Gill talks film biz in Toronto

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TORONTO -- The long tail is the wrong tail, the Film Department's Mark Gill told the Toronto International Film Festival Tuesday.

The exec, who has held posts at both Miramax and Warner Independent Pictures, was back to his chicken little prognostications when he declared the movie business remained a hits business, even with the advent of the Internet and digital delivery.

"Basically, what we're moving towards is not the long tail -- there is a long tail, but it is so thin as to have no value -- and we're moving much more towards winner take all," he told the Ernst & Young/Heenan Blaikie LLP media roundtable.

Gill responded to Darren Throop, CEO of fast-growing Canadian distributor Entertainment One, who told the festival panel that the entertainment business will grow and thrive as digital platforms multiplied and players diversified from purely film distribution.

But Gill, whose recent talk at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June caused waves in Hollywood, said the long tail of the demand curve was rendered obsolete when only around 200 to 300 of the 5000 movies made each year, including tent-pole movies, garnered virtually all the box office up for grabs.

Gill praised this year's film line-up in Toronto, but insisted the problem remained one of the marketplace where there's a glut of indie product and too little audience attention for it.

"There's 300 films here, and there's probably room for 450 films in the theatrical marketplace each year," he told the industry panel moderated by the Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit.

And of that total, only 100 to 150 indie titles will see a degree of success each year.

"They just have to be good ones," Gill said of indie gems like Jason Reitman's "Juno" and Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" that have the potential to break out.

But given the challenges before it, Gill was optimistic about the chances for indie film in a world of increasing digital delivery.

Gill argued that, unlike the music business where piracy and a poor value proposition for CDs has hurt major labels, volume for film delivery on the Internet and other digital platforms is likely to grow into the future.

"Consumers rate movies the number two value of everything they buy, including washing machines and cars, and it's behind only chicken," he told the Toronto audience.

"And beer should probably be up there, but those guys were too drunk to tell the survey," Gill added.
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