We thought we’d start off 2015 with a bit about digital platforms that filmmakers can utilize directly, without giving rights to a distributor and without necessarily having to go through an aggregator. When I say “platform,” what I mean is a place on the Internet that film viewers would go to consume cinema. While filmmakers are always encouraged to distribute off their own websites and social media pages, that is not the subject of this blog. To accomplish DIY off the film’s site and social media pages, filmmakers are encouraged to work with Distrify or VHX, for example. For now we cover the following distinct platforms that filmmakers can directly access: MUBI, FANDOR, VIMEO, WOLFE ON DEMAND, and DOCURAMA (just a tad, and more will be discussed in a few weeks).
MUBI is a curated video-on-demand subscription service.
MUBI describes its offering as a hand-picked selection of the best cult, classic and award-winning films from around the globe. “Every day MUBI’s in-house film experts select a great new film and you have 30 days to watch it. So there’s always 30 brilliant films to enjoy. We have a huge audience of passionate cinephiles from every corner of the planet who watch, rate, review and share great cinema.” See more at mubi.com/about.
Q: How film viewers can access it?
The service is the only subscription service available worldwide (193 territories). So whether you are in Venezuela or Vancouver you’ll be able to experience a beautiful collection of 30 hand-picked films. MUBI works on the web, mobile devices, internet-connected TVs and games consoles. On MUBI’s mobile apps you can download films and watch offline.
Financial model of platform How audiences pay (if at all) and how do filmmakers make money:
MUBI brings one new film to the platform every single day. Each film plays on the platform for a 30-day window. Revenue is split 50/50 with the filmmaker (or whomever is the rights holder) based on views over the 30-day run. A MUBI membership costs around $4.99 USD in most countries for a month or £2.99 in the UK or €4.99 in the EU.
Deals Offered to Filmmakers:
MUBI typically licenses films for a 2-year period, non-exclusive. They license by territory, but also do global deals or groups of territories.
How Films Get Onto MUBI:
MUBI takes films directly from filmmakers and also from studios, distributors and aggregators.
Q: What does your company do to drive audiences / consumers to this platform?
“Beyond the normal channels (digital, social, offline) we work in partnership with festivals and organisations [organizations] like Cannes, Berlinale, MoMa, AFI, Lomokino, Picturehouse Cinemas, we curate seasons and retrospectives, host screenings, run events… the list goes on! Also, in the UK (one of our focus countries) we have a mutli-level advertising campaign launching in 2015.”
[This question is almost never answered by any businesses so don’t hold it against MUBI for not answering.]
Speaking from experience, however, we at TFC have enjoyed seeing hundred of dollars that eventually added up to some small version of thousands for a film that did not do better business anywhere else. In fact, I would say MUBI was a source of revenue that was particularly useful for a smaller art house film that would not be sought out on the more commercial platforms such as iTunes.]
What MUBI does to market films:
“We have huge communication channels offline and off. When a title is selected as the ‘film of the day’ all these channels are directed towards promoting that film. The difference with MUBI, for the filmmaker, is that instead of your film sitting in a library of a thousand films, your film is one of just thirty. Every day we send out a dedicated ‘Film of the Day’ email to hundreds of thousands of people globally, the email features “Our Take” – the reasons why we selected the film and why it’s worth watching. We build editorial context around films rather than leaving them fighting alone. We run one of the most respected online sources for film criticism, Notebook. So if your film is on MUBI it’s less about creating a long-term revenue stream and more about exposure for the film in a targeted, well-contextualised burst which can be a great complement to (or continuation of) a theatrical or DVD release. A film is on MUBI for 30 days but for those 30 it is the centre of our attention. It works for the audiences and filmmakers alike, great films can find people that want to watch them.”
Special initiatives MUBI has brewing (this is from December 2014):
New from MUBI: iPad and iPhone App
Fandor can be accessed via apps available through iTunes (iPhone, iPad) and Google Play (Android phones and tablets including Kindle Fire), and as a channel on Roku.
Fandor offers an extensive and rich library of over 6000 films, from around the world, in over 500 genres, and of all lengths, handpicked for people who love the transforming experience of great cinema. Fandor fulfills the promise of an online cinematic experience, marrying curation with contextual information for a global community of film lovers and filmmakers.
Fandor Availability / Accessibility:
Fandor is available in the US and Canada, accessible anytime to subscribers.
Financial model of platform—How do audiences pay (if at all) and how do filmmakers make money:
Fandor members subscribe on an annual ($90) or a monthly ($10) basis. Both subscription types offer a 2-week free trial. Subscription revenue is shared, with 50% going to the film rights holders, divided based on availability and audience viewership.
Deals Given to Filmmakers:
Because our model is a revenue share, the amount that filmmakers earn will vary based on viewership. 20% of the shared revenue is split among all films on the platform; the remaining 80% is allocated based on seconds of viewing to individual films.
Fandor Gets Films Direct From Filmmakers And Distributors:
Fandor has partnerships with hundreds of distributors and approximately 125 filmmakers (direct).
What Fandor does to drive audiences / consumers to its platform:
“We have an extensive marketing program that includes advertising, social outreach to over 160K fans, public relations, personalized email and integrated promotional campaigns. We also have a network of 4 blogs that addresses Fandor customers (The Fandorian), film aficionados (Keyframe), the film industry (Hope for Film), and filmmaker-to-filmmaker (Hammer to Nail).”
Fandor’s response to our request to share revenue ranges for films on its platform:
“We’re a private company and typically don’t share our financials and membership data.”
Special initiatives Fandor has brewing:
“We have two initiatives currently targeted to film festivals (Fandor|Festival Alliance) and to filmmakers (FIX). These initiatives are part of a larger effort to build relationships across the film world as part of a larger mission to advance and preserve film art and culture.”
See the release explaining these…
An example of a Fandor marketing campaign:
“Probably the best example is the Shocktober campaign we did for October. We showcased a different horror film each day through the month of October. The campaign was integrated across our ads, our website, our social networks, and email. We also did two video trailers. I’ve attached a .gif we used for social and email, and following are links to the videos. The campaign culminated in a day/date release of the remastered THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI on Halloween.”
VIMEO ON DEMAND
Vimeo allows one to distribute films, series, and videos with all the power of Vimeo, its community, and its legendary
HD player. Anyone can use Vimeo On Demand – from established and first-time filmmakers to creators of video tutorials or video performances. “Vimeo On Demand helps creators distribute feature films, documentaries, series, episodes, TV shows, instructional videos, and more. It puts all the control in the hands of creators, who can choose to offer buy and rent options at their own prices, sell on Vimeo and their own website, worldwide or in select countries.”
Vimeo On Demand is available worldwide and allows viewers to watch films on pretty much any screen, from computers and tablets to connected TVs, all in full HD (even 4K!). Vimeo On Demand is a global, open platform where any filmmaker can sign up and start selling their videos.
Financial model of platform:
Vimeo On Demand offers creators the ability to sell their movies to rent or own. “Viewers pay by credit card or PayPal. Creators earn 90% of the net revenue from every sale—which is the best deal in the film business!”
Vimeo accepts films first-time filmmakers and distributors.
Q: What does your company do to drive audiences / consumers to Vimeo?:
“Vimeo has 170 million monthly visitors and more than 30 million registered users. We regularly promote curated selections of movies from Vimeo On Demand to this massive audience on-site, via email and on social media. We also have ongoing paid marketing campaigns and publisher partners working to bring viewers to Vimeo On Demand.”
“Vimeo On Demand has been proud to power some of the most successful direct distribution releases ever. We are not allowed to share our users’ revenue data.”
What Vimeo does on marketing front for its films:
“Our Audience Development team is actively working to market films via our own platform as well as through digital advertising, social media marketing, and a growing list of publisher partners. Vimeo On Demand is the only direct distribution platform that brings a built-in audience and markets films on the platform.”
[NOTE: My colleague David Averbach has informed me that there is a way, for filmmakers who are allowed to offer VOD off their film’s website, but not other external sites, to hide Vimeo On Demand videos from vimeo.com.]
WOLFE ON DEMAND
The worldwide LGBT digital movie-watching platform!
Accessibility / Availability:
The platform showcases more than 150 films, more than 100 of which are available worldwide.
TVOD (Transactional Video on Demand via Internet) and Streaming (rental)
$3.99 streaming and $14.99 download for features.
$2.99 streaming and $9.99 download for docs.
Revenue to Filmmakers:
WOD split is 50/50. Wolfe have also entered into a strategic relationship with Vimeo and WOD will soon live on their platform. Wolfe’s site is powered, in part, by Distrify which takes a cut of revenues, as will Vimeo. Wolfe also notes that the partnering with Vimeo will also involve additional marketing opportunities.
Direct with Filmmakers and Distributors:
“We work with all kinds of filmmakers directly as well as distributors.”
Q: What does your company do to drive audiences / consumers to this platform?:
“Wolfe has been in the business of releasing LGBT films since 1985. With 30 years in the business we have the experience, relationships community good will and connections to help connect films with the audiences who want to see them. We utilize our mailing lists, social media, advertising, PR, community outreach and creative marketing as well as a wide array of other marketing tools and strategies. Wolfe’s strength is in consumer marketing. We dedicate considerable resources to unique programs domestically and abroad to drive traffic to WolfeOnDemand.com.”
[Like the others, Wolfe did not disclose.]
Special initiatives Wolfe has brewing:
Yes, stay tuned for some exciting news to be announced in late January 2015.
We’ll be covering this one in a few weeks as information is being updated…
As the name suggests, this platform focuses on documentaries.
The channel is available on iOS, Roku, XBox, Amazon Fire, Western Digital, Opera, to name a few.
We will send proper information about Docurama in a few weeks. For now, TFC recommends working directly with these platforms when they are a fit for your film. We will update about other platforms as we learn of them, if we think they are worthy of focus.
Happy direct digital distribution,
The Film Collaborative
Orly Ravid January 14th, 2015
As 2014 draws to a close TFC reflects on five (5) film distribution lessons from 2014 in anticipation of our 5th Anniversary at Sundance 2015.
1) DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY POSITIVELY IMPACTING FESTIVAL & OTHER PUBLIC EXHIBITION DISTRIBUTION BY REDUCING COST AND HEADACHE:
As we have seen every year for several years now, we are experiencing additional technological revolution that will change our business forever. In 2014, we said adieu to the preview DVD (for festivals, distributors, exhibitors, press etc.) in favor of the online screener link. We said goodbye to the HDCAM and the final nail in the coffin of the Digibeta. We struggled with the problems of the DCP and all its imperfections and inevitability (at least for a few more years). And we are RIGHT ON THE VERGE of the greatest evolution we will experience in recent years, which will be full delivery of films for exhibition via the Internet…whether it turns out to be Vimeo or Drop Box or iCloud or other. If we can remove the SHIPPING part of the independent film business, filmmaker (and distributor) profits may greatly increase without that part of the equation. We are almost there now…
2) THE HARD-TO-ACCEPT REALITY OF MARKETING SMALL FILMS:
As much as all of us at TFC have talked about the need to identify and target niche audiences, the ones who would be the most interested and excited to see a project because it speaks to a belief or lifestyle or cause, most indie filmmakers still aren’t heeding this advice. Of the consultations I had this year, most were with filmmakers who made micro-budget dramas with no notable names and were without prestigious festival accolades. They still believed a distributor would be willing to take on their project and give it a full release. Even those who realized this wasn’t going to happen found the financial burden associated with the kind of release they envisioned too difficult to bear, especially because they were likely to never see that money again (hence why distributors weren’t willing to take on the burden).
If you’re going to work small, you need to think small, but deep. You NEED a small, but highly passionate audience that you can reach given the resources and assets you have. Their enthusiasm will help you if you can harness their attention early on. I won’t say this is easy, but before you embark on a project that could take thousands of dollars and years of your life, first think about how you will approach the audience for your work and how you will maintain it on a consistent basis. If you think someone else is going to take care of that for you, you haven’t been paying attention to the shifts in the indie film marketplace.
If you think someone else is going to [attract and maintain a niche audience] for you, you haven’t been paying attention to the shifts in the indie film marketplace.
3) WHEN BROADCASTERS WANT STREAMING RIGHTS – WHAT TO DO?:
Increasingly, broadcasters are seeking streaming rights along with traditional TV broadcast rights and they have holdbacks on streaming and SVOD at a minimum, and often on transactional digital (DTO/DTR) too. For sure they limit / prohibit cable VOD. As a filmmaker, you only have leverage to demand a higher licensing fee if your film is a hot commodity. Otherwise, while online (or in-app) streaming will possibly gut your transactional VOD sales, you can’t beat the reach a broadcaster can give to your film. Think very hard about turning down a broadcast deal that includes online streaming. Will your iTunes/Amazon/Google Play sales really be so much if very few people have heard of your film? iTunes and Amazon are not going to promote your film like a broadcaster would.
Then again, which broadcaster is it? How big is its reach? How much publicity and marketing will you get? How much digital distribution are you barred from and for how long? Not all types of films make the same money on all types of platforms so does your film demand-to-be-owned? or is a renter, at best. Not all platforms will even accept all films (e.g. all Cable VOD, Sony Playstation, Netflix). Is yours one that will digitally succeed broadly or narrowly, or at all? Will Netflix pay 6-figures like in the good ole days or a lot less, or anything? Do you have a direct-to-fan distribution strategy that you can employ in tandem so as to not need to rely on other digital platforms in the first place?
Or if you want to try it all, still, your strategy would privilege the direct sales anyway. Which is better for your goals, a film that gets national broadcast airings or a film that turns down that opportunity only to be buried in the iTunes store? Or would it not be buried? Only you can answer this as not everyone’s goals are the same and not everyone’s opportunities / potentials are the same. As we have always said, knowing your film’s ACTUAL potential and combining that with your HIERARCHY OF GOALS will help you answer these questions and decide your distribution strategy.
And while it may feel like you are giving up revenue by allowing your film to be streamed (hopefully for a limited time!) through a broadcaster’s portal, you may find this is a good career move for your next feature because people will be familiar with your work having had the opportunity to see it.
4) THE HEAVY BURDEN OF THE NARRATIVE WITH NO NAMES:
Several of us opined about the challenges facing narratives with no names.
The emerging mega strength of incredible television series available everywhere threatens narrative film even more than before, and of course, especially the smaller indie fare.
We have seen time and again how narrative dramas or comedies almost always fall flat in sales unless they have very strong names and not just C-list or B-list names. Of course there are exceptions to this rule and Sundance can be part of that, or a hot director, or simply just an exceptional break out film. But too many filmmakers look to those as the model when they are the anomaly. The pattern we, at TFC, see repeated too often is the making of a decent or good but not exceptional narrative with names that are okay but not great and then wasting time trying to make a big or even medium sale. It just does not happen. Money and time are lost and careers often not made. Again, there are exceptions, and of course certain niches such as LGBT may be one of them, but we advise discerning between passionate optimism and sheer folly.
5) TRANSPARENCY—The Kale of Film Distribution:
The big takeaway from 2014 about TRANSPARENCY is that, on the one hand, it has become a sort of new, hip standard—something cool and good, like eating kale—that more honest distributors practice and/or shadier ones pretend to because it’s more expected. On the other hand, however, we were surprised at how many filmmakers still resist it—resist sharing their data, even anonymously. And to that, all we can ask is, what are you afraid of? It’s meant to be good for the filmmaking community as a whole but maybe individually folks are scared about what the truth will bring. And some folks just want to eat bacon. We get it. Still, we encourage sharing the real data for the greater good and we will keep on working to inspire and facilitate more TRANSPARENCY.
We at TFC wish you and yours a delightful new year and we are looking forward to being even more of service to filmmakers in 2015!
Orly Ravid December 29th, 2014
Tags: audience building for films, broadcasters, DCP, direct-to-fan film distribution, distribution strategy, DVD, film distribution, film exhibition, Film Festivals, independent film distribution, independent film with no names, The Film Collaborative, Vimeo
HELLO SXSW! It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since SXSW 2013. The film festival (and all the other things that happen) has consistently been on the cutting edge of distribution options. It is truly a one of a kind festival for a number of reasons and while they won’t pay for filmmaker travel, they do provide huge opportunity for the savvy filmmaker.
With 125+ films and the literally hundreds of panels, it can be daunting trying to get the attention of eyeballs. That said, over 2/3 of the films that world premiered here last year have secured some form of domestic distribution (on par with Tribeca and second only to Sundance).
The Film Collaborative world premiered I Am Divine at the festival last year and our release strategy is a prime example of how the fest can be a launching pad. The film went on to play over 200 festivals in less than a year (more than any other film in the world) racking up screening fee revenue. TFC also managed its theatrical release starting last October. The entire operating budget for the theatrical release was less than $10k and the film has grossed over $80,000 theatrically to date. As impressive as that is, the festival revenue surpassed the theatrical total. Meanwhile, despite never paying for a single print ad, we just passed our 50th theatrical engagement. The film has almost 40,000 Facebook Fans and will be released on DVD/Digital in April through Wolfe Releasing, and a TV premiere is scheduled for October.
SXSW produced two clear narrative breakouts last year, neither from a first time filmmaker. Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies was a day and date release and managed to gross $300k+, his highest grossing film to date. It has chartered quite well on iTunes and other digital platforms and is likely quite profitable for Magnolia (hence why they acquired Swanberg’s follow up out of Sundance this year).
The other narrative breakout was the critically acclaimed Short Term 12. Sundance’s loss was SXSW’s gain and the film grossed over $1 million at the US Box Office, won multiple audience and jury awards and is the highest grossing film ever for Cinedigm. The film has been in theaters non stop for over ½ a year!
12 O’Clock Boys was released day and date and is Oscilloscope’s highest grossing release in over a year. It also topped iTunes and, to date, the film has managed over $80k in revenue. In fact, the day and date strategy has not appeared to hurt other top performing SXSW Docs.
Magnolia grossed $138k with Good ‘Ol Freda Also passing the $100k mark was Spark: A Burning Man Story. The film managed over $120k with a self financed theatrical handled by Paladin. What stood out wasn’t the total, but the fact that 70%+ came from Tugg Screenings! FilmBuff handled the digital rights where the doc performed equally as well. Meanwhile IFC’s The Punk Singer was a more standard release, but still a solid success passing the $120k gross mark.
Fall and Winter, Euphonia and Some Girls all opted for digital releases via the newly established Vimeo on Demand service. This year, Vimeo is investing $10,000,000 into its service and offering $10,000 minimum guarantees in exchange for an exclusive digital distribution window to any film that has premiered at one of the 20 leading global film festivals throughout 2014. Filmmakers also may apply for marketing support. The huge thing though is that the filmmaker gets to keep 90% of the revenue, which is far better than any other notable digital platform.
Also popular amongst the filmmakers was FilmBuff. No fewer than eight world premieres were distributed digitally by them. A few of those films also had small DIY theatrical releases.
It should be noted that DIY releases cost money which might be a problem for those who did not budget ahead of time for such a release. However, cash strapped filmmakers have raised DIY funds via Kickstarter to aid in such releases. TFC helped Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton raise over $50k. Loves Her Gun, This is Where We Live, and Love and Air Sex (AKA The Bounceback ) all raised distribution funds via crowdfunding.
Netflix took The Short Game as their first documentary acquisition and the film had a modest theatrical run via The Samuel Goldwyn Company. Pantelion passed $50k with Hours which has been a top digital performer following the death of its star, Paul Walker. First Run Features is approaching $40k with Maidentrip and companies like IFC, Magnolia, Oscilloscope, Breaking Glass, FilmBuff, and Variance all took multiple films.
On the TV side, SXSW films have premiered on Al Jazeera, CNN, Showtime, PBS, and VH1. Many of those films had some form of theatrical too. Documentaries continue to be the bulk of the festival highlights though the top two grossing films were narratives. The festival is second only to Sundance for world premiering a doc.
As we look to what the 2014 crop will offer, there are already some game changing situations. BFI is repeating their marketing match offer of up to $41k for any distributor who acquires one of their five UK based SXSW premiere films for distribution. As pointed out earlier, Vimeo’s offer extends beyond SXSW to 19 other upcoming festivals. I encourage you to keep an open mind and craft your film strategies now! The $10K MG that Vimeo offers for such a short exclusive digital window (plus you get to keep 90% of any revenue after the MG is recouped!) is better than many advance offers made by lower profile distributors. You can always pull your title off after the MG is recouped and seek more traditional distribution routes as Cinemanovels did out of Toronto last year.
SXSW is a great place to showcase your film, but without a formal market and with all the craziness that surrounds the festival from the interactive and music sides, it is unlikely that seven figure deals will pop up like they do at Sundance. Despite this, deals are still made, some choose to go into the DIY space and a few (like our release of I Am Divine) succeed in both arenas. The possibilities are endless.
Bryan Glick March 10th, 2014
The month of October seems a good time to look at films in the horror genre and we will be releasing a series of posts all month long that addresses the business of releasing these films.
Long the domain of ultra low budget filmmakers everywhere, horror audiences are now spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a film that terrifies. Yes, everyone with access to a digital camera and buckets of fake blood seems to be honing their craft and turning out product by the thousands. Unfortunately, most of it is high on splatter and low on story and production value. That may have made up the majority of the horror film sales 7 years ago, but distribution advances paid for such films are now exceedingly low (maybe $5K per territory, IF there is a pick up at all) and now the genre is perfect for the torrent sites.Unless you plan to make films as an expensive hobby, the pressure to produce a stellar horror film that people will talk about (see The Conjuring, Insidious, Paranormal Activity) is very high.
The trouble for filmmakers creating in this genre is there is so much being made of questionable quality, it is like asking audiences to find a needle…in a stack of needles (hat tip to Drew Daywalt). The same challenges for fundraising, marketing, and distribution that plague every production, plague horror films as well. To get good word of mouth, the film HAS to be great and have a significant marketing push.
At a recent event hosted at the LA Film School by Screen Craft entitled Horror Filmmaking: The Guts of the Craft, several involved in the horror genre talked about budgeting and distributing indie horror films. All agreed the production value bar has to be raised so much higher than everything else in the market in order to get people to part with their money for a ticket when competing with studio films. Talent manager Andrew Wilson of Zero Gravity Management pointed out that comments like the film did a lot with so little doesn’t hold water with audiences outside of the festival circuit. “You still need it to be good enough to get someone to come into a theater and pay $12…the guy who is going to pay $12 doesn’t care that you did a lot for a little bit of money. They want to see a film that is as good as the big Warner Bros release because they are paying the same amount of money to see it.” While you may be thinking, “I don’t need my film to play in a theater,” and that may be, the films seeing the most revenue in this genre are the ones that do.
The panel also addressed selling horror films into foreign territories. While horror does travel much better than American drama or comedy, there are horror films being made all over the world and some are much more innovative than their American counterparts. France, Japan and Korea were cited as countries producing fantastically creative horror films. American filmmakers with aspirations of distributing their films overseas need to be aware of the competition not just with fellow countrymen, but with foreign talent as well.
Other film distributors are candidly talking about the complete decimation of the market for horror, largely brought on by the internet and piracy, but also a change in consumer habits. Why buy a copy to own of that low grade splatterfest when you can easily stream it (for pay or not) and move on to the next one? More where that came from. There was once big money in fooling audiences to buy a $20 DVD with a good slasher poster and trailer, but now they are wise to the junk vying for their attention and don’t see the need to pay much money for it.
In a talk given last year at the Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend in Orlando, sales agent/distributor Stephen Biro of Unearthed Films actually warned the audience of filmmakers not to get into horror if money was what they were seeking.”The whole system is rigged for the distributors and retailers. You will have to make the movie of a lifetime, something that will stand the test of time.” He confirmed DVD for horror is dead. Titles that might have shipped 10, 000 copies to retailers are now only shipping maybe 2,000. Some stores will only take 40 copies, see how they sell and order more if needed in order to cut down on dealing with returns. Of the big box stores left standing, few are interested in low budget horror titles. Netflix too is stepping away from low budget indie horror on the DVD side. They may offer distributors a 2 year streaming deal for six titles at $24,000 total, but there will be a cost to get them QC’d properly (which comes out of your cut, after the middlemen take their share of course!).
As for iTunes, there are standards barring graphic sex for films in the US and in some countries, they are now requiring a rating from the local ratings authority in order to sell from the iTunes Movie store. The cost of this can run into the thousands (based on run time) per country. Also, subtitling will be required for English language films, another cost.
The major companies in cable VOD (Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon etc) are now requiring a significant theatrical release (about 15 cities) before showing interest in working with a title. They are predominantly interested in titles with significant marketing effort behind them. The cable operators often do not offer advances and you must go through an aggregator like Gravitas Ventures to access. If the aggregator refuses your film, that’s it.
Selling from your own site via DVD or digital through Vimeo or Distrify is still an option, and the cut of revenue is certainly larger. But unless there is a budget and plan in place to market the site, traffic won’t just materialize. Still, for ultra, ultra low budget films (like made for less than $5,000) with a clear marketing strategy and small advertising budget, selling direct is the way to go. Certainly better than giving all rights away for free, for 7 years and seeing nothing. At least your film can access a global audience.
Here is Biro’s talk from Orlando. It runs almost an hour
If after reading this, you are still set to wade into the market with your horror film, stay tuned to future posts looking at the numbers behind some recent horror films and what options you’ll have on the festival circuit.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/markybon/102406173/”>MarkyBon</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
Sheri Candler October 3rd, 2013
Tags: Andrew Wilson, cable VOD, Distrify, Guts of the Craft, horror films, independent film distribution, iTunes, LA Film School, Netflix, Screen Craft, Spooky Empire's Ultimate Horror Weekend, Stephen Biro, Unearthed Films, Vimeo, Warner Bros, Zero Gravity Management
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?
Five positives to highlight from last year
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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|
|The Time Being||Tribeca Film||$5,274|
|The Brass Teapot||Magnolia||$6,997|
|I Declare War||Drafthouse Films||$10,793|
|Greetings from Tim Buckley||Tribeca Film||$11,157|
|The ABC’s of Death||Magnet||$21,832|
|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|
|The Fitzgerald Family Christmas||Tribeca Film||$50,292|
|Venus & Serena||Magnolia||$51,271|
|More than Honey||Kino Lorber||$66,728|
|Something in the Air||$73,306|
|No One Lives||Anchor Bay||$74,918|
|Stuck In Love (Formerly Writers)||Millenium Entertainment||$81,071|
|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|
|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|
|The Reluctant Fundamentalist||IFC||$528,731|
|Still Mine (formerly Still)||Samuel Goldwyn||$586,767|
|To The Wonder||Magnolia||$587,615|
|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|
|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|
|The Iceman||Millenium Entertainment||$1,943,239|
|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|
|The Perks of Being a Wallflower||Summit||$17,742,948|
|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|
|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|
|First Comes Love||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|
Bryan Glick September 5th, 2013
Tags: <u, A Late Quartet, Act of Killing, Aftershock, Artifact, Casting By, Come Out and Play, Detroit Unleaded, distribution, Dredd, Eagles, film sales, Frances Ha, Girl Most Likely, independent film, Lords of Salem, Love, Marilyn, Mea Maxima Culpa, Midnight Madness, Much Ado About Nothing, Museum Hours, Reincarnated, Spring Breakers, Stuck in Love, The Attack, The Thieves, TIFF, Toronto International Film Festival, Unfinished Songs, Vimeo