Aussie film entrepreneurs ditch Tugg to launch cinema on-demand with Demand.film

The team that brought cinema-on-demand platform Tugg to Australia have relinquished their local licence, instead launching their own platform Demand.film.

The new website, which like Tugg will let Australians experience niche films and documentaries on the big screen via a crowdfunding model, is international from the outset and co-founder David Doepel says it is adding innovations to the platform involving blockchain technology, integrations with major cinemas and the use of social media influencers to help promote the films.

It allows users to buy tickets to local and overseas films that haven’t been picked up by Australian cinemas. The film is only screened if enough tickets are sold to cover the costs.

“It’s like the culture at Apple… you have to be asking yourself how you can compete with yourselves and how you can put yourself out of business with the next set of innovation,” Mr Doepel said.

“Ultimately we’d like Demand.film to be something punters look at to decide what they’d like to see at the cinema. There are an abundance of films being made and some great movies are never seen in the way filmmakers intended – on the big screen.”

Since launching in February 2015, Tugg had more than 700 screenings of independent films in Australian cinemas, but unlike Tugg, the films featured on Demand.film will be curated, rather than allowing any filmmaker to have their work on the website.

“It’s not a DIY platform any more. Just because you have a film it doesn’t mean you can be on Demand.film. We have a selection process and that’s because not every film works for cinema-on-demand. We understand now the types of titles that thrive in this environment,” Mr Doepel said.

Raising capital

Mr Doepel, who is also the managing director of Leap Frog Films, is raising $3 million for the new venture through Empire Capital and intends to take the company public in the next 12 to 18 months.

“As a company we talk about things we’ve done, rather than what we’re going to do, but we’re building a business of value and the goal is to have a liquidity event at some point,” he said.

Demand.film first launched in New Zealand, where it has been giving locals access to body confidence film Embrace, and it is now also live in Australia and Britain.

Other titles currently on the platform include the documentary The Surgery Ship, which follows a team of nurses and doctors travelling via ship to some of the poorest areas in West Africa to deliver medical supplies and perform lifesaving operations; Life, ANIMATED, the tale of a young autistic man who develops with the help of Disney movies, and He Named Me Malala, the story of girls education activist Malala Yousafzai.

“It’s OK for Australians to think beyond their market. We’re 24 million people… there are few businesses that once they start growing end up having the economies of scale in this one territory,” he said.

“We have a strategy where if someone brings us a film that has a certain following in a country we’re not in, then we’ll use that title to go there because it comes with the demand. If people demand it, we will go.”

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