The Orchard has been incubating and developing its film distribution capabilities over the last four years, beefing up its infrastructure to handle the many complexities film distribution introduces, expanding its retail footprint to include the top online film outlets globally and creating a simplified process for its clients.
Recently we announced the launch of a new division, The Orchard Sports, with a very specific value proposition targeted at action sports and lifestyle film producers.
When you hear the word “sports”, action sports might not be the first thing that comes to mind. You might think of football or baseball, but there’s a specific sports community growing steadily, and it represents a lifestyle more so than a competition. It’s a world of outdoor enthusiasts from snowboarders and surfers to mountain bikers and rock climbers, each with sub-communities. And the best part of these extreme sports is the stage on which they’re filmed: the most beautiful edges of our planet.
Action sports films aren’t a video of a competition. They are part travel log, part Planet Earth, part music video and part Guinness Book of World Records. They combine never-been-done feats with the most visceral natural imagery and the hippest soundtracks. They challenge the viewer to not only figure out how the incredible stunts were performed, but how they were filmed…and what’s that great song in the background? The competition has shifted from the athletes to the films they produce.
Why did The Orchard launch a division targeting such a specific type of film distribution? Here’s 5 reasons why.
- Demographics. The primary viewer demographic of action sports films are young males, particularly those who can afford to travel and shop at action sports stores. Guess who the primary demographic of our online film partners are? The match is so precise that these films can perform better than any other film category next to big budget Hollywood films. Would you believe that the latest surf film could outperform last year’s Sundance winning indie film through online video outlets like iTunes? We just released a motocross film, Moto 3: The Movie, and for one night it charted in iTunes’ top 20 film sales between Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
- The Fan Base. Directors of successful action sports films have large followings. They are often celebrity athletes supported by major brands. Their fan base is more akin to that of a rock star than an indie film director. The action sports studios garner large followings on Facebook, and the brands that fund the films spend a lot of money marketing the films to their fan base. In turn, we have a built-in audience anxiously awaiting the next release, and we know exactly how to reach them.
- Cultural Translation. Narrative films, especially indie films, don’t translate well across cultures and language barriers. We are a global company with access to viewers (and listeners) around the world. What better film product to globalize than a film that relies on imagery and music? The athletes have global fan bases, and their sports break geographic barriers far better than competitive mainstream sports, whose leagues are very localized.
- Shelf Life. Competitive sports like football or even car racing have a very short shelf life, so short that it really only works as a live broadcast medium. Due to the increasing number of media options online, or even on YouTube alone, and due to the short attention span of today’s online video viewers, the market of indie narrative film watchers online is not really growing. While online video consumption is exploding, viewers are watching quantity more than the duration required for a 90-120 minute film. The number of action sports enthusiasts and world travelers is growing, however, therefore the base of people seeking action sports films online grows regularly, not to mention that action sports films are shorter than a typical independent film – usually 30-60 minutes – more digestible in today’s attention-deficit world. These reasons lead to the category having a long shelf life in digital stores.
- A Therapeutic Escape. Online video consumers are looking for an escape from the reality of their daily lives and the mental strain of their information-overloaded lifestyle. In today’s computerized world, the combination of human talent pushing the boundaries of reality, of nature and of filmmaking serves as an escape from our daily (and in many cases now, jobless) lives, and it leaves the viewer motivated to go out and do something fun themselves. No complex plot to navigate. No dramatic fallout between a family or loved ones. Just natural bliss. And it’s this therapeutic result that pauses the viewer from their hyperactive online experience and makes it worth the money…it becomes a film they replay and enjoy carrying on their digital shelf. And it becomes their inspiration for becoming an athlete themselves, in the way a music fan is motivated to pick up their guitar and play when they hear their favorite album.