Distributors are the companies that handle the sales and marketing of motion pictures to audiences. They establish the brand of a movie and are the wholesalers of motion pictures to the media they distribute. There are seven major players in the United States.

Film Distribution PlayersThey are: 20th Century Fox, Universal, Buena Vista, Sony, Paramount, Warner Brothers, and Lionsgate. Each of distributors is also a full-service studio, with the exception of Lionsgate who does not have a movie lot. These seven are all-rights distributors. That means they are globally able to handle the theatrical release, non-theatrical and ancillary rights to the pictures they represent. They are also the prominent theatrical and home entertainment distributors for major independent producers.

In addition to the big seven, there are several minor distributors. Three of the biggest are owned by the big seven. These include Sony Classics, Fox Searchlight and Focus Features. Another big player of the minor distributors is Summit Entertainment. The largest of these minor distributors are also all-rights distributors.

Under these players, additional minor distributors have carved out a place in the business. Since several of the studios are concentrating on wide release films, there are some veteran distributors that are handling smaller, niche-driven films. These include companies like Samuel Goldwyn Company, Magnolia Pictures, IFC and Roadside Attractions. Also, once you move into international territories, there are studios that handle the distribution of motion pictures in their territories and can do global placement as well.

Outside of these major and minor distributors, there are key players to know in several smaller categories. The first of which are International Sales Companies. They produce or co-produce some independent projects in addition to acquiring other motion pictures for theatrical release. These include, Hyde Park, Inferno, Lakeshore and Icon Entertainment Company.

Producers Representative Organizations plan and execute sales to international sales organizations and may also engage the US Rights to sales of their independent producer projects. The major players are CAA, ICM, WME, and companies like Cinematic Media and Gillen groups.

Television Syndication companies plan and carry out sales to television stations, cable networks, and satellite systems.

Product Placement companies plan, negotiate the terms of and manage the use or borrowing, giving, or fee earned by their producer clients for their products appearing in the movie.

Promotional Tie-in companies plan and manage relationships in advertising with the release of movies with other consumer brands. Usually these are soft drink or fast food companies.

Publishers might handle the release of novels, coloring books, comic books and workbooks coordinated with picture releases. Also, they handle the paper-based role-playing and other game publishers who time their release with the movie.

Finally there are Ancillary Rights companies who specialize in merchandising, in-flight, scholastic, ships-at-sea and other categories of sales and marketing.