Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Distribution is Important

Really the whole point of film festivals is to secure distribution deals for good movies. The three most prestigious film festivals are commonly regarded to be Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Festival and Sundance Film Festival. Of course there is also Tribeca and South By Southwest (commonly spelled SXSW).

Distribution deals help get your film into theaters and other/further platforms: DVD, cable and network TV. Other rights can include soundtrack CDs, posters, games, toys and other merchandising.

A distributor already has a relationship and connections with all of these outlets. It’s the difference between trying (emphasis on trying) to get a meeting with ONE distributor like (Disney owned) Buena Vista and someone who can and WILL get a meeting with Buena Vista and SEVEN other companies. Buena Vista will probably not let you near the building. Sometimes a lot of films with big stars won’t secure distribution through the festival circuit.

Of course there are new trends like online distribution, but securing a distribution deal especially for a picture that costs several million dollars will offer a ROI (return on investment). There is also a new distribution model I talked about here where a network of theaters across the nation is committed to showing several black movies in a strictly grassroots (word of mouth) means.

The whole point of making a film is to get it seen by an audience. Distribution will further that goal.

To further crystallize I have this funny story.

I want to compare two African American films I saw last year. Since I have made it a practice NOT to diss a bad movie on my blog, for I know what hard work it is to get a movie made, I will call one movie "Bad Movie X" or BMX and the other which I do like…Night Catches Us or NCU.

A friend of mine calls me up and says I want you to check out this movie. I say what is this some vampire flick? (She likes vampires). She said no check this movie out. I say ok. What I saw was the most ridiculous crap I ever seen. It wasn’t satire like ‘Don’t Drink Your Juice in the Hood’ or whatever it’s called. It was supposed to be drama. I have to say that she is not into film like me, but even she could see what a bad film this was. I told her it looked like they had some money to shoot this though. It looked like at least $1 million to me. Surprisingly we BOTH wanted to see this movie. We thought maybe it’s better than it looks.

I checked and BMX was playing in like seven theaters in Maryland. We saw it at a theater with the other two couples there (six people total audience) and…our instincts weren’t wrong. BOY was it bad. About halfway through I turned to her and said “Is this supposed to be a comedy?” The acting, story…just bad.

After I see a great movie I like to read all about it (Wikipedia/IMDb etc.) and weirdly I had the same desire of research for this movie. I subsequently found out that:
  • BMX had a Domestic Total Gross of $2,595,644 with a Production Budget of $1.6 million.
  • Night Catches Us had a Domestic Total Gross of $76,185 with a N/A Production Budget.
I also found out that BMX was distributed by Bad Movie Releasing (not the real name) who has distributed about 2 films a year since 2006 according to my research.

I think it’s a shame that a good movie like Night Catches Us can’t get distributed in theaters in Maryland and this one could. NCU was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and it was THEIR choice to distribute it on OnDemand and iTunes which they probably had NO problem doing so. Magnolia will help NCU in the long run get into MORE media outlets. Bad Movie Releasing will get their movie out there, but not like Magnolia.

Say Bad Movie Releasing will get 10 DVDs to Netflix while Magnolia will get 50 DVDs to Netflix. Something like ‘Transformers 2’ will get like 150-200, but that’s the environment.

Personally I like seeing bad movies as much as I like seeing good ones. Yes it wastes my time, but you have to see the bad to know what NOT to do.

You can read what I had to say about Night Catches Us (and another great film) here

Related posts-
The NEW Distribution Model

Related link-
A more technical breakdown of film distribution can be found at
How Movie Distribution Works

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