A London warehouse owned by Sony and holding the primary stock of many of England’s music and film distributors burned to the ground last night as the London riots continued for a third night, a loss with potentially wide-ranging implications for the British film and music industry.
The PIAS group, which distributes independently released music and DVDs in the UK and Ireland, kept much of its stock in the warehouse, from labels like Drag City, Drowned in Sound, Def Jux and many more, the Guardian reports: larger labels will likely be insured, but any small label that isn’t will be out of stock with no product on hand with which to finance the manufacture of more. We’ll know more as individual labels take stock.
The three-story warehouse also housed DVDs from labels like Artificial Eye and BFI, who lost, say the Guardian, 120,000 DVD units in the fire.
No titles seem to be permanently lost—this is retail stock, not masters. But independent film distributors depend increasingly on home video sales for survival—the vast majority of independent films receive only a token theatrical release, for the sake of visibility, and earn back costs, or not, as more accessible entries in the back catalog—and the film industry lags behind music in monetizing streaming.
“‘It’s a huge dent in our business,'” the managing director of queer theatrical and DVD label Peccadillo Pictures told the Guardian: “‘The stock can be replaced, but there’s nothing there to sell right now. It’s basically a cash flow problem. We think we can get through it, but it means spreading payments out, and pleading with people.'”
He added that the companys acquisitions and release calendar will likely be slowed—this seems likely to be true for everyone, even if they’ll eventually be fully compensated for their loss—since, with nothing to sell, there’s no money to move ahead with anything new.
At the time the Guardian went to press, a Sony statement described the warehouse as still “smouldering.”