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?
In how many cities did you have alternative theatrical screenings?
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?
How much did you gross on your alternative theatrical release?
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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