Film rental

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A film rental company is a distributor of cinema films , i.e. it supplies cinemas with film copies or data storage media and thus represents an important link between the production of the film (by a film production company ) and its consumption in the cinemas .

The interests of German distributors are represented by the Association of Film Distributors (VdF) and AG Verleih .

Explanation of terms

From a legal point of view, “rental” is an inappropriate term, as the film copies are not loaned (free of charge) by the rental company , but are rented for a fee (film rental). In practice, however, the term “film distribution” has become so common that it is retained.


Until around 1906 or 1907, most films were no longer than around 10 minutes, i.e. one to a maximum of two film rolls. The manufacturers produced their films in large numbers according to demand and sold them to cinema owners. When the cinema first saw a decline in visitors around the world around 1906, as the short films, which were always similar in content, were already becoming less attractive, the transition to longer films with more varied content, lasting up to around 20 minutes, took place. In order to be able to finance the now correspondingly higher production costs and at the same time to enable the cinema owner to change films more frequently, the distribution system was introduced nationwide.

Preliminary work

As a rule, the rights for national exploitation are acquired from the producer of the films (producer or the world distributor commissioned by him ) . The distributor now takes care of the appropriate processing of the film in line with the market ( dubbing , subtitling ) and the age rating (submission to the voluntary self-regulation, etc.). It can happen that the original film is shortened in order to obtain a rating that is more favorable for marketing. However, it is also possible that a film that has been shortened in its country of origin for the same reasons is rented out here in a longer version.

The distributor sets a point in time when the film will officially come onto the market (in Germany : Bundesstart ). Official previews or unannounced sneak previews are also possible as part of film festivals or the like . There are also press screenings . National advertising for a film is also up to the distributors, while regional advertising (except in large cities) is mostly left to the local cinemas.

The preliminary rental costs for the technical release and promotion of the theatrical release are summarized under the term Prints and Advertising (P&A).

Loan process

The distributor now provides the cinemas with the now usually digital film copies as well as their screening rights and receives a percentage of the income for this. He takes care of the scheduling (when the films are used where), while storage and shipping are often handled by independent regional film warehouses or central logistics companies. Digital copies of the films are made in the required number on hard drives that are delivered to the cinemas. To reduce storage costs , a large part of these hard drives is reused for new films after the first, massive evaluation . At the time of analog film distribution, the majority of copies were destroyed or the carrier material ( polyester ) was recycled .

In most cases, the distributor has only acquired the national rights to film exploitation for a limited period of time. Particularly in the field of non-commercial film work ( film club , municipal cinema , film festivals ) it can happen that a distributor still has copies, but no longer has any rights, which the cinema operator then has to purchase from the world distributor or other rights holder in addition to the fee to the distributor . It can also happen that the rights for the national performance still lie with the distributor, but the distributor no longer has a playable film copy, which then has to be procured elsewhere ( cinematheque , film collector , archive ) and must also be paid for separately.

An illegal method used by American film companies at the beginning of the 1920s to force cinemas to accept all of the films they distribute was the block system . This should secure the European market for own productions.

With the spread of digital cinema , the processes in the distribution of film copies have also changed completely: The distributors send their films in the form of compact hard drives (usually in stable removable slots, sometimes in the form of USB hard drives) with digital cinema packages by post and other companies. Recently, purely digital distribution via satellite or broadband connections has also begun to establish itself, but this technology is still not very widespread in Europe (in contrast to the USA, for example). Although the cost of lending per copy has fallen dramatically since the introduction of digital film copies, the film distributors still usually set a starting number in advance. The usual number of starting copies in Germany are between less than 10 for very small art films and over 1000 for blockbusters.

In times of analog distribution, it was crucial that a copy of a film that was used in a cinema during one game week (i.e. until Wednesday) could be played in another house on the following day for the new game week. For this purpose, there was the profession of film forwarder, who picked up old copies during the night from Wednesday to Thursday and brought new ones from the film warehouse or from an auditor. This form of delivery is largely eliminated today. Since then, some freight forwarders have been supplying the cinemas with food products (popcorn, etc.).

Rental districts

The larger film distributors have divided so-called distribution districts. Each district has its own press office and separate scheduling . Many small lenders in particular have a central disposition. Some do not even take on this task themselves, but leave the "booking and billing" (that is, the rental of their films to the cinemas and the accounting) to special agencies or other rental companies.

Before the cinemas were digitized, there were one or more film stores in each distribution district, from which the cinemas are supplied with copies centrally via forwarding agents. Today, digital delivery is still partly carried out via the remaining film warehouse, but central logistics providers usually deliver the film copies. The press screenings are also divided up by district.

The rental districts in detail:

  • Hamburg (Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, Lower Saxony)
  • Berlin (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Thuringia)
  • Düsseldorf (North Rhine-Westphalia)
  • Frankfurt (Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, parts of Baden-Württemberg, parts of Bavaria)
  • Munich (parts of Bavaria, parts of Baden-Württemberg)

Non-commercial film distribution

There are also non-commercial film distributors (e.g. Landesfilmdienste / Landesmediendienste e.V., Matthias-Film of the Evangelical Church in Germany ), but many of them, including regional and district image agencies , are limited to DVDs and BluRays. It used to be z. B. 16 mm narrow film format more common in schools and youth work . In the commercial sector (cinema), digital film copies and earlier the 35 mm format are used almost exclusively .


US distributors dominate Europe. Have the largest market shares:

The most important German distributors are
German small lenders (alphabetically) are
Former German distributors

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