The Dismal Future of the Film Business

7 03 2008

Two unrelated pieces in today’s Hollywood Reporter point to the sad state of film distribution today and, inadvertantly, show us why I (for one) am desperately hoping that the major studios don’t get their hands too firmly on the Internet.

First, Gregg Kilday (in a pretty persuasive piece) talks about the recent MPAA report on the movie industry for 2007. Buried underneath all of the record setting numbers was the statistic that admissions stayed pretty flat. Now, that’s not news. But what was eye-opening is a survey he did of the films playing in the theaters this past weekend, where:

“… there were only 16 titles playing in wide release on more than 1,000 screens. Three of those were the Oscar winners “No COuntry For Old Men,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “Juno,” enjoying their moment in the limelight. Take them out of themix and there was only one wide release, “The Bucket List,” that had been in theaters longer than four weeks.”The reality is that most wide releases come and go after just a month, a practice dictated by the costs of the TV ad buys that support wide openings.”

Now, that is pretty scary. It’s clear that most of the film distributors don’t have the foggiest notion of what to do with films below 1,000 openings. They’re simply not built for it.

The second Reporter piece noted that Nancy Myers’ 1998 film THE PARENT TRAP cost $80 million bucks with no stars, a figure that most people found dangerously horrible back then (I still do, but no one’s listening to me). The piece, in the “Around The World” column, goes on to report that the average cost of negative and marketing for a studio film hit $106.6 million dollars, almost five percent more than a year ago. But that’s the majors, you say. Thank god for the indie distributors. Leaving out the question of what indie distributors, the column goes on to note:

News at the studios’ specialty divisions was no better, with the cost of a specialty unit title jumping 54% to $74.8 million.

Sit back and soak that figure in ladies and germs — the average specialty film cost nearly $75,000,000 film to make and market. It’s no wonder that the indie films at this year’s Sundance could barely be distinguished from the studio films (except for the word “tentpole”). If you want your film to have a chance at theatrical distribution on more than three screens, you have to make a film that can earn back way more than $75 million bucks.

That’s why people like myself are praying that we can come up with an independent model for publicizing Web-based films. It’s why we’re hoping that indies can find distribution and publicity on places like iTunes, Amazon, Facebook, MySpace and the like. Indies are never going to get their films seen by $75 million dollars worth of people unless they are indie in self-proclaimed name only.

None of the major studios (nor their indie arms) can think of spending the time and energy to market a film cheaply. They think in terms of national ad buys which cost gazillions. And, when you combine that with Kilday’s statistic, and you get a marketplace in which there is very little room for a film that needs to sit for a while in the theaters. I don’t see many theater owners willing to do that either.

So, where do we go for the old fashioned sort of release pattern, where a film would sit in a theatre for ten weeks to make its ten million bucks back?

Change that figure to one million bucks and you can intuit my answer to that — the Internet and a distribution system that could project films in small houses via the Web (or a similar system).

It’s really the only way we’re going to see films that don’t fit into the standard mold.

Advertisements

Actions

Information

5 responses

10 03 2008
MPAA Releases 2007 Stats, Useful For Indies? at FreshDV

[…] report here (PDF). Another opinion on this new data comes via Norman Hollyn in an article entitled The Dismal Future of the Film Business. Share […]

13 03 2008
Elliott Tucker

I agree and pray Hollywood does not muck the indie market. The Hollywood blockbuster mentality is so yesterday’s news. Depressing actually. Indie filmmakers need to look closely at just why Hollywood requires such ridiculous payback just to break even and avoid those mistakes. I believe copy protection will kill Hollywood. I don’t want to spend my hard earned cash on the latest greatest TrueHD audio Hollywood extravaganza if the price of admission is $1000’s of bucks just because Hollywood wants to protect its HD content. I simply want to connect my watch tv over the internet using my computer connected to a decent audio/video system. Hollywood be dammed. Indies unite; Indies forever!

8 04 2008
Future of Movie Distribution « The Interactor

[…] None of the major studios (nor their indie arms) can think of spending the time and energy to market a film cheaply. They think in terms of national ad buys which cost gazillions. And, when you combine that with Kilday’s statistic, and you get a marketplace in which there is very little room for a film that needs to sit for a while in the theaters. I don’t see many theater owners willing to do that either.” (via here) […]

3 05 2008
Indie Films — The New Way « H o l l y n - w o o d (Norman, that is)

[…] distribution has backed itself into a corner from which there is no clear escape (see “The Dismal Future of the Film Business” and “The Future of Theatrical Indies“).  I’ve mentioned that seeing […]

24 11 2008
Screens, Screens, Screens « H o l l y n - w o o d (Norman, that is)

[…] okay, so I have said it before. Often. Very often. And again and again. But you can’t stop me […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: