On Valentine’s Day 2020, film distributor NEON hit a high point with a wide expansion for its theatrical release of Parasite, coming 5 days after the thriller by director Bong Joon-ho won Best Picture at the 92nd Academy Awards. Independent distributors such as NEON and A24 and specialty labels with the majors such as Fox Searchlight had become the tastemakers of awards season. And then, the COVID pandemic pulled the rug out from underneath theatrical distribution and disrupted the film festivals that were an essential ingredient in building buzz for independent titles. In their place, streamers such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have stepped in to draw most of the attention for this year’s awards season, leveraging their massive investments to acquire and market content.
This week, NEON and fellow independent Bleecker Street announced that they were teaming up to form a new company named DECAL to manage streaming distribution for their titles. The new company will be led by Andrew Brown from NEON and Kent Anderson from Bleecker, and will negotiate terms for at-home distribution using the “Universal” model, making title available to stream after a 17-day exclusive theatrical window. Both companies felt that it was essential to take a more forceful and direct role in managing the fate of their films on-line, since patterns for movie viewing have changed.