Sky Movies to Screen Soccer Film 'Believe' in First Day-and-Date Offer for Subs

Brian Cox stars in "Believe."
Brian Cox stars in "Believe."
 Adam Lawrence

LONDON – U.K. pay TV giant BSkyB's Sky Movies subscription service will premiere soccer film Believe ‎on Friday, the same day the movie debuts in British theaters.

The day-and-date release in cinemas and on Sky Movies is a first for the subscription TV service. BSkyB has previously offered some day-and-date movie releases for rental via the Sky Store service.

The film will air on Sky Movies Premiere at 7 p.m. Friday and will also be available on demand.

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Financial details on the partnership between Sky Movies and distributor Trinity Film weren't available. But the company lauded it as an "innovative deal and "an attempt to further experiment with breaking the traditional windows around how films are released."

Believe stars Brian Cox, Toby Stephens and Natascha McElhone. It is a fictional story about real-life legendary soccer manager Sir Matt Busby who comes out of retirement for one last coaching challenge, transforming a talented young player and his friends into a dream team to compete for the Manchester junior league cup.

Scotland-born Busby used to play soccer for Liverpool and Manchester City before managing the latter team's cross-town rivals Manchester United until 1969.

"We're delighted to have such a great film to kick off — no pun intended — this experiment in breaking the traditional windows," said Ian Lewis, director of Sky Movies. "Believe is the perfect antidote if you're feeling a bit down after our World Cup performance. We're confident our customers will love it, and we're thrilled that we can bring it to them at the same time as it's released across the U.K."

Cedric Behrel, co-founder and director of Trinity Film, the film's distributor, explained the experimental release strategy this way: "It is a crucial time for the homegrown, independent sector to explore new business models, and we are delighted to have found in Sky a partner willing to do just that, with essential support" from the British Film Institute, which provided one of its "New Models Distribution Fund" awards.

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He concluded: "Independent family films are notoriously difficult to take to market, and we hope the innovative release of Believe will create a precedent for the future."

Added producer Manuela Noble: "Releasing a film costs a lot of money, especially the advertising and promotion of it. And to market a family film costs about three times as much as marketing a regular film, because you have to  market to children, and kids TV ads cost a fortune. So, for an independent film like Believe to have the benefit of the cross-promotion ‎we can get via Sky really helps promote the film."

Behrel also cited the fact that the summer season tends to be dominated by studio tentpole releases. "The question for us was how do you find space for an independent movie ... in that environment," he told THR. "We thought it would make sense to find a media partner with great reach."

He declined to discuss details of the agreement, but said "for us it's a pay TV deal."

Noble highlighted that the film will also reach a broader audience than it would in cinemas alone given it isn't shown in a big number of movie theaters. As of mid-week, it was set to screen in nearly 30 cinemas around the country.

"Why Sky is great for us is that there are independent cinemas around the country, but the masses are given a choice if they want to go there or stay at home and watch it on Sky Movies," Noble told THR.  "To give people a choice is a terrific thing. ‎So, Sky offers a wonderful opportunity for the film. And Sky is doing all kinds of promotions that we would never have been able to do or afford."

Lewis said that while some may fear that TV availability could cannibalize the cinema audience for the film, he sees the agreement as a win-win partnership. "For us it is a great way to add extra value for people who pay for a subscription. It's a great film and a family film, and we think it will appeal to our audience," he explained.

At the same time, "a lot of smaller films struggle to get exposure and quite often good films just get completely missed," Lewis added. "‎More people are going to be aware of the film."

Does he plan more similar deals? "I'd certainly like to see more," he told THR. "The whole market has to come to terms with the fact that the distribution of content is happening in many different ways, and we have to keep innovating to keep the market alive."

Concluded Lewis: "Many smaller films struggle with financing and production, then distribution. At least with us, we are able to commit significant licensing fees that reflect that we have a film exclusively [outside of theaters]."

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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