Comprised of analyst and journalist, Charles Gant, British Producer Stephen Follows and film distributor David Wilkinson this seminar dealt with box office figures and why screenwriters should pay attention to them.
Speaking about British film in particular, theatrical release is a tricky business. Most films want it and most distributors will try to place it but this is perhaps something that is not serving the industry as very few films make profit from theatrical screenings. When it comes to smaller films, there is the problem of there being just too many produced. Theatrical distribution windows are tight, often they compete against both mainstream films and other independents and as people don’t really go to see four films a week so if you are competing for theatrical box office you have to be compelling. Nice films alone are not enough and if a film lacks clear focus it’s harder to find a market. Strait drama for instance doesn’t work in theatrical. It’s done very well on TV so there’s no market for it in cinemas when people can get it at home for free, and broadcasters make films now so sales to TV are only a fraction as profitable as they used to be ten years ago.
All of this sounds quite depressing and it’s true that there are problems facing the industry. Paying attention to the box office though can help a writer see what audience want and what motivates them to theatrical screenings of film, plus identifying the trends and companies making the films that succeed.
It occurred to me walking away from the session that if I was in the business of marketing my work to other directors and sold screenplays that ended up as flops, then my my future as a screenwriter would probably begin to dry up and if I could market my work to the right people and my first few scripts produced did well then I’d be more likely to have a long and sustainable career. I’ll be subscribing to Charles Gant’s Box Office Analysis forthwith!