TFC is stoked to be at SXSW 2013! In preparation of this year’s festival, we’ve taken a good look at how films performed that premiered at the festival last year. Always good to know a few facts.
This is the only major film festival in the US that is a FOR PROFIT. As of this writing, it is also the only one that does not provide grant and/or distribution support directly to at least some of their films. In addition, the festival coincides with a tech conference where companies like Twitter were launched and it is the largest music festival in the United States. All of the above can make it very easy for films to get lost in the shuffle.
With all that said, slightly over 2/3 of films that world premiered at the festival last year secured some form of domestic distribution. While these numbers might seem bleak, they aren’t as bad as they appear. Noticeably absent from last year’s list are the big indie players like SPC, Focus Features and TWC. These companies often exhaust their funds at Sundance and EFM looking for bigger tent-pole releases. Still the festival is one of the best launching pads for an indie film in North America. IFC, Magnolia, Factory 25, Phase 4, Go Digital, Anchor Bay, Cinedigm, and Snag Films all acquired multiple films. I expect many of these companies to be in play again this year as well as a lot of distributors that were outbid on films during the buying frenzy at Sundance this year.
From last year’s premiere crop that were not studio releases, there have been three films that have grossed over $100,000 in domestic box office (though I expect one more to reach that mark). Roadside Attractions acquired rights to Blue Like Jazz before the festival and the film has far and away the highest grossing theatrical revenue with $595,018 for 8 weeks on a max screen count of 136 . The film notably raised $345,992 on Kickstarter, almost 3x its stated goal. Adapted from Donald Miller’s memoir, the film came with a large fan-base already attached and was widely supported by the Christian community. Take heed of this fact!
PDA self-released the child chess documentary Brooklyn Castle after raising funds via Kickstarter. The film also sold remake rights for a TV series. To date it has grossed slightly over $200,000 after 11 weeks in theaters with a max screen count of 13 which, while out performing all other documentaries from the festival, makes it the lowest grossing PDA release.
Beware of Mr Baker, meanwhile, has become something of a surprise hit and just passed the century mark at the box office. It is now available on iTunes where it is in the top 100. A little under ½ the film’s tally came from one theater in NYC. So far, it has played 12 weeks in a maximum of 15 theaters. This doc is exactly reflective of the film one expects to see at the festival. It is a music focused film with a young director and edgy subject matter. Snag Films holds all digital rights to the film. This is notably much better than fellow Snag Films doc, Decoding Deepak, which reported opening weekend grosses of $9100 on 3 screens and quickly faded out of the theater. Both have most likely done solid numbers on digital platforms as marquee titles for Snag.
Like Blue Like Jazz, Fat Kid Rules The World was massively successful on Kickstarter raising $158,000 for its theatrical release. Matthew Lillard made his directorial debut with this film based on an award winning book that has many shades of his punk music upbringing. The film’s production budget was reportedly $750K. However, the film only grossed $41,457 in a one week run according to reported theatrical box office numbers. The theatrical consisted of a dozen cities with additional screenings supported by TUGG. It was released in partnership with Arc Entertainment.
Music Box Films has steered Starlet to over $88,000 with the film still playing in theaters, but near the end of the run. So far it played 12 weeks at a max screen count of 10. While not great numbers, the film about a unique friendship between an elderly recluse and a young porn star features real sex, which made it inaccessible to a number of theaters. Also still in theaters is the doc Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters about the notorious photographer. Zeitgeist keeps slowly adding dates and the film has steadily passed the $50k mark after 17 weeks with a max screen count of 3.
Performing on a smaller level were some well received documentaries. Oscilloscope’s Tchoupitoulas with $19,375 after 5 weeks on a max of 6 screens and Samuel Goldwyn’s Waiting for Lightning which got only $21,577 for one week on 11 screens.
On the narrative side, Cinedigm took horror film and midnight audience award winner Citadel to $13,377 in theaters for 9 weeks on a max of 7 screens and Red Flag Releasing handled the theatrical for the long delayed Duplass brothers film The Do-Decca Pentathlon. That film grossed $10,000 in its opening weekend on 8 screens and Fox Searchlight handled all other aspects of distribution.
TFC client Gayby was acquired for six figures out of the festival by Wolfe Releasing. The film grossed $14,062 from four screens and was the highest grossing gay comedy of the year. It played two weeks in Manhattan where it out-grossed all other films screening at The Cinema Village combined and later had a bonus run in Brooklyn. It also included a number of unique approaches. Most notably instead of a week-long theatrical in San Francisco, we held two special screenings at the Castro Theater. The gross for those screenings was higher than that of the entire run in the LA market. Though only out on DVD/Digital a few months, the film has already been profitable for Wolfe Releasing.
A lot of SXSW films embraced the youthful component of the festival and eschewed theatrical distribution entirely.
Documentaries: The Announcement, The Central Park Effect (Music Box has DVD rights), Uprising: Hip Hop & The LA Riots, and Seeking Asian Female premiered on ESPN, HBO, VH1, and PBS respectively.
Booster is available for download on iTunes/Amazon. Daylight Savings did a DIY digital, Extracted was released on digital platforms courtesy of Go Digital and Anchor Bay acquired The Aggression Scale, but opted to go straight to DVD.
Factory 25 just put Pavilion into release. They released The Sheik and I at the end of 2012, but did not report grosses. It played in four theaters with only Seattle lasting more than a week.
3,2,1…Frankie Go Boom (Phase 4),The Tall Man (Image), $ellebrity (DIY), King Kelly (Go Digital) and The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (IFC Midnight) also opted not to release grosses and all were out of theaters in a week (except for King Kelly which lasted 2) with a tally of under $10,000 likely for each. A few of these are in Amazon Instant Video’s top 25 list though.
Funeral Kings (Freestyle) and Beauty Is Embarrassing (DIY) did not release grosses, but played in far more theaters. The latter likely finished comfortably over $25,000. Kings is in the top 100 list on iTunes.
Meanwhile, several films failed to break $10k. Notably, they are all non-competition narrative films. All except for The Last Fall had rotten ratings on rottentomatoes.com, many below 10%. Perhaps they fared much better on digital and VOD for which numbers are not available.
These films included Crazy Eyes, bought pre fest by Strand Releasing and grossed $6,106 on 5 screens in 3 weeks. Cinedigm’s In Our Nature, a family drama starring Zach Gilford, Jena Malone, John Slattery, and Gabrielle Union grossed $6,543 in 2 weeks on 1 screen. The critically panned Magnolia comedy Nature Calls grossed a paltry $646 on 2 screens in its entire run. The Last Fall, a life-after-football drama, only reported its opening weekend gross of $6,100 on 1 screen. Of these films, it came the closest to covering basic costs of a theatrical run.
Millenium Entertainment dumped comedy The Babymakers into the marketplace on 11 screens where even with the help of TUGG it only amassed $7,889. Anchor Bay’s generic horror film, Girls Against Boys, grossed $7,529 and went right to digital and VOD after 1 week in theaters. However, it is one of the top 100 horror films in DVD and Amazon instant video. They acquired the film for seven figures! Rec 3: Genesis, the third film in this successful horror series, was pre bought by Magnolia and lasted 4 weeks in theaters, but never had a PSA over $1k and bowed out at $9,600.
In the yet to be released category– IFC’s jury winning narrative film Gimme the Loot will be released March 22. Phase 4 is sitting pretty on the audience award winning Eden and See Girl Run. Tribeca has Somebody Up There Likes Me queued for VOD release on March 12. Magnolia just bought Big Star which screened as a work in progress at the fest. Small Apartments bought by Sony Pictures Worldwide is also waiting in the wings for release sometime in 2013. Factory 25 has Sun Don’t Shine geared up for April 29 release.
BONUS TIDBIT: KICKSTARTER
At least 20 films at SXSW this year raised funds on Kickstarter. That is slightly more than 15% of the films playing at the festival. 22 features from last year’s festival used Kickstarter with a number of those campaigns held post fest. I anticipate this year’s fest to ultimately have over 30 feature films using the crowdfunding platform. Obviously crowd-funding is a huge boost for indie filmmakers as it provides the luxury of not having to worry about paying back investors. And this list does not include films that have used other sites like Indiegogo…In no particular order…
Mr. Angel 12 O Clock Boys, Improvement Club, Continental, Linsanity, Swim Little Fish Swim, Big Joy (x2), Our Nixon, Good Ol’ Freda, I Am Divine, Good Night, Fall and Winter, Medora, Maidentrip, White Reindeer, Bayou Maharajah (x3), All the Labor, This Ain’t No Mouse Music!, The Punk Singer, Finding the Funk
From last year’s festival, the list of Kickstarter funded films include ½ of the competition titles: Gayby, Gimme The Loot, Booster, The Taiwan Oyster (x2), Bay of All Saints, Seeking Asian Female, Welcome to the Machine, and The Jeffrey Dahmer Files, and also Girl Walk/All Day, Brooklyn Castle (x2), Pavilion, The Last Fall, Blue Like Jazz, Fat Kid Rules The World, Beauty is Embarrassing, Code of the West, Tchoupitoulas, Leave Me Like You Found Me, La Camioneta, Electrick Children, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroes (x2), Trash Dance (x2)