At the recent Toronto International Film Festival, veteran independent film distributor Bob Berney gave a state of the industry address on distribution. TIFF was kind enough to make his keynote video available on Youtube (you can find it below), but here are some of the highlights if you don’t have 30 minutes to spare watching it.

-We’re in a chaotic, disruptive state right now with bigger studios making fewer, but massively budgeted films that involve huge risk.

-On the flip side, there are many more outlets now available to get a film into the market. The challenge as a producer is how to get revenue from these outlets in order to fund your next work.

-There are now well funded entities coming to major festivals and buying films without any real plan about how to release them.

-Open Road and Relativity Media are now distributing wide release theatrical films, sometimes as service deals (the production pays them to release, instead of the distribution company paying for rights).

-But platform release films, ones that start with opening in only 2-4 cities and then keep expanding their theatrical runs, are starting to have a tougher time finding a home, a company that will take them on. Fewer distributors are taking the traditional theatrical route and there are now more companies taking the day and date or VOD first route. Films that want a traditional release far outweigh the distribution companies that are willing to take on films for that kind of release.

-Berney believes that a theatrical release is the only way for a film to truly break out in the market in a big way.

-The bar for films that warrant having a large theatrical release has really been raised. The expense to release those films, even if using digital marketing, is big and the market is very competitive. Distributors who fund the marketing and distribution costs for those films are very wary about the ability to recoup.

-This summer there were many indie films that played in theaters against the studio blockbusters and did well. Boyhood, Magic in the Moonlight, Chef, Belle, Begin Again all surpassed expectations about how they would fare against the studio films. Berney believes it was because there was nothing else to see. Either superhero films or these and nothing in between. He guesses that the market could have taken even 4-5 more indie films this summer. People went to see some of those successful titles 2-3 times because there wasn’t much to choose from. Theatrical companies could have picked up more. The Fall season is crowded, but the summer could have used a few more releases.

-Because the deals are so different and the numbers come in sporadically, releasing VOD numbers is still not common.Also there aren’t very many success stories being reported from day and date or VOD only releases.

-Many European companies or smaller indie division within the studio units are not finding deals on their films very viable now. P&Ls for sales coming domestically (US) often have a 0 in the profit column. Sales can’t be counted on any more. Budgets have had to shrink accordingly because large deals aren’t happening so much any more.
Many of the newer players in the digital and VOD arena are constantly looking for content to fill their channels. Those films can play for a while until the audience gets more discerning.

-For any avenue chosen for distribution, the release has to create the feeling of an event to catch an audience’s attention. There is just too much in the market.
There is no one size fits all marketing and distribution plan. Each film needs to have its own plan handcrafted.

-Given the risk and expense, distributors are going to be much more discerning about what films they are passionate about and believe in before offering a deal.They want to be very sure there is an audience for a theatrical release before committing to such a deal.

-The Blu Ray market is still huge for certain types of films. Genre including family, horror, sci fi still do business on disc for Walmart and Redbox.

-Certain theaters are catching onto the idea of making the cinema an experience. Food, bigger seats, more varied showtimes, 4D seats are all increasing the feeling of an event in the cinema.

-Theaters are still resisting the idea of day and date. Regal and Cinemark chains are adamant about preserving the theatrical window. But AMC is more open to experimentation as long as the distributor will pay a 4 wall fee to rent their theaters. IFC and Magnolia own their own theater chains so they have been the most aggressive about trying Ultra VOD and day and date release. IFC buys about 50 films a year that they run though VOD and day and date releases.

-Due to regulation, Canada has not been able to experiment with this kind of releasing model yet.

-Berney still believes in the power of the theatrical release to affect an audience and that it is the best way to make a film break out.

-Netflix has been the savior for films that may not get a pay TV deal. Essentially, subscription VOD is on par with selling to HBO or Showtime. But Netflix takes far more films than those broadcasters.

-Social media advertising is allowing a more targeted and lower cost alternative to traditional advertising, plus providing much needed data on which to base strategic marketing decisions. Also these tools allow filmmakers to get clips, trailers, images etc to get out more widely for a lower cost and build pre release awareness that wasn’t even possible 10 years ago.

-There are just so many more opportunities now to get a film out, but it will take some time for the business side, the money making side, to catch up. That’s the uncertainty we are dealing with now.

September 19th, 2014

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, Theatrical

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The Sundance narrative films are always the hot properties going into the festival, but many of these star-studded films fade while starless films often surprise. Here’s a look at how the narrative films from the 2012 festival performed.



They acquired the audience and jury prize winners from the US Dramatic competition and both have scored Oscar nominations. The Sessions was acquired for worldwide rights for $6 million and with a $4 Million P&A (prints & advertising) minimum. It has grossed $5,818,544 in North America an additional $3,135,887 overseas. The film has since sold to dozens of territories. Beasts of the Southern Wild, meanwhile played in theaters for a whopping 20 weeks and despite never being in more than 318 theaters (60% of the max count for The Sessions at 516) grossed more than every Sundance film from 2012 except for one. Its gross stands at $11,539,605. Furthermore, it was bought at a bargain of under a $1,000,000. It has also been released in over a dozen countries that have reported box office grosses with many more sure to come in light of its best picture Oscar nominations insuring that the film will more than make back its $1.8 million dollar budget.


SPC is really known as the best company for foreign films in the US and being the latest champion of Woody Allen, but they continue to be very prominent at Sundance. They snatched up two high profile narrative films that performed on extreme opposite ends of the spectrum.

Smashed was acquired for $1,000,000 on the strength of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance. Unfortunately, it is not easy to market a serious movie about 20 somethings attempting to get sober. Despite decent if not great reviews, it will max out at under $400,000 gross even though it received the typical maximum playout that SPC has to offer with its run peaking at 50 screens. Once P&A are accounted for this film is pretty much a loss for SPC.

Celeste and Jesse Forever performed much better at the box office grossing $3,094,813, but it went as wide as 586 screens and only had 5 weekends where it averaged a  PSA (per screen average) of over $1k. Acquired for $2,000,000, this film is most likely a slight loss for the distributor, but a big profit to the filmmaker who had a reported budget of under $900,000. It has grossed just over $200,000 from releases in 8 other countries.


28 Hotel Rooms barely played in more than 10 theaters and grossed $18,869. With so few locations, the focus was clearly on digital/VOD. For a NEXT film (meaning micro budget), it is far from a terrible gross and given poor to okay reviews. Hello I Must Be Going was an opening day film at the festival, but despite playing in more theaters during its run and not being available on VOD, it only managed $106,709. At its widest, it played in 15 theaters, but the expansion was too quick and the film fizzled fast.


There are really two types of IFC releases in theaters. One is play a week at IFC Film Center in New York City and maybe one more location and the rest of the run is on VOD. The other is a theatrical push. In most cases, any late acquisitions announced well after a festival has wrapped fall into the former. Later acquisitions Price Check (2 theaters,$7,413 gross), Young and Wild (2 theaters, $5,514), and Save the Date (2 theaters, $5,719 gross)  have all grossed less than $10k in one week of theatrical release. Also not passing that threshold are The Pact and Why Stop Now (3 theaters, $2,432 gross) . As a horror film, The Pact likely performed much better on VOD, covering its mid six figure acquisitions price. The other films were targeting minority communities (Young and Wild) or relying on stars (Save the Date and Why Stop Now ) to push ill-reviewed films. VOD was not reported, but most likely these other films were all acquired for under $100,000. They should all eventually prove profitable for IFC, but not the filmmakers.

In contrast Liberal Arts has grossed $327,345 which is more than Josh Radnor’s  prior film Happythankyoumoreplease, but that film was dumped into the marketplace over a year after it won the audience award. Liberal Arts had the hot young actress Elizabeth Olson as a co star and produced a so-so gross for its over $1,000,000 acquisition price, meaning it had to do stellar on VOD, foreign and other ancillaries to be profitable

Sleepwalk With Me meanwhile  relied on a built in audience to get the message across and is truly something unique that is not easily duplicated by other indie films. It had the boost of winning Best of NEXT Audience Award at Sundance, a prime follow up at SXSW, Birbiglia’s comedian following and with, Ira Glass as producer, a tie in to “This American Life” which has a very loyal following. The film grossed $2,266,067 on 135 screens at its peak, stayed in theaters for 3 months and was followed very closely by a cable VOD release.  

This has not been a particularly strong year for IFC, but Sleepwalk With Me is its highest grossing film theatrically and the filmmakers themselves heavily promoted the film instead of relying on higher cost promotional/marketing methods as the central way of getting out the word. All parties worked overtime to push the film and it is not a model that an unknown would be able to ever duplicate.


Magnolia admitted that part of the reason it was not financing the awards campaign for Ann Dowd for Compliance was because the film lost money. While this controversial film is the third highest grossing film ever from the Next section and $319,285 is nothing to cry about, the film was also not released day and date VOD as is typical for the distributor. In its first week it amassed $43,346 on one screen, but it did not hold up well in expansion. It topped out at 21 screens in its fourth week and while the acquisition price wasn’t reported, it most likely was no more than low six figures. I think this is a case of unrealistic expectations.

V/H/S played in almost as many theaters and only grossed $100,345 (releasing in October, naturally), but as with The Pact its money came from VOD and a sequel (S-V/H/S) was quickly put through which was at this year’s fest (picked up for release by IFC). Even though $1,000,000 was spent to acquire it, this film should prove to be pretty profitable.

Meanwhile, Nobody Walks was only in theaters for 5 weeks and never played on more than 7 screens, grossing a measly $25,342 . It was acquired for mid-high six figures and the focus was clearly always on VOD. While VOD was not reported, given the cast and producing powers it is likely to have recouped.

Magnolia also released 2 Days in New York, the sequel to 2 Days in Paris to the tune of $633,210 and Magnet came to the festival with Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie which did okay theatrically with $201,406.00 and both likely had a robust life in the digital sphere.


Tribeca Film released two US Dramatic entries. For Ellen grossed $12,396 on 3 screens for 7 weeks despite the presence of Paul Dano. The Comedy however has grossed     $41,113 on 4 screens for 8 weeks and the bulk of that coming from one screen in NY capitalizing on its Brooklyn setting. Both did day and date, but I imagine The Comedy outperformed For Ellen there too.


Keep the Lights On and Middle of Nowhere did almost identical business. Middle of Nowhere was released by writer/director Ava DuVernay’s distribution company AFFRM and played in a mix of major urban megaplexes and arthouse theaters, grossing $236,806 on 25 screens for a total of 9 weeks in theatrical release. Keep the Lights On had the backing of Music Box Films and relied heavily on screens from Landmark and specialty houses in LGBT dominant markets. The film grossed $246,112 on 10 screens for a total of 16 weeks in theatrical release. Red Hook Summer hired Variance Films for its DIY theatrical and grossed $338,803 on 41 screens for total of 11 weeks in theatrical release. The Spike Lee feature was made for under $1,000,000. While it grossed more than the two films above, it did so with a brand name director.

Safety Not Guaranteed was acquired by Film District for over $1,000,000 and grossed $4,010,957 on 149 screens for a total of 19 weeks in theatrical release. The film only cost $750,000 to make and has had some international success too.

Focus Features paid over $2,000,000 for worldwide rights to For a Good Time Call but the film only grossed $1,251,749 in the US and a little over $100,000 in the UK. This may seem bad, but the film was available on VOD when it opened and has been a top performer on iTunes. It never played in more than 107 theaters. The film cost $1,300,000 to make so it also turned a nice profit for the producers.

The $2.5 Million budgeted Robot and Frank was acquired by Sony and Samuel Goldwyn for over $2 Million and grossed over $3.3 Million theatrically. It has grossed another almost $500,000 internationally.

But the big success is Roadside Attraction’s Arbitrage which they paid over $3,000,000 for and chose to do VOD/Theatrical. It has grossed almost $8,000,000 and equaled that on VOD.

Lastly, The Words was the only Sundance 2012 film to get a wide release, 2801 screens. CBS bought the closing night film for $2,000,000. It managed $11,494,838 barely out performing Beasts of the Southern Wild.


Image debuted the star studded film Goats on four screens to a PSA of under $500 and its theatrical run quickly ended in one week. The film was acquired for almost $1,000,000 coming nowhere close to the film’s $5,000,000 Budget. A loss for all involved.

California Solo is still in theaters, but with a current gross of $15,433 on 2 screens for the last 6 weeks, it is not a breakout for Strand Releasing. Unlike a lot of recent Strand acquisitions from Sundance, it actually received a theatrical release.

Teddy Bear is one of the few world dramatic films to sell and though it only grossed $16,138  for Film Movement, this is a notable success. It is a foreign mumblecore film with no name actors and it out grossed other films that have been released from the same programming section.

Sony Worldwide’s release of The First Time will likely be its last since the film couldn’t get over $25k despite opening in 19 theaters. The theatrical only lasted one week.

Madrid, 1987 and That’s What She Said did not report grosses. The latter shared screens in LA and NY then immediately went digital courtesy of Phase 4. The Film Collaborative handled the theatrical for Mosquita Y Mari. While it grossed under $15k, it is the highest grossing Lesbian narrative of 2012 that received theatrical release.


TWC Radius release Lay the Favorite is a domestic theatrical flop and not likely to justify the acquisition price of over $2,000,000. Lay the Favorite grossed only $20,998 theatrically in the US and has barely grossed over $1,000,000 abroad. Considering the production cost was $20,000,000, there are probably a lot of angry investors.

Their second acquisition, Bachelorette, cost a fraction of that production budget at $3,000,000 and has grossed almost $10,000,000 overseas ($447,954 domestically) and debuted at #1 on iTunes. The advance cost was $2,000,000. It will recoup for investors and may ultimately do so for TWC thanks to the likes of Rebel Wilson.

Millennium meanwhile is probably questioning paying just under $4,000,000 for Red Lights which grossed a puny $ 52,624 at the box office. With the star power and being a genre film, it is likely to have performed much better on other outlets, though the path to profit would be daunting at that acquisition price.  It has made over $13,000,000 overseas theatrically. Despite that, it is possible it won’t make back it $17-20 Million production budget.


  • While VOD adds costs to a theatrical, it is often a win-win for distributors and filmmakers.
  • NEXT films are doing better at the box office, but still not measuring up to the box office of the US Dramatic films.
  • 9 of the 38 Narrative releases grossed over $1,000,000 (5 premiere, 3 US Dramatic, 1 Next)
  • 8 of the 38 narrative releases failed to gross over $10k at the box office (3 Premiere, 2 World Dramatic, 1 US Dramatic, 1 Next, 1 Midnight)


Sundance received over 12,000 submissions for under 200 slots at the 2013 festival. You are more likely to get into Harvard than you are into Sundance. Yet a number of people manage to do it multiple times and even in the same year. Here are the double and triple players.

David Lowery co-wrote and co-produced Pit Stop and also wrote/directed Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and edited Upstream Color. All were official selections at Sundance this year.

James Franco and Vince Jolivette each have Interior. Leather Bar, Lovelace, and Kink. Jolivette is a producer on all three films. Franco co-wrote and stars in Interior. Leather bar, stars in Lovelace and directed Kink.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars A.C.O.D and The Spectacular Now. Her costar in The Spectacular Now, Brie Larson, is also in Don Jon’s Addiction.

Juno Temple is in Afternoon Delight and Lovelace.

Casey Wilson co-wrote and stars in Ass Backwards and is also in C.O.G

Amy Seimetz is not only one of the stars of Pit Stop, but this indie darling is also in Upstream Color.

Table for your reference of the docs and narratives from Sundance 2012

Film Company Deal Amount Terrtitories Sales Company Box Office/Release Section Budget Other Theatrical Countries with reported grosses Additional Countries with a release International Grosses
Bestiaire Kimstim Films US $1,428.00 New Fron NA NA  NA
Putin’s Kiss Kino Lorber N/A North America N/A $9,114.00 world doc NA Denmark  NA
The Law in These Parts Cinema Guild US Liran Atzmor, Produce $10,309.00 World Doc NA NA  NA
China Heavyweight Zeitgeist N/A US EyeSteelFilms $10,550.00 World Doc NA Japan  NA
Payback Zeitgeist N/A US N/A $17,979.00 World Doc NA Canada  NA
The Ambassador Drafthouse Films N/A US Trustnordisk $28,102.00 World Doc NA NA  NA
West of Memphis SPC N/A Worldwide Peter Jackson and Ken Kamins $46,307 Doc Premiere NA Portugal, United Kingdom  NA
The Invisble War Cinedigm and New Video N/A North America The Film Collaborative $62,649.00 US Doc NA NA  NA
5 Broken Cameras Kino Lorber N/A US CAT&Docs $74,571.00 World Doc $250,000 United Kingdom Canada, Japan, Sweden $36,372.00
Escape Fire Roadside N/A US CAA $87,577 US Doc NA NA  NA
Marina Abramovic Music Box N/A US Submarine $86,637.00 us doc Austria, Italy, Poland, Russa, Ukraine France, Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom $57,127.00
How To Survive a Plague Sundance Selects High Six Figures North America Submarine $123,814.00 US Doc NA NA  NA
The Other Dream Team Film Arcade & Lionsgate Mid Six Figures North America WME $135,228.00 US Doc NA NA  NA
The House I Live In Abramorama US Theatrical $186,059 US Doc United Kingdom $8,407.00
Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap Indomina Over $1,000,000 Worldwide UTA $288,312.00 doc premiere United Kingdom NA $45,388.00
Detropia DIY $377,219 US Doc NA NA  NA
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry Sundance Selects N/A North America Cinetic Media, Victoria Cook $489,074.00 US Doc Austria, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom Denmark, Sweden, Taiwan $334,911.00
Shut Up and Play the Hits Oscilloscope N/A North America WME $510,334.00 Midnight United Kingdom Germany, Portugal $118,773.00
Chasing Ice Oscilloscope N/A US  (Non TV) Submarine $940,300 US Doc NA NA  NA
The Imposter Indomina N/A North America A&E Films $898,317.00 World Doc Denmark, Russia, United Kingdom Australia, France, Ireland, Kuwait, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden $1,870,940.00
The Queen of Versailles Magnolia Mid Six Figures North America Submarine $2,401,999.00 US DOC United Kingdom NA $93,707.00
Searching for Sugar Man SPC Mid Six Figures North America Submarine $3,095,075 World Doc Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates France, Germany, Netherland, Norway $2,203,958.00
Indie Game: The Movie HBO And Scott Rudin
(Remake Rights)
N/A TV Film Sales Company B.O. Gross not
world doc NA Taiwan  NA
Big Boys Gone Bananas DIY Theatrical US B.O. Gross Not Reported World Doc NA Sweden, Canada, UK  NA
Bones Brigade The Film Sales Company/Sundance Artist Services DIY Theatrical and Digital Platforms US The Film Sales Company B.O. Gross Not Repoted Doc Premiere NA Japan  NA
Room 237 IFC Midnight N/A North America Betsy Rodgers 2013 New Fron NA Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, United Kingdom  NA
Under African Skies Snag Films N/A Exclusive Digital A&E Films Digital Doc Premiere NA NA  NA
The House I Live In Snag Films Domestic Distribution Digital US Doc NA NA  NA
Love Free or Die Wolfe US DVD/VOD Cinephil Digital US DOC The film will be available for educational/non-theatrical screenings beginning in October through Kino/Lorber in partnership with Wolfe, followed by airings on PBS stations nationwide as part of the series “Independent Lens.” Wolfe will release the film on DVD/VOD in 2013. NA NA  NA
About Face HBO Doc N/A TV Pre-Fest TV Doc Premiere $500,000 NA Italy  NA
The D Word HBO Doc N/A TV Pre-Fest TV doc premiere NA NA  NA
Chasing Ice National Geographic N/A TV Submarine TV US  Doc NA NA  NA
Marina Abramovic HBO Doc TV Pre-Fest TV us doc NA NA  NA
Me @ The Zoo HBO Doc Mid Six Figures TV Submarine TV us doc NA NA  NA
The Queen of Versailles Bravo N/A TV Submarine TV US DOC NA NA  NA
Ethel HBO Doc N/A TV Pre-Fest TV/B.O. Gross not reported Doc Prem NA NA  NA
Under African Skies A&E Films N/A TV/Theatrical A&E Films TV/B.O. Gross Not Reported Doc Premiere NA NA  NA
A Place At the Table (Finding North) Magnolia US Submarine US DOC NA NA  NA

January 29th, 2013

Posted In: Digital Distribution, Distribution, Theatrical

Tags: , , , ,

Written by Orly Ravid

Now that Sundance has announced its new line up, it seems appropriate to discuss the issue of a film’s distribution after premiering or acquisition at festivals.

It is often the case that films do not get released until 6 months to a year or even more from when the film had its festival premiere…At least this is the case when traditional distribution is pursued as opposed to planning the distribution and marketing to coincide with the premiere and work off that plan accordingly.

Here are 10 reasons for the delay in time between a premiere launch at a festival and traditional distribution into the marketplace:

1.  The time it takes to find buyers. These days the market cycle is longer than it’s ever been. Sometimes even a year after a festival or market, sometimes longer to sell titles.  It’s a buyer’s market, so few films enjoy the pleasure of contested bidding that forces prices up and faster closings.  Sundance, of course, is one of the few festivals that commands such a dynamic and more films than at most other festivals will secure distribution, at least domestically, as a result of premiering there.

2. Once a deal is closed, then there’s the contract and delivery which takes time… months sometimes.

3.  Long lead times for press are required, at least four months, and that planning usually does not happen until after deal closure.

4. The distributor needs time to find open slots/appropriate slots in the calendar for theatrical – and it’s competitive out there so getting a booking takes time, and getting the right one for the film takes even more time, again, months.  Sometimes even 6 months is needed to book the right theatre for the right time.. Some of the best screens are locked in well in advance.

5. Cash flow is needed to launch marketing campaigns. This can be an issue for some distributors. Recouping some revenue from previous releases will be needed in order to fund future ones.

6. Major digital outlets take several months to upload and make a film available. Cable VOD has solicitation windows. DVD and digital also require set up times and announcing the title and marketing it ahead of time so again months of planning and slotting. One wants to be strategic about release time.

7. The time of release is sometimes specific to the film. It may be theme driven and demand specific timing or it may want to avoid direct competition. Also inventory shifts in retail stores dictate the optimal time for DVD release (ie. certain times of year, like Christmas or Halloween, call for more of a certain kind of film).

8. Internal scheduling of the distributor. As you know, distributors will have other releases that they need to navigate given what their key outlets have planned.

9. Grass roots and other marketing also demand lead time.

10. Overall, the difference between DIY and traditional distribution is that in DIY, you can plan months in advance to set up the outlets and use the press attention at a festival premiere to catapult the film into the market, even if you aren’t 100% sure which festival will be your premiere. Having everything in place to pull the trigger when you get that acceptance puts you in a good position to release. In traditional distribution, the distributor cannot do advance planning and so the planning starts after the initial buzz has been created at the festival.

I know some of you have been confused or frustrated by the lag time between a festival premiere of a film and the release. Hopefully this helps to explain the matter.

November 30th, 2012

Posted In: Distribution, Film Festivals, International Sales, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

by Bryan Glick

Sandwiched in between SXSW and Cannes, it is very easy to dismiss or overlook the Tribeca Film Festival. Yet, last year’s crop of films included the world premieres of two of the highest grossing documentaries of 2012 Bully and Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  However, most buyers seemed much more hesitant to strike this year.

Part of the issue is that Tribeca Films went all out acquiring The Giant Mechanical Man (starring Jenna Fischer and Chris Messina), Sleepless Night (France, estimated budget €2.5m) Struck By Lightning (with Christina Hendricks and Dermot Mulroney), Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story (documentary), War Witch (Canada, estimated budget $3.5m), Resolution (estimated budget $1m), Side By Side (documentaryproduced by Keanu Reeves and Death of a Superhero (Germany/Ireland, estimated budget €3.8m) (The latter two premiered at Berlin and TIFF), so most major buyers settled for one title or none at all.

Outside of Tribeca Films, Sundance Selects and IFC Midnight were among the most active buyers. The latter took US rights to the world premiere Replicas (Canada with Selma Blair and Joshua Close and US and UK rights for As Luck Would Have It (Spain with Salma Hayek which premiered at Berlin.  Meanwhile, their sister division, Sundance Selects, went for North and Latin America, UK, and Scandinavia rights to  The Flat (Germany, documentary) and also grabbed the best narrative film winner Una Noche (US/UK/Cuba with Dariel Arrechaga) for North America.  In addition, the fest also hosted the North American premiere of Beyond the Hills (Romania)  which they acquired out of Berlin.  IFC got in the game with US rights for Knife Fight (Sweden with Jennifer Morrison and Carrie-Anne Moss, estimated budget $7m).

The only other distributor to acquire multiple films was Film Buff. They secured digital distribution rights to Knuckleball! (documentary) and US rights to The Russian Winter (US/Russia, documentary)
The star studded Revenge for Jolly (with Elijah Wood, Ryan Phillippe & Kristen Wiig) got US and Canada covered courtesy of Sony Pictures Worldwide and the festival award winning The Revisionaries (documentarywas acquired for North America by Kino Lorber.  Cinedigm continued its banner year with US rights to Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey (documentary about the band Journey who hired their new lead singer via Youtube). Another company making their presence known was, Entertainment One, who couldn’t resist getting  North American rights for Freaky Deaky (with Christian Slater, Crispin Glover and Michael Jai White, estimated budget $10m). Meanwhile, Strand Releasing paid six figures for North American rights to Yossi (Israel, estimated production budget $500K), continuing a very effective partnership with the popular Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox. Other films to sell include Whole Lotta Sole (UK, with Brendan Fraser and Colm Meaney) which went to Arc for near seven figures, Room 514 (Israel) was bought for North America theatrical by Film Movement, and Unit 7 (Spain, estimated budget €3.5m which sold for US Pay TV and VOD to HBO.

Presently, the Tribeca festival arguably does a better job serving as a platform for films that have already been seen elsewhere or have distribution in place. Films that had North American or world premieres, but were bought before the fest include Magnolia’s Jack and Diane (with Juno Temple and Kylie Minogue), a partnership that featured sports themed documentaries sponsored by ESPN Films with Broke, Benji, and Town of Runners,  The HBO Doc release One Nation Under Dog, the Netflix exclusive documentary The Zen of Bennett (about singer Tony Bennett), Cinema Guild’s “Planet of Snail (Finland/Japan/Korea),  and Fox Searchlight’s box office bomb Lola Versus (with Greta Gerwig and Bill Pullman) which to date has grossed just barely over $250,000 theatrically in North America. Two special release docs Wagner’s Dream (NCM Fathom Events) and Queen: Days of Our Lives (Eagle Rock Entertainment) were also a part of the slate. Another film to sell before the festival was the Morgan Spurlock documentary Mansome, which Paladin acquired for US Theatrical. It has since grossed a very wimpy $36,280 showing that the days of, “Super Size Me” have long since passed.

This Keanu Reeves produced doc opened last week

FINAL THOUGHTS: Several of these deals have only taken place in the past few weeks (though the fest was back in April) and there were fewer than five deals to report during the festival. There is still a lot of value to screening at Tribeca, but it seems it serves more as a pre-launch into the Cannes market. With Tribeca Films buying so many films both before and after the festival, it raises the question of what is there for other buyers? They have also yet to have a film that has broken out both theatrically and on VOD though “Struck by Lightning” has real potential to do strong business.

Conspicuously absent this year was Magnolia Pictures, Oscilloscope, and The Weinstein Company. All of them are based in Manhattan and TWC and Magnolia struck documentary gold with films they bought at last year’s festival. It is doubtful that any of them would jump into the fray at this point, but it does seem to hint that the commercial prospects for films this year at the festival were not perceived to match those of last year’s slate. The festival still has to figure out how to excite the industry in NYC and convince them that they should go to a festival in their own town.

All that said though, the amount of deals shows that the festival is an increasingly good alternative to Sundance and potentially even SXSW.

Since the last blog posts about SXSW and Sundance there are a few more deals to report and some DIY movement.

-Sundance saw a number of films announce deals or DIY  plans in the past month.

-Wolfe Releasing secured US DVD/VOD rights to the Sundance documentary Love Free or Die.  In addition and in partnership with Wolfe, Kino Lorber will handle the film for educational/non-theatrical screenings. It will have its television premiere on PBS stations nationwide as part of the series “Independent Lens.”

– Fellow US Documentary competition title A Place At The Table (It was called “Finding North” At Sundance) was acquired for the US by Magnolia Pictures. They will release in partnership with Participant Media. The deal was negotiated by Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment.

-Drafthouse films went for Wrong and will release the film in North America in 2013. It is only the third World Dramatic film to get distribution in the states from this years festival.

-Kimstim Films will be releasing Bestiaire theatrically starting October 19th. This makes it the second of the New Frontier films to secure a theatrical release this year.

-Grand Jury Prize winning documentary The House I Live In will be released theatrically by Abramorama with guidance by Cinetic. Snag films has acquired domestic distribution rights to the film.

-Earlier this month, world documentary competition film Big Boys Gone Bananas did a DIY theatrical, Oscar qualifying run in NY and LA.

There are still over two dozen films from this year’s Sundance that have yet to sell or establish DIY distribution. Of those, almost half were in the world dramatic competition section. Still, when compared to other film festivals, its sales numbers are fantastic! Over ¾ of the films that premiered at the festival this year have been acquired or announced plans for DIY distribution.

On the SXSW front, IFC Midnight decided to stick its teeth into The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (Formerly called “Jeff”). They acquired both North American and UK rights. The deal was negotiated by Submarine Entertainment.  Producers Distribution Agency is betting on Brooklyn Castle which they will release in the US October 19th. Based on how their first three features The Way (BO gross $4.4m), Exit Through the Gift Shop (BO gross $3.2m) and Senna (BO gross $1.6m did this should be one of, if not the highest grossing film to come out of SXSW.  Finally, Tribeca Films could not say no to Somebody Up There Likes Me (with Nick Offerman). They took North American rights to the SXSW world premiere. The deal was negotiated by Gray Krauss Stratford Des Rochers LLP. Snag Films continues its best of fest approach and acquired domestic distribution rights to Grand Jury Prize documentary Beware of Mr. Baker Abramorama is handling the theatrical.

A full list of sales deals from Tribeca is listed below. Box office grosses and release dates are current as of August 19th.


Film Company Territories Sales Company Box Office/
Release Date
As Luck Would Have It IFC Midnight US and UK Premiered at Berlin
Beyond the Hills Sundance Selects North America Wild Bunch
Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story Tribeca Films North America Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Death of a Superhero Tribeca Films              $607
Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey Cinedigm US
Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie Magnolia US Submarine Entertainment
Freaky Deaky Entertainment One North America Paradigm
Jack and Diane Magnolia Pictures Worldwide
Knuckleball Filmbuff Digital Distribution Rights        September
let fury have the hour paladin
lola versus fox searchlight acquired pre fest $252603
Mansome Paladin US Theatrical $36,280
One Nation Under Dog HBO Doc Films PRE FEST DEVELOPED
Planet of Snail Cinema Guild US Bought out of IDFA $7978
Queen: days of our lives Eagle Rock Entertainment PRE FEST ALREADY ON DVD
Replicas IFC Midnight US Turtles Crossing LLC
Resolution Tribeca Films North America XYZ Films
Revenge For Jolly Sony Worldwide US and Canada UTA Independent Film Group
Room 514 Film Movement North America
Side By Side Tribeca Films North America Justin Szlasa and attorney Marc Simon $6956
Sleepless Night Tribeca Films US Bac Films
Struck By Lightning Tribeca Films US Traction Media and ICM Partners
The Flat Sundance Selects North/Latin America, UK, Scandinavia
The Giant Mechanical Man Tribeca Films US $7,396
The Russian Winter Film Buff US
The Visionaries Kino Lorber North America            October
The Zen of Bennett Netflix  Exclusive bought Pre fest
Town of Runners ESPN Films PRE FEST
Una Noche Sundance Selects North America
Unit 7 HBO US Pay TV and VOD Vicente Canales’ Film Factory
Wagner’s Dream NCM Fathom Events and the Met Screened with The Ring Cycle in May
War Witch Tribeca Films US Premiered at Berlin
Whole Lotta Sole Arc US
Yossi Strand North America Films Distribution partner Nicolas Brigaud-Robert


NB: In an effort to put these  films in a useable context for filmmakers/investors/distributors, we have provided information (when available) on country of origin, notable names involved, and estimated production budget. From this information, one can see where the sales trends seemed to be at the festival.

August 22nd, 2012

Posted In: Distribution, Film Festivals, Theatrical

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Instead of spending tons of money trying to inspire boxoffice success or buying it, create “events” around screenings….have live performances, Q&A’s, invite big groups of people to bring their members, etc. Don’t be passive….fill that theater with everyone you know and you just might convince other people that there is a built-in audience for your film.

This does not have to happen via the traditional theatrical model though. That can be a small part of the release to get reviews, but the rest can be a sort of EVENT THEATRICAL or HYBRID THEATRICAL release and you can sell DVDs at the screenings and build your community list and dialog too. Companies such as Fathom, Screenvision, Cinedigm offer alternative theatrical bookings and event screening options in traditional theatrical chains such as AMC, Cinemark, and Regal.  (Stay tuned for our next blog on this topic and we’ll cover services such as Emerging Pictures too).

Selling DVDs at festivals and event screenings is a key revenue stream and should not be overlooked.

July 27th, 2010

Posted In: Film Festivals, Marketing, Uncategorized

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