How-To: Obtain an Outdoor Movie License and Why

February, 10th 2020 by Shane Goslin

When planning and organizing an outdoor movie, it can be exciting since you are finally making your unique outdoor event happen. You get to bring families, coworkers, friends, and the community together through a night under the stars in your own open-air cinema. However, there are unexpected costs associated with public movie showings that are not common knowledge.

When it comes to picking and choosing what movie you are gonna show on your big night, it is easy to just head down to Walmart and buy the BluRay disc of your choice. Unfortunately, even though a physical version of the film was purchased, it does not give you or your organization the right to show it to a public audience. Physical copies in stores are sold for "home use only".
Swank Motion Pictures defines a public performance as: "the exhibition of a movie that is shown outside of someones home."
Read more about copyright laws and licensing at Swank here.
Even if tickets for the movie aren't sold and the movie is completely free to the public, it is still considered a public showing of a movie. Even non-profits, schools, and churches aren't exempt from copyright laws with regard to public performances.

Hollywood and the movie studios are extremely protective of their intellectual property and let's be honest, they LOVE money. At Go Outdoor Movies, we always encourage the purchase of a movie license if your movie is considered a public showing. If there is any question as to whether or not your movie is public, you can always ask us or contact the licensing companies themselves.

At this point, you may be asking, so how do I obtain a copyright license to show a movie for my organization?
The two most prominent movie licensing companies in the United States are as follows:
1. Swank Motion Pictures USA
2. Criterion Pictures USA
Both Swank Motion Pictures and Criterion Pictures USA are very well run organizations that can help you get a license under your belt to make sure you are good to go for your event.

Although a movie can be shown without copyright or license, the Go Outdoor Movies team always promotes the purchase of an outdoor movie license prior to an event to protect your organization.