Movie Licensing Disclaimer. I am not an attorney; I have never played one on TV. All information provided is to the best of my knowledge from helping my clients with Movie Licensing and working with Swank and Criterion on non theatrical screenings for many years. This is for U.S based screenings.
Do I need to Obtain Movie Licensing to show a Movie?
Unless you are hosting a private party at your own house you require a license. Little Tommy’s birthday party is fine. However, if that party was in a public park you would be required to license your movie.
The Movie night is at our school, we are covered, right?
Unless strictly for education purposes in a classroom environment you are required to obtain licensing.
If your school plans on doing events indoors they can apply for an individual films or a site license. A site license allows multiple showings within a calendar year.
Outdoor Movies require a different license, these are more expensive. Yearly site license is not available for outdoor movies.
How do I get Movie Licensing for my movie night?
Most movie studios are represented by one of two companies; Criterion USA or Swank Motion Pictures. Most movies that are available on DVD are available for licensing.
Disney movies have windows when they are not available for public viewing (usually during the release of one of their movies in traditional movie theaters). If you are planning a movie series showing Disney/Marvel/Pixar movies call Swank Motion Pictures and ask about the Disney window.
If it’s in the Disney Vault its probably not available for licensing.
Criterion USA does not carry Disney but has a great selection of animated and live action movies, both can give you great suggestions on what to show and help you develop compelling schedule.
I want to watch something new, it’s not out on DVD yet, is that possible?
There is a brief window where the movie is no longer playing in the Theater but is not available on DVD. Sometimes these movies are available through the licensing companies (restrictions apply, sometimes only available to Universities).
Contact Criterion USA or Swank Motion Pictures for more information.
Neither Swank or Criterion carry the movie, what now?
You may have selected a movie that is independent or is looking for distribution, try contacting the studio who made the film.
Just because the large companies do not have it in their catalog does not mean that licensing is not required.
So, all movies require licensing?
Some old movies have fallen out of copyright or may have been subject to mistakes when the film was made making the copyright invalid. Night of the Living Dead may be the most famous (maybe not the best choice for a family movie night).
How much is licensing?
That depends on crowd size, location and movie. For events outside for under 200 guests be prepared to spend anywhere from $225 to $500. Larger crowds are more expensive.
It’s expensive, can I get a discount?
FunFlicks customers save $100 on select titles through Criterion by contacting Cary at 800-890-9494 x 224.
If you are planning a movie series, you can sometimes get a discount if you do all\most of your licensing with one of the licensing companies.
Can I charge admission?
If you are looking to charge admission it changes the licensing model, there is often a gate split required with the licensing company. Please call them, they are the experts (Criterion USA or Swank Motion Pictures).
There are also very specific rules about how you can advertise your event (so not to directly compete with traditional movie theaters). Both Criterion and Swank Motion Pictures provide images you can use to publicize your event.
Outdoor movie nights are a great way of building community, many cities run free events every summer.