When it launched in 2011, Tugg wanted to give AMC, Regal, and even arthouses the opportunity to show indie films that they wouldn’t normally be able to program. While Gonda describes Tugg as “like having the remote control for your local theater,” it’s much more than that.
The Tugg platform allows filmmakers to raise money for specific organizations in addition to attracting sponsors. As the world of distributors and filmmakers seeks to shift focus from theatrical to VOD as a moneymaker, Tugg is making a counterintuitive move by focusing on the in-theater experience. With 90% of their screenings having some sort of in-theater component (a Q&A, a panel discussion, a performance, etc.), the Tugg platform has provided a service for people who want to make more out of a film screening or who want to use film to develop all kinds of conversations.
Shola Lynch's "Free Angela and Other Political Prisoners" had an extensive run of Tugg screenings across the country. Gonda singled out one particularly successful screening in Philadelphia. "There was a group of civil rights lawyers and activists [in attendance] who had experienced the issues Angela Davis had faced," he said. "They spent 90 minutes talking about it. People were leaving the theater in tears. That’s something that's a unique experience to have, that a movie theater is able to foster.”
In contrast to film festivals, Gonda said, "now, people can create these experiences in their hometown. By engaging more passionately at screenings, it can only help downstream.”
Getting people back into the theaters. The early users of Tugg, including the promoters, are people who haven’t necessarily been going to the theater. As an example, Gonda cited "Honor Flight," which was geared toward older veterans.
Watching filmmakers think they can do this all on their own. "The consultants and strategists exist out there," Gonda explained. "There are business models where you still remain in control of those levers. It’s less about the mentality that you do everything on your own, but that you remain in control."
Making sure filmmakers are able to make the most of their experience and getting more people on board.
After developing the platform in 2011 and proving it works in 2012, Gonda said 2013 is all about expanding with more promoters and films.