CATEGORIES Movies, Festivals

"Our mission is to provide independent films to audiences, now, around the country," said Tribeca Film chief operating officer Jon Patricof during the Advertising Week panel 'The Future of Film' on Monday afternoon. Easier said than done in the past, but now -- thanks to Patricof, VP of Global Sponsorship, Access and Experiential Marketing for American Express Rich Lehrfeld and filmmaker Edward Burns -- a growing reality. Which is good news for cinephiles, provided they aren't married to seeing indie films at their local theater.

While blockbusters and spectacles will always have a home on the big screen -- as Burns said, "big movies will always work theatrically" -- smaller films need to take a more direct route to consumers. "We saw a real gap in the marketplace," Patricof said about the Tribeca Film on-demand platform, which offers over 40 million people nationwide the opportunity to see films they normally wouldn't get at their local theater. "A lot of distributers had fallen out and there were fewer and fewer ways for filmmakers to reach these audiences as well. A lot of the bigger studios started to abandon the smaller films, so we felt there was a great opportunity for a brand like Tribeca to step in and fill that gap."

For a filmmaker like Burns -- who has premiered six of his films at the Tribeca Film Festival during its ten years of existence -- that type of direct contact is ideal, especially in the face of dwindling theatrical results.

"The audience just isn't going to the art house theater in the same numbers that they used to," Burns said. "In 1995 when I got into the business, on a Tuesday night, there weren't a helluva lot of options for you. You'd go down to the Angelika [in Manhattan] to see what was playing. Now on a Tuesday night, on VOD, you have incredibly programming from cable television. You have all of these things that didn't exist: movies available on iTunes, Facebook. It's much harder to find an audience."

That statement might not be true in New York or Los Angeles, but Burns knows indie films need to cast a much wider net to succeed. "You go to Cleveland or Detroit or these bigger markets, they don't have an art house theater. Or they have one theater. So, if you live in the 'burbs, you have to trek an hour to go to the theater. Why would you when you may have a great flatscreen TV with surround sound with a great HD image? We started to think, 'The audience is home and that same audience that loves 'The Sopranos' or 'Breaking Bad' or 'Mad Men,' that's our audience. They're the folks who used to go to the art house. Why are we asking them to pay for the baby sitter or the gas or the parking and schlep out to the crappy little theater when they're already home in their living room? Why don't we access them?'"

Through Tribeca Film and its partnership with American Express, they did -- though not without some push-back from filmmakers.

"Most filmmakers think, 'I'm a filmmaker, I need to see my film play on the big screen,'" Burns said. "I get that; I don't know if I'd be willing to do [VOD] with my first film. But having seen enough films open up in New York and Los Angeles and never get the platform release that was promised, and seeing that economically that model made no sense, more people are embracing these new digital platforms. It's a big part of what Tribeca and American Express are doing, and I think you're going to see more and more of that."

For more on the eighth edition of Advertising Week, check out Huffington Post's coverage here.

Photo: Gary Gershoff/WireImage