TIFF IS HERE! Let the craziness (And the Jewish new year) begin! I figured I would split this into the good and bad from how films performed at last year’s fests.  If you’re playing in the Contemporary World Cinema or Discovery section you might want to run to Vimeo ASAP, but more on that later. Let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?

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Five positives to highlight from last year

  1. Midnight Madness Acquisitions
    • Every film in the Midnight Madness section was acquired for domestic distribution and many (Lords of Salem, Aftershock) were for seven figure deals. The simple fact is that the horror audience is incredibly loyal. It is arguably the most loyal and consistent substantial audience that exists. It’s also often critic-proof, which is not the case for a downbeat drama.
  2. Black and White Film
    • Frances Ha and Much Ado About Nothing were both arguably risky ventures despite the notoriety of people behind and in front of the lens. Both films were shot in black and white and rely on indie celebrity status for marketing. That said, each has grossed over $4,000,000 at the domestic box office. Frances Ha is IFC’s highest grossing film this year and Much Ado About Nothing is Roadside’s best box office performer from their long list of acquisitions at last year’s festival.
  3. Best Performers
    • A number of smaller specialty distributors had their highest grossing US films to date come from 2012 festival acquisitions. Many of these films would not scream top box office though. One is arguably a massive disappointment.
      • Cinema Guild took Museum Hours which has since grossed over $300,000. The film has been nothing if not a marvel, having passed the $200,000 mark before even opening in LA. For a company known for challenging foreign fare and documentaries, this film is no exception, but has clearly connected with audiences.
      • Well Go USA took some action from abroad to the tune of just under $700k in the US via The Thieves. For a company based in Plano, TX that has to be a record.
      • Drafthouse Films did so well with the documentary Act of Killing that TIFF is giving them a panel to explain their distribution strategy. HINT…GO…Tim League is one of the most entertaining people you will hear speak in any capacity. He is also usually quite candid and unpredictable. This film looks to top out at just under $500,000…over 300% above their next highest box office performer.
      • Entertainment One’s expansion into the US box office has been a poor to mixed bag (not to worry though, they kind of dominate everywhere else). A Late Quartet stars Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, but tepid reviews and no awards traction capped the film at around $1.5 Mil. Still, it’s their best performer in the States.
      • Cohen Media Group specializes in handling foreign films. They specifically seem to like ones from France. Yet their highest grosser is from Lebanon (with French backing of course). The Attack is still going strong at the box office with $1.6 Mil in revenue and likely to add another $250,000 or so before it wraps. It’s only a matter of time before they pass the $2,000,000 mark with a film.
  4. Israel
    • The Attack, The Gatekeepers, and Fill the Void all have something in common. They were at least partially shot in Israel and have all grossed over $1,000,000 in the US. In addition, Hannah Arendt has grossed over $600,000 which is particularly impressive when compared with other Zeitgeist releases of the past few years. While Eagles failed to attract buyer interest, Israel continues to be arguably the most reliable foreign language performer in the US. I would say it’s France, but their film industry is much more robust. Many of their top films will never come here and I can’t say that with Israel.  To put it another way, the US box office total combined for these four films would be equal to $1 donation from every Israeli citizen.
  5. HBO Docs
    • Sheila, Sheila, Sheila. If you don’t know her name, you clearly don’t know squat about the Docs. Mea Maxima Culpa premiered at the fest and was one of only two TV Docs to get on the Oscar shortlist (the other one, Ethel, was also an HBO Doc). HBO paid big and got the two most star studded docs of the festival, Love, Marilyn and Casting By.  For documentaries, TV continues to be the major power player and nobody ponied up more money for a Doc at the fest than HBO did when they partnered with Cinedigm for Love, Marilyn. Sale price was between $1.25 million and $1.75 million.

Five negatives to highlight from last year

  1. Midnight Madness Box Office
    • Dredd was a giant studio disappointment and major money loser after opening in the US on 2500 screens with a PSA of $3426. Reported production budget was $50mil, but pulled in a worldwide BO gross of a little over $35mil. Eli Roth’s Aftershock never took off on digital or theatrically where it opened to a PSA under $500 and failed to gross over $100k. Come Out and Play meanwhile couldn’t even pass $5k. Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem managed over $1,000,000 after buyer Anchor Bay capitalized on publicity surrounding Zombie’s new book and album, but still didn’t justify the acquisitions price (reportedly $2mil) and bidding war for the title.
  2. Films with Title Changes
    • Girl Most Likely and Stuck in Love are both star driven comedies that originated with horridly bland titling (Imogene and Writers respectively). Despite the attempts of Roadside Attractions and Millenium Entertainment to rebrand the films, both are each company’s lowest performing TIFF acquisition. Girl Most Likely saw grosses drop 72% in its second weekend and Stuck in Love will not even pass $100k. Both films saw much better results on VOD, but at the end of the day, compared to top performing acquisitions titles from these players, both can be considered disappointments.  Meanwhile TWC’s Unfinished Songs (Formerly Songs for Marion) has barely outgrossed their Norwegian epic Kon-Tiki. EEK!
  3. African and Eastern European Cinema
    • A look at the films that failed to secure distribution last year and it becomes clear that buyers were not enjoying anything from the entire continent of Africa. I mean literally, THE ENTIRE CONTINENT! There was not a Tsotsi  in the bunch.
  4. Award winning films without distribution going into the festival
    • Artifact won the audience award for best doc, the Fipresci prize went to Detroit Unleaded and both have yet to find a home in the States. Artifact will all but certainly go DIY and who knows what the future holds for Detroit Unleaded which does not have the benefit of name recognition or Jared Leto’s face.
  5. The lack of prominent DIY and Alt distribution models
    • Spring Breakers was a pact between the producers and A24. There were otherwise no prominent examples of DIY releasing, hybrid theatrical or new ideas that sprung out of the festival. Yes, Snoop Lion self-released his doc Reincarnated, but that was to disastrous results and the doc was nothing more than a vanity project.
    • Clearly, the fest knew things had to change based on Tuesday’s announcement. In case you’ve been living under a rock or stuck in Venice, Vimeo has offered a game changer to films that will world premiere at TIFF. A $10,000 MG to the films that give Vimeo a 30 day premiere VOD window. If the film makes back the $10k before the 30 days, it switches to their standard and by all accounts fantastic 90/10 split. Yes, YOU get to keep 90%! Any film that’s not a star vehicle would be a fool not to take them up on the offer, especially since they can still seek acquisition. In fact, a smart distributor will see all the free press they will get from the publicity and look for the films that say yes. Naturally, I expect most to do the opposite and argue that the lost revenue will require them to lower their offers. That should be a red flag to any filmmaker if it happens. Similarly, if a sales agent is telling you to pass, so that your film from Croatia can wait for the American dollars to pour in, you should terminate your relationship on the spot!  No word yet though on what happens for the films that did the 1-2 punch  and premiered at Locarno or Venice.

BONUS

Congratulations to TFC alums with films in the festival.

  • Amy Seimetz (Pit Stop) stars in Ti West’s latest flick The Sacrament.
  • Jody Shapiro (How to Start Your Own Country) directed Burt’s Buzz
  • James Franco (Kink and Interior. Leather Bar) wrote, directed and stars in Child of God, wrote the source material for and stars in Palo Alto, and stars in Third Person. More impressive is the fact that he has had films at Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, Venice, and Toronto this year.

I’ll be on the ground in Toronto again this year and hope to report back about my findings and the deals made.

Below is a list of films from TIFF and how they’ve performed at the box office. I chose not to include any film that was from a studio or mini major and opened wide. I also chose not to include films that premiered at Berlin, Sundance, or SXSW and had already secured distribution.

Film Distributor Box Office Gross
Come Out and Play Cinedigm $2,638
What Richard Did Tribeca Film $2,749
Inescapable IFC $4,327
The Time Being Tribeca Film $5,274
The Brass Teapot Magnolia $6,997
Inch’Allah EOne $9,155
I Declare War Drafthouse Films $10,793
Greetings from Tim Buckley Tribeca Film $11,157
Viola Cinema Guild $15,471
The ABC’s of Death Magnet $21,832
Pieta Drafthouse Films $22,080
The Patience Stone SPC $23,296
Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story First Run $27,156
The Bay Roadside Attractions $30,668
Berberian Sound Studio IFC $31,641
How To Make Money Selling Drugs Tribeca Film $39,192
Passion Entertainment One $40,100
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas Tribeca Film $50,292
Venus & Serena Magnolia $51,271
Aftershock Radius-TWC $58,510
More than Honey Kino Lorber $66,728
Leviathan Cinema Guild $72,816
Something in the Air $73,306
No One Lives Anchor Bay $74,918
Stuck In Love (Formerly Writers) Millenium Entertainment $81,071
Byzantium IFC $85,252
Storm Surfers 3D Xlrator $117,090
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners Code Black $129,102
Midnight’s Children Paladin/108 Media $190,022
No Place on Earth Magnolia $200,238
Arthur Newman Cinedigm $207,853
Tai Chi 0 Variance/Well Go USA $212,094
Blancanieves Cohen Media Group $240,310
Museum Hours Cinema Guild $304,145
A Werewolf Boy CJ $342,922
Act of Killing Drafthouse Films $379,598
At Any Price SPC $380,594
In the House Cohen Media Group $389,757
A Hijacking Magnolia $401,366
The Reluctant Fundamentalist IFC $528,731
Still Mine (formerly Still) Samuel Goldwyn $586,767
To The Wonder Magnolia $587,615
Hannah Arendt Zeitgeist $636,505
The Thieves Well Go USA $685,839
Lore Music Box Films $970,325
From Up on Poppy Hill GK $1,002,895
Ginger & Rosa A24 $1,012,973
What Maise Knew Millenium Entertainment $1,065,000
The Lords of Salem Anchor Bay $1,165,882
Girl Most Likely (Formerly Imogene) Roadside Attractions $1,377,015
Disconnect LD $1,436,900
Kon-Tiki TWC $1,517,410
A Late Quartet Entertainment One $1,562,546
The Attack Cohen Media Group $1,580,787
Stories We Tell Roadside Attractions $1,584,890
Love is All You Need SPC $1,608,982
Unifnished Song (Formerly Song for Marion) TWC $1,634,532
Fill the Void SPC $1,757,195
English Vinglish Eros $1,862,086
The Iceman Millenium Entertainment $1,943,239
The Gatekeepers SPC $2,415,727
Emperor Roadside Attractions $3,346,265
Frances Ha IFC $4,043,502
Much Ado about Nothing Roadside Attractions $4,262,205
The Company You Keep SPC $5,133,027
Hyde Park on Hudson Focus $6,376,145
Anna Karenina Focus $12,816,367
Spring Breakers A24 $14,124,284
The Master TWC $16,377,274
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Summit $17,742,948
Quartet TWC $18,390,117
The Impossible Summit $18,889,600
The Place Beyond the Pines Focus $21,403,519
Silver Linings Playbook TWC $129,729,000
Clip Artsploitation BO Not Reported
Pusher Radius-TWC BO Not Reported
Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp Phase 4 BO Not Reported
Janeane from Des Moines Red Flag Releasing BO Not Reported
Reincarnated DIY BO Not Reported
State 194 Participant Media BO Not Reported
The Secret Disco Revolution Screen Media BO Not Reported
Wasteland Oscilloscope BO Not Reported
The Lesser Blessed Monterey Media BO Not Reported
Motorway Media Asia Films Digital Only
Everybody Has a Plan 20th Century Fox Digital Only
London-The Modern Babylon Brittish Film Institute Digital Only
Lunarcy! Epix Digital Only
Camp 14 – Total Control Zone Netflix Digital Streaming
Picture Day Arc Entertainment Digital/DVD only
My Awkward Sexual Adventure Tribeca Film Digital/DVD only
The Deep Focus World Digital/DVD only
Bad 25 ABC TV
9.79 ESPN TV
Casting By HBO TV
First Comes Love HBO TV
Love, Marilyn HBO TV
A Liar’s Autobiography Epix TV
Mea Maxima Culpa HBO TV
Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out Showtime/Gravitas TV/Digital
Jayne Mansfield’s Car Anchor Bay Not Yet Released
The Last Time I Saw Macao Cinema Guild Not Yet Released
Men At Lunch First Run Not Yet Released
Out in the Dark Breaking Glass Not Yet Released
Thanks For Sharing Roadside Attractions Not Yet Released
Zaytoun Strand Releasing Not Yet Released
Shepard & Dark Music Box Films Not Yet Released
Capital Cohen Media Group Not Yet Released
Mekong Hotel Strand Releasing Not Yet Released
Three Worlds Film Movement Not Yet Released
Ghost Graduation Fox Not Yet Released
The End of Time Sony Pictures Worldwide Not Yet Released
Great Expectations Outsource Media Group Not Yet Released
Twice Born Entertainment One Not Yet Released
The Deflowering of Eva Van End Film Movement Not Yet Released

September 5th, 2013

Posted In: Distribution, Film Festivals

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