Tag Archives: Adventures of Power

Theatrical screenings

While it is still the hope of every filmmaker we know that their film will be seen on the big screen, very often they do not have a clear idea of the work and money involved in making this happen. They also do not have an idea of the kind of revenue (or lack thereof) these screenings will generate. There are a few passages in the book that address this topic and the many ways filmmakers are screening their films.

This first piece is from Ben Niles, director of Note by Note. After Ben had taken the film back from his sales agent, he set about looking for a theatrical distributor.

I was trying to find an indie distributor and I was getting pretty frustrated because these people that I was told were indie distributors still wanted me to spend $50,000 to$75,000. They wanted me to get a 35mm print; they wanted a ton of money for P and A, and I said, ‘I guess I’m missing it, because that’s not indie to me.’

Ben met with Jim Brown from Argot Pictures and they agreed on a monthly fee for Jim to book the film theatrically. The successful Film Forum screening was crucial, because theaters across the US look to NY box office figures to see what might be good to book locally.

Jim and I worked out a guaranteed three-month deal to see if he could get any traction for the film, and then we would step back and renegotiate if everybody was happy. Well, we renegotiated like within six weeks. The phone wasringing off the hook.

Within the first year, they had 50 theatrical and 20 alternative theatrical dates grossing $100,000.

Since the New York theatrical was done at Film Forum, who provided the publicist, Ben was able to keep the costs of the theatrical release very low. He spent a total of $4,500 on publicists in LA, SF and Chicago, which Ben thought was very effective and a wise spend. He also spent $3,000 on print ads, (which Ben considered a waste of money [but is often required by the theaters]), and $500 on dubs.

Case study The Best and the Brightest had an interesting theatrical release partly through Emerging Pictures.  Jon Reiss explains Emerging’s model

Emerging Pictures has a relationshipwith about 100 theaters nationwide, in which they can deliver a digital “print/file” for no cost. In other words, they have eliminated all print costs (even BluRay) and created a network of theaters that are connected to audiences. In addition, if you have a live event after your screening, Emerging can net-cast this to any of their member theaters. All this costs is $1000 encoding fee and 70% of the box office; the filmmaker keeps the other 30%.

Here is more about Best’s theatrical screenings:

“New Video [the film’s DVD distributor] and Weiser [the film’s producer] engaged Marian Koltai-Levine of PMK to create a theatrical release for the film in New York and Los Angeles (Miami also came on board as part of Baldwin’s sneak previews) for a fee of $50,000. New Video put up 50% of this fee,which included around $20,000 for print ads. The 50K also included the four-wall fees for the theaters in NY and Los Angeles. It made sense for Best to spend this money because they had stars in the film. Hence, they would get reviews as well as other forms of national press, such as Neil Patrick Harris on Conan O’Brien, Amy Sedaris on Letterman and John Hodgman on The Daily Show, among others. Total gross for opening weekend—$4,771—hence the per screen average for NY/LA: $2,385.50. Weiser told us, ‘There was no expectation of making our money back from the theatrical itself, but we hope it will all impact the bottom line DVD/VOD/digital sales.’ Koltai-Levine was also able to get Emerging Pictures on board to continue the theatrical into about 30 to 40 additional cities.”

The chapter on Adventures of Power demonstrates the work, expense and risk of theatrical screenings.

“Ari hired Dylan Marchetti’s company Variance Films to do the theatrical release and he worked with Range Life on the event/semi-theatrical.

Did you do traditional theatrical, and if so, how much time did you spend to set it up?

Ari: I spent about four months setting it up.

How much did you spend on the theatrical?

Ari: $150,000. [he thinks that $20,000 went to prints.]

How long was the theatrical run?

Ari: About six weeks.

How many cities were full-week runs?

Ari: Eight.

In how many cities did you have alternative theatrical screenings?

Ari: 15.

According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed just $17, 419. Ari still feels like it helped by generating publicity and awareness for the film for the ancillaries.

How much did you spend to book your alternative theatrical release?

Ari: $1,500.

How much did you gross on your alternative theatrical release?

Ari: $800.

To read more in depth about how each case booked their screenings, worked to promote them and how they felt about the service providers they hired to work with, read Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul.

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Excerpt: Adventures of Power

One of Orly’s case studies takes a look at the 2008 Sundance official selection Adventures of Power written, directed and starring Ari Gold. AoP  took a long and winding road to market and Ari was extremely open about mistakes he made and things he got right.  His film was finally released on DVD in January 2011 by Phase4 and he had a small theatrical release working with Variance Films in the fall of 2009.

Ari Gold shared his experiences in releasing his film Adventures of Power

One thing Ari shared with us is his experience in handling publicity.

“Having never done [a theatrical tour] before, I thought ‘ok let’s do it, let’s do what an indie [theatrical distributor] would do.’ But what I didn’t realize was how much work goes into putting a movie in theaters than just getting it into a theater. Consistently in our theatrical release, we would do better on the last day than we would on the first day which was a sign that in a sense we were doing the right thing because word was spreading in each town, but because the way the theaters are, they determine whether a film will continue its run within the first 48 hours so that didn’t work in our favor. I would come into a town on Friday when the film would open to try and get some press but [articles] didn’t run until Sunday or Monday and by then they [the theater] had already cancelled the extension of the run. It wasn’t until my last city, Portland, Oregon, that I realized we had structured this incorrectly in the sense that I had to be in each city at least a week or more ahead of time to do press.”

“At the same time, the local newspapers have all been hard hit by staff cuts and we couldn’t get the film reviewed locally. We were playing their theater, but we weren’t deemed press worthy because we weren’t a mainstream release and that is frustrating.  Studio indies have the muscle of the studio marketing and publicity machine behind them, they can force a review to be done and we didn’t and that is when I realized I had to turn my focus away from mainstream press and doing what a studio machine would do, instead I concentrated on connecting directly with the people of those communities.  That’s what’s good about the internet, you can really pinpoint people in a community who would like your film.”

“The traditional publicity that came with our DVD release was not able to get us much press and not on rock music stations. So my partner and I bought an email list of every radio station in the US and Canada and we emailed them all. I had to use a spam email program to do that and probably about 15% of the emails made it through past a filter and then to actually be read. But it lead to maybe 40-50 radio interviews with college and traditional radio that we got completely on our own. I got an email from one of the colleges after I did the interview with them and they said our movie was the number one movie rental on campus.  No one would have heard of the movie much less rent or buy it if I hadn’t done that interview.”

“On the one hand, I can do all of the work that a studio marketing department can do, at home on my laptop and with a camera. But the flipside is, I HAVE to and where will I find the time to do my next work, my next film when I have to spend so much time reaching the fans of the film I just made?  It would be great to be one of the few doing this inside of the system or who was plucked out of Sundance to be the next ‘made man’ and you go to premiere and the press just shows up and everything is paid for by Fox Searchlight.”

But he wasn’t the “made man” for this release and most people aren’t with their films so it is better to plan for taking on this work as Plan A and Plan B is that the load will be lightened if you do get the golden ticket.

To read more about the story behind bringing Adventures of Power to an audience including the amount of time, effort and money it took, read Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by PreScreen coming in September 2011. Also ‘like’ our Facebook page.