Digital Disruption

Easy access to digital media has brought forth its impacts to both individuals and institutions. Film festivals not being an exemption of the impact of digital disruption, has faced consequences since the consumers have the freedom of downloading films without having to wait for their theatrical release in order to see them. The main actual issue is whether the film festival network will remain relevant in this era of digital media, with particular interest in the methods of convergence affecting film festival network. Convergence is the drift of content across various media platforms, cooperation amongst media industries, and the trending patterns of the audience that makes them be everywhere in search of the entertainment that they want. There are three phases of that one can differentiate the development of convergence. The first phase being media ownership; the second being digitisation of operating systems; and the last being content with potential of being streamed through multiple media platforms.


An example in the concrete evaluation of digitisation is when the International Film Festival Rotterdam came up with a programme that held the title ‘Exploding Cinema’. The title itself becomes a basis for debating on the issue of convergence, since the use of such a strong metaphor depicts that the festival put much focus on aesthetics rather than a sustainable place that film would continue been exhibited. Festivals therefore can assume to taking on different tasks such as: changing the programming process, reporting on current aesthetic trends, sorting out films that are brought in numbers for selection, and regulating festival markets in order to meet demands in the progressively growing media environment (Tryon, 2013) With no doubt, digital developments have had an impact on film operations (artistic and commercial). By looking at these impacts, one can be able to question how they will affect the future of the film festival in the long run.

Digitisation has brought forth a huge shift in the media ownership, from one that was industry based around cinema theatres to one that operates around copyright. This is because it is not profitable for cinema theatres to operate in the copyright industry especially in the film commercial life cycle. With the current advanced digital technologies, it becomes even more profitable since media products can be distributed easily in a much quicker inexpensive way. In an article termed as the ‘Long Tail’ (Anderson, 2006) showed how profits on niche products would compete with those from items with mass popularity. This would lead to a huge split through which industrialised societies work normally. Through the ‘Long Tail’ model we can therefore comprehend on the impact that digital distribution has to the film festivals. The model also has three rules it operates on: low prices, availability and assisted search strategies. The third rule being critical for niche films, since people will not opt to find for products they have no knowledge of such as the case of several films screened at the film festivals.

In the current environment where digital development is advanced in terms of effective branding and strategies, it is with no doubt that festival films cannot match up to be available  on-line. In order to curb digital disruption, film festivals with no doubt need to create a socio-cultural environment where the audience is motivated enough to view and contemplate the films. They would also consider drawing more attention by having alternative and captivating titles for the films. However, digital disruption will continue posing a challenge to film festivals since more developments are being made often and are better strategically.


Anderson, C. (2006). The long tail: Why the future of business is selling less of more. New York: Hyperion.

Tryon, C. (2013). On-demand culture: Digital delivery and the future of movies.

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