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Licensing Old Catalogue Films (1 Viewer)

Rob Gilmore

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Jul 9, 2003
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When a physical media distributor decides to license an old catalogue film from the rights holder, what happens when the rights holder hasn't got an up-to-date 2K or 4K digital scan of the film?

I have no idea how much it costs to create a scan for a feature film, but I can see that a rights holder might be reluctant to spend the $'s unless a prospective distributor is willing to pay some sort of up front advance for the right to license the film. Is that how the typical "deal" works? I assume that the rights holder then gets to keep the new scan for future licensing opportunities (once the distributor's licensing period has expired).

It would be interesting to hear from a business affairs person re: just what the usual negotiating points are. Anyone care to comment?
 

Josh Steinberg

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Josh Steinberg
Speaking very generally, when a deal is made between a rights-holder and a distributor for content, such as a studio licensing home video rights to a boutique label, the contract will specify what “deliverables” the deal calls for.

Companies like Kino tend to make deals in large batches, where, for a predetermined lump sum fee, the studio they’re partnering with will license the rights to an entire bundle of films all at once. In these sort of deals, it’s often a matter of being offered choices from different lists/categories where some titles have more perceived value than others. So in a deal for 100 films, the label might get to choose 50 from one large list, and another 50 from another large list, or something similar.

These deals can sometimes involve preexisting masters as well as a commitment to create new masters. The major studios all have ongoing preservation programs, and sometimes these deals will include newly created scans that haven’t been fully mastered for home video yet. Kino in particular has done a lot of deals like that where the studio will provide a raw preservation scan to Kino, and then Kino will take that and complete the work in creating a master that can be used for home video.

And your assumption is generally correct, if the boutique label contributes to the cost of creating a new master, they usually get exclusive rights to that new master for a fixed period in home video, while the studio can use it for theatrical screenings and licensing for digital distribution through storefronts like iTunes and subscription services like Netflix. Long term, when the home video rights revert to the studio, they can use that home video master the boutique label created or license it to another entity.
 

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