Every year there are new companies formed that want to make a big impression in the distribution world. The 2012 crop of new indie distributors is unique in that a lot of them aren’t really new. They include sales companies expanding their reach, Digital companies going theatrical and international companies making a domestic presence with varying levels of success. This post will take a look at how independent film distributors fared over the last year.
Indomina Releasing came out big at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival acquiring four films. They are the only company to have two documentaries from this past year’s fest gross over $250k (The Imposter and Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap). Something from Nothing was a combined deal with BET handling the TV premiere. The total acquisition cost was over $1,000,000, and though it is unknown how the cost was split, it is reasonable to assume that the TV deal was at least half of the paid price. They launched Something from Nothing on 157 screens in the opening weekend and the film grossed $288k. While it is far from their most successful film, by opening as wide as they did and having a partnership with BET, they reduced their liability and at worst it was a modest loss and most likely profitable after digital platforms.
The Imposter only opened on one screen which is where it stayed for its first two weeks racking up almost $50k! It then expanded ever so slowly to 2 then 8 then 13 screens at which point it was in its fifth week of release and had grossed over $150k. From week 5-6 its PSA (per screen average) went up by over 25% and it broke the 250k threshold while playing on 19 screens. At its peak, it played on only 31 screens and was still averaging over $3k PSA. The film, which opened in July, played until early December! When it comes to documentaries with harder to define subjects, it is almost always better to let word of mouth build. With few exceptions, only high profile names should be opened on a larger screen count. With a total North American take of $898,317, this film should be quite profitable for Indomina. The acquisition price is not known, but based on reporting practices, we can assume it was no more than low six figures. It has grossed another almost $2,000,000 worldwide. Finally they released Holy Motors which has soared to the $588k mark in 29 theaters in the US despite being nearly impossible to describe. Not shying away from edgy genre fare or challenging documentaries, the sky is really the limit for this relatively recent entry into the theatrical game.
Also performing quite well is Submarine Deluxe which is a branch of the Braun’s Submarine Entertainment. Following the success of PDA, Submarine has stepped in when top documentaries either didn’t attract the offers they thought they deserved or when things went south with the distributor They recently released Chasing Ice which has grossed over $940k with the $1,000,000 prize in sight. It made the Oscar shortlist for best documentary and though it didn’t make the final cut, it did get an Oscar nomination for best song. It has also targeted some rather untraditional theater choices and markets ranging from Cinemark theaters to one screen arthouses in small towns. They did this with the help of Emerging Pictures. Emerging Pictures has helped with the releases of the four highest grossing docs from Sundance 2012 (Doc distributors take note!) The PSA each week has held relative steady since their major expansion though it did finally see its PSA drop below $1k. It ultimately played on 53 screens. As with some films mentioned above, it has a television deal with National Geographic so this is all just icing on the cake. What remains to be seen though is if Submarine Deluxe will step in for a film that is not also a sales client?
Though not quite equaling the success of the above two companies, there are a lot of positives to be said for The Film Arcade. They released two films in 2012 each grossing around $150k. The Other Dream Team and Simon and the Oaks used very similar release strategies. They opened on just 1 or 2 screens then expanded to 7 and then to about a dozen with PSA’s holding relatively steady for a few weeks after the initial second week drop. The problem is, neither film had long theatrical runs where they were able to maximize locations. They have established a solid partnership with Lionsgate that will help the films on other mediums and both films were truly difficult to sell foreign films. The question is, can they produce a true breakout?
Adopt Films finally at year’s end has shown some potential. They have a good eye for quality foreign films, but have failed in converting that into box office success. They literally bought every award winning film out of Berlin 2012 and despite fantastic reviews for Sister and Tabu, they were unable to convert it into audiences. Sister has grossed less than $25k, Tabu opened on one screen with a PSA of about $5k and a new film, Barbara, was released timed for the Oscar shortlist, but it failed to make the cut. Its opening weekend grosses were passable, but based on the awards campaigning costs and the amount of screens they opened on, it is an immense underperformer compared to other awards fare. That said, in one week Barbara has out-grossed all of Adopt’s films combined. Through its 2nd week it had passed the $200k mark. Adopt has chosen not to report grosses online.
Entertainment One is not a new company at all, but is new to the American marketplace as a distributor. They have long been dominant in Canada and after acquiring Alliance, they are clearly the highest profile Canadian indie distributor. In the US, they have released a number of films that have featured big name stars, but mediocre reviews. While they took in $763,556 from Cosmopolis that is far from a great gross for a film from an established director. They opened on three screens and averaged $23,466 which is solid, but when they expanded the following week to 64 screens, their PSA dropped by almost 90% to $2,453. It only averaged a PSA over $1k for four weekends and then quickly faded out. That is much better than Dustin Lance Black’s directorial debut Virginia which ended its run at $12,728. The also star studded Jesus Henry Christ did slightly better on a lower max screen count of 3, but still only pulled in $20,183 by the end of its run. The 2012 Sundance acquisition Wish You Were Here has yet to be released and it too received less than stellar reviews. That said, even when they have a well-reviewed film, they haven’t always converted it to a success. Carol Channing: Larger than Life was anything but with $22,740. All the more disappointing by the fact that human interest docs are doing quite well as a whole.
They also have A Late Quartet which has quietly grossed over $1.4 mil to date. It has had a PSA over $1k for 9 weeks and will most likely double the gross of Cosmopolis. For a film that stars Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Imogen Poots this still feels kind of like a flop.
Performing below expectations is TWC-Radius. While this ultra-VOD off-shoot of The Weinstein Company paid $2,000,000 each for Lay the Favorite and Bachelorette, the films combined for a theatrical take of less than $550,000. Bachelorette did debut at #1 on iTunes, but with having to pay the premium price for 60 theaters to book the film and the outsized advertising expense to launch the film and by default the TWC-Radius label, it is at best barely profitable. Despite opening in 61 theaters, Lay the Favorite has grossed less than $25k. Or in simpler terms, the film was seen by more people at Sundance than it was in its entire 61 screen theatrical run. The rest of the titles on the Radius label are basically the leftovers of TWC mistakes including The Details and Butter. None of these have averaged over $1k PSA in their opening weekends.
Looking ahead to 2013, Picturehouse is back and we will see if they strike for anything at this year’s Sundance festival. I also expect Indomina Releasing and Entertainment One to flex some muscle.
Next week, I will look at how the Sundance 2012 documentaries fared in release. Stay tuned!
Bryan Glick January 17th, 2013
By Bryan Glick
Just because you didn’t premiere at Sundance or Cannes doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Though not living up to the sales quota of last year, there are two dozen premiere films from SXSW that have sold in the U.S. Here’s a wrap up of the film sales from SXSW.
Anchor Bay stuck with their niche and took North American rights to two midnight entries Girls Against Boys and The Aggression Scale, while Cinedigm (who recently acquired New Video) went for U.S. Rights to In Our Nature and the midnight audience award winner Citadel. Pre-fest buys include Crazy Eyes which went to Strand Releasing for the U.S. and Blue Like Jazz courtesy of Roadside Attractions. Blue Like Jazz was promptly released and has since grossed close to $600,000 theatrically in North America. Lionsgate is handling DVD, VOD, and TV through their output deal. Meanwhile Crazy Eyes just started its theatrical run on two screens pulling in a little under $5,000 in its first week.
Millennium Entertainment took the gross out comedy The Babymakers and yet another midnight film, The Tall Man was bought for the U.S. by Imagine. If you’re a midnight film at SXSW, odds are things are looking up for you. The same could be said for The Narrative Spotlight section where two thirds of the films have since been acquired including The Do-Deca Pentathlon taken by Red Flag Releasing and Fox Searchlight. Red Flag is handling the theatrical (The film grossed $10,000 in its opening weekend off of 8 screens) while Fox Searchlight will cover the other ancillary markets. The Narrative Spotlight Audience Award Winner, Fat Kid Rules the World was bought by Arc Entertainment for North America and Frankie Go Boom was the first film to reap the benefits of a partnership with Variance and Gravitas. It will be released in the U.S. on VOD Platforms in September via Gravitas followed by a theatrical in October courtesy of Variance.
And though they did not premiere at SXSW, both Dreams of a Life and Electrick Children had their U.S. premieres at the festival and have since been bought. U.S. rights to the documentary Dreams of a Life were acquired by Strand Releasing. Meanwhile, Electrick Children was snatched up for North America by Phase 4. Phase 4 also nabbed North American rights to See Girl Run.
Sony Pictures and Scott Rudin took remake rights to the crowd pleasing Brooklyn Castle while HBO acquired domestic TV rights to the doc The Central Park Effect. Meanwhile, after showing their festival prowess with their success of last year’s breakout Weekend (which was sold by The Film Collaborative’s Co President, Orly Ravid), Sundance Selects proved they were not to be outdone and got the jury prize award winner Gimme The Loot for North and Latin America. Fellow Narrative competition entry Gayby sold its U.S. rights to Wolfe Releasing, a low 6-figure deal. That deal was also negotiated by TFC’s Orly Ravid. And not to be outdone, competition entry, Starlet rounds out the Narrative Competition films to sell. It was acquired for North America by Music Box Films.
S2BN Films’ Big Easy Express became the first feature film to launch globally on iTunes. It will be released in a DVD/Blu-Ray Combo pack on July 24th by Alliance Entertainment followed by a more traditional VOD/Theatrical rollout later this year.
Other key deals include Oscilloscope Laboratories acquiring North American Rights to Tchoupitoulas, Snag Films going for the US Rights of Decoding Deepak, Image Entertainment’s One Vision Entertainment Label aiming for a touchdown with the North American rights to The Last Fall and Factory 25 partnering with Oscilloscope Labs for worldwide rights to Pavilion.
Final Thoughts: Thus far less than one third of the films to premiere at SXSW have been acquired for some form of domestic distribution. While that may seem bleak, it is a far better track record than from most festivals. In The U.S., SXSW is really second to only Sundance in getting your film out to the general public. The festival also takes a lot of music themed films and more experimental projects with each theme getting its own designated programming section at the festival. Those films were naturally far less likely to sell. The power players this year were certainly Anchor Bay and Cinedigm each taking multiple films that garnered press and/or have significant star power. Other companies with a strong presence and also securing multiple deals were Strand Releasing and Oscilloscope. Notably absent though is Mark Cuban’s own Magnolia Pictures and IFC (Though their sister division Sundance Selects made a prime acquisition). Magnolia did screen Marley at the festival, but the title was acquired out of Berlin, and IFC bought Sleepwalk With Me at its Sundance premiere.
While it is great that these films will be released, it also worth mentioning what is clearly missing from this post. There is almost no mention of how much these films were acquired for. The fact is films at SXSW don’t sell for what films at Sundance do and it is safe to assume that the majority of these deals were less than six figures with almost nothing or nothing at all getting a seven figure deal.
As for the sales agents, Ben Weiss of Paradigm and Josh Braun of Submarine were working overtime, with each negotiating multiple deals.
SUNDANCE UPDATE: Since the last Sundance post, there have been two more films acquired for distribution. Both films premiered in the World Documentary Competition. The Ambassador negotiated successfully with Drafthouse Films who acquired U.S. rights for the film which will premiere on VOD August 4th followed by a small theatrical starting August 29th. Also finding a home was A Law in These Parts which won the jury prize at this year’s festival. Cinema Guild will be releasing the film in theaters in the U.S. starting on November 14th. 75% of the films in the World Documentary Competition now have some form of distribution in the US.
A full list of SXSW Sales deals from SXSW is listed below. Box office grosses and release dates are current as of July 12th.
|Film||COMPANY||TERRITORIES||SALES COMPANY||Box Office/|
|See Girl Run||Phase 4||North America||Katharyn Howe and Visit Films|
|Starlet||Music Box Films||North America||Submarine|
|The Babymakers||Millenium||US||John Sloss and Kavanaugh-Jones||Theatrical Aug 3rd|
|DVD Sept 10th|
|Citadel||Cinedigm||US||XYZ Films and|
|UTA Independent Film Group.|
|The Aggression Scale||Anchor Bay||North America Blu-ray/dvd||Epic Pictures Group|
|Girls Against Boys||Anchor Bay||North America||Paradigm|
|Tchoupitoulas||Oscilloscope||North America||George Rush|
|Gimme The Loot||Sundance Selects||North and Latin America||Submarine Entertainment|
|The Tall Man||Image Entertainment||US||CAA and Loeb & Loeb||August 31st|
|Elektrick Children||Phase 4||North America||Katharyn Howe and Paradigm|
|Blue Like Jazz||Roadside||US||The Panda Fund||$595,018|
|Crazy Eyes||Strand||US||Irwin Rappaport||$4,305|
|In Our Nature||Cinedigm||US Rights||Preferred Content|
|Brooklyn Castle||Sony Pictures||Remake Rights||Cinetic Media|
|The Central Park Effect||HBO||US TV||Submarine Entertainment|
|Gayby||Wolfe||US||The Film Collaborative|
|The Do Decca Pentathlon||Fox Searchlight||North America||Submarine Entertainment||$10,000|
|Red Flag Releasing|
|Fat Kids Rules The World||Arc Entertainment||North America||Paradigm|
|Decoding Deepak||Snag Films||US||N/A||October|
|Big Easy Express||Alliance Entertainmnet||Worldwide DVD/VOD||Paradigm and S2BN||July 24th DVD/Blu-Ray|
|Big Easy Express||S2bn||Worldwide Itunes||Paradigm and S2BN||Available Now|
|The Last Fall||Image Entertainment||North America||N/A|
|Frankie Go Boom||Gravitas||US Rights||Reder & Feig and Elsa Ramo||VOD Sept|
|Dreams of a Life||Strand releasing||US Rights||eone films international||Aug 3rd|
Orly Ravid July 18th, 2012
Tags: A Law in These Parts, Alliance Entertainment, Anchor Bay, Arc Entertainment, Ben Weiss, Big Easy Express, Blue Like Jazz, Brooklyn Castle, Bryan Glick, Cannes, Cinedigm, Cinema Guild, Citadel, Crazy Eyes, Decoding Deepak, Drafthouse Films, Dreams of a Life, Electrick Children, Factory 25, Fat Kid Rules the World, Fox Searchlight, Frankie Go Boom, Gayby, Gimme The Loot, Girls Against Boys, Gravitas, HBO, Image Entertainment, Imagine, In Our Nature, Josh Braun, Lionsgate, Millenium Entertainment, Music Box Films, Orly Ravid, Oscilloscope, Phase 4, Red Flag Releasing, S2BN Films, Scott Rudin, Snag Films, Sony Pictures, Starlet, Strand Releasing, Submarine, Sundance, SXSW, Tchoupitoulas, The Aggression Scale, The Ambassador, The Babymakers, The Central Park Effect, The Do Deca Pentathlon, The Film Collaborative, The Last Fall, The Tall Man, Variance, VOD, Wolfe Releasing
New Video-They are choosy about the films they represent and they charge 15% of all revenue generated.
IndieFlix– They go through New Video and charge a 30% Fee on all revenue generated (we think that’s inclusive of the New Video fee but are waiting to confirm).
Indie Rights– They go through New Video and charge a 20% fee in addition to the New Video fee.
IndieRights and IndieFlix also work with platforms other than iTunes as do we at TFC so that should be factored in when making distribution decisions.
Tunecore-Aggregates straight to iTunes. Distribber uses Tunecore to access iTunes. Distribber charges a flat fee of $1,295 for iTunes and all the revenue flows back to the filmmaker, no backend fees. TFC uses Tunecore and works with Distribber as a partner (we are working with them for no extra charge to filmmakers).
Gravitas– A VOD / digital aggregator (who often goes through Warner Bros), they will handle your iTunes submission, but that’s two fees (each at 15% as we understand it and they claim that Warner Bros and studios in general get better revenue even from Apple).
Warner Bros and Lionsgate- TFC works with Lionsgate and it seems that both have more marketing leverage (as does New Video) to get best promotion possible on iTunes. This can make a big difference and should be factored in along with analysis of backend splits and fees.
TFC works with both the flat fee and commission models because of the fact that when cable VOD or even sometimes DVD is a valuable option, regular digital often goes with them.
Orly Ravid August 9th, 2010