seats lie empty during the week, according to Gathr.)

The crowd-sourcing platform also helps independent filmmakers reach broader distribution, Rassool said.

“There are several films of sufficient quality to make it into the Sundance Film Festival,” he said. “But most of them never get a theatrical release.”

Of the 610 films released in theaters in 2011, only 141 received a wide studio release according to CEO Steve Glosserman.

Of the remaining films, only 37 were released by a studio “specialty” division. Another 66 were released by just two art-house distributors, he said. And of those 66 films, only three played in more than 100 theaters, he added.

Launched in 2012, Rassool joined the movie crowd-sourcing platform just after Thanksgiving in 2012, he said.

“I brought an entire team of developers to bring the site (Gathr) up to performance to handle a big nationwide release of a movie,” he said.

One of the first independent documentary films they released this year, “Girl Rising,” became the first movie to gross more than $1 million in revenue when it reached nearly $1.3 million.

“That’s unheard of for a no-name documentary,” Rassool said.

“Girl Rising” was screened by an audience at College of the Canyons in April, said Jennifer Brezina, dean of humanities division for COC.

The documentary, funded by Intel Corp., tells the story of the lack of educational opportunities of nine young girls from nine developing countries, and is narrated by Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson and more.

COC had room for about 102 people but 180 people showed up for the first screening, Rassool said.

“The chancellor was there and was tremendously impressed by the film,” Brezina said. “So we held three additional screenings on June 29.”

Using technology, the company is delivering movies through digital distribution today as movie theaters switch over to the new format of projecting films, Rassool said.

Hollywood has mostly been operating in a risk-averse mode, spitting out the same old movies, sequels and remakes, he said. Gathr’s new model uses technology to a grass roots consumer level, he said.

“We think it is part of a trend that’s only going to increase to give consumers more choice and theater owners more revenue options by increasing capacity during slow times of the week,” Rassool said.

Movie viewers reserve a seat online, but their credit card is only charged if enough viewers reserve a seat to actually produce the local screening of a movie.

And the model lowers the risk for an Indie filmmaker to get their film into theaters, he said. The film only airs if enough viewers reserve seats to attend the screening.

But, it gives filmmakers an important distribution system they didn’t have before — and puts the filmmaker’s movie into the public circulation to become eligible for key industry awards. Gathr has about 10,000 theaters in its network, Rassool said.

“Gathr democratizes theatrical distribution by allowing you, the movie-goer, to ‘pull’ movies to local theatres, instead of being stuck with what few options are currently playing.”

The local screening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. documentary, commemorating the 50th anniversary of his “I Have A Dream” speech, chronicles the life and work of King from the beginning of the civil rights movement and culminates with his assassination.

But first, movie and history aficionados have to go online at Gathr to reserve a seat for an Aug. 28 showing if they want to support the independent film.



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