Last month, we covered the relaunch of Prescreen, a curated, on-demand video platform. The company, which was founded by ex-Groupon and Zoosk execs, launched last November with the goal of giving movie lovers an easy way to discover independent films, and, in turn, offering filmmakers and producers an alternative, online channel for marketing and distribution.
Earlier this year, Prescreen added former Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment and current Blockbuster exec Tim Wesley along with film financing, sales and distribution company IM Global Founder Stuart Ford. Today, Prescreen is announcing the addition of another industry exec to its advisory board: Founding Netflix exec and former RedBox President, Mitch Lowe.
Prescreen Co-founder and early Groupon executive Shawn Bercuson said that Lowe has always been “a data guy” and has already asked the team for all available data so that he can get to work finding ways to optimize customer and filmmaker experience. Lowe himself said his goal has always been to find ways to increase and expand consumer film exploration, and he saw his role at Prescreen as another great opportunity to do that.
The startup raised an early $1 million round of seed financing from former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya and others, and has since been focused not only on finding premium content, but building out an advisory board of industry veterans to help guide the startup through the process of building an on-demand video business.
As to Prescreen’s model, Bercuson said that the recent poor press and disappointing early domestic performance of blockbuster John Carter is further evidence that Hollywood hasn’t quite gotten it figured out yet. John Carter was one of Disney’s largest movies to date, costing $250 million to produce. These big budget movies just aren’t making what they used to, and studios are struggling to find the target audience for their movies in spite of colossal marketing spend.
The major studios are beginning to produce fewer and fewer movies per year to be safe, and as a result, theaters are starved for content. So, it could get interesting if these theater chains started to approach Prescreen, as they look for a better way to find out what’s working — and what people are watching. Margin Call was a good example, which had a limited theatrical release, and had early digital distribution with Amazon and others. Because the movie was well received, it then went from four theaters to 400.
Increasingly, theaters are looking to replicate this model, because they don’t want to give tons of screen space to certain films — even if they’re blockbusters — only to find out that fans weren’t that excited about it in the first place. This is where Prescreen could become a valuable tool for theaters, as the startup is planning to do more “exclusive releases” — or day-and-date and pre-theatrical releases. If Prescreen is showing early buzz and engagement with a certain film, and theaters get access to that data via the startup, they can start to make better choices about what films they’re showing and where.
Because of Prescreen’s Facebook integration (more here), there’s more of an opportunity for filmmakers and distributors to discover, say, that there’s a conversation happening online around a particular film in Seattle. Theaters could then react quickly and release the film in theaters in the Seattle area. As with so many other industries, data — really social data — has the potential to disrupt the old model of content distribution and marketing. And advisors like Lowe are keen to help Prescreen lead the way.