Over the past few days there has been much chatter about a film that was released in UK theatres this weekend. You can watch the trailer here.
It’s called ‘Motherhood’, stars Academy Award nominee Uma Thurman, UK star Minnie Driver, and TV show ‘ER’ helmer Anthony Edwards. Here’s the plot outline from IMDB is… In Manhattan, a mother of two preparing for her daughter's sixth birthday party has no idea of the challenges she's about to face in order to pull off the event.
Sounds like it should do SOME business right?
Last weekend, the total UK Theatrical Box Office for ‘Motherhood’ was $131 (£86).
That’s right. Eighty six pounds.
Watch the trailer (if you haven’t already) and remember that figure of £86.
That’s less than ten people in the whole of the UK who actually bought tickets. Of course the tax man will take 17.5% of that £86 (VAT), the theatre will take 75% of the remaining, leaving only enough for a round of venti latte’s at Starbucks for the film makers. Oh hang on, no the film makers wont get a penny as the distributor has to recoup many £thousands first, AND take their fee for releasing it – and remember, distributors, like the cinema owners, are not in business to cash flow my film, your film or this film. Nor are they in business to lose money.
Wow. What a stark reminder of just how tough the market is out there.
But… the rabbit hole goes deeper.
- The film is not very good (though it’s not terrible either)
- The film was released in one cinema in London only. Very little PR was done
- This limited release is a tactic to gain exposure and reviews for DVD, VOD and TV sales. They expected to do very little business in theatres (though maybe not this little)
- The distributor may have been contractually bound to release the film in theatres when in fact, it should never have appeared in theatres (but the film maker demanded it), therefore they did the minimum needed to fulfil their end of the deal.
- The DVD was released on the same day as the theatrical release (figures not available yet, but let’s not jump to any conclusions).
Metrodome released the film and their very own James Brown gave a presentation at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School just last week… Here is what was reported on the Last Night With Riviera Blog.
Metrodome's James Brown gave a rambling presentation on the state of UK distribution. He'd just learned that Metrodome's chair had let go of large portion of the staff and was pulling the company out of theatrical (12 films a year) to concentrate solely on DVD (60 films a year), which informed much of his talk. In an hour of constant, roundabout banter, he made only two real points (over and over again):
- the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) has killed UK distribution, which is on life support. Retailers are going out of business. Theatrical is dying. There is no theatrical audience over the age of 35 in the UK. We don't know how lucky we have it here etc.
- In the UK, the audiences for theatrical and video are distinct. This means that, for example, you can make UKP 2.4 million on Broken Embraces at the box-office, but only ship 1,000 DVD's. Or UKP 800,000 on Away We Go and only ship 800 copies of the DVD in the 1st month. Conversely, it means there are massive DVD audiences for films which would not warrant a theatrical release, such as Metrodome's moneymaker for 2009, Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus. (Hey James, have you seen Chihuanhas?)
- His main message: "I'm here to give you permission to make commercial crap to fund your passion project". His next project: derivative WWII action Age of Heroes.
Read the whole blog entry here
This unprecedented turbulence and fluidity in the market is the biggest challenge we film makers now face.
We can’t rely on anyone but ourselves to create our own distribution models and helm the release ourselves. Think about it, if the film maker had mounted their own campaign for ‘Motherhood’, do you think they could have improved on that £86? I am pretty sure YOU would have done better.
This is one of the messages of the workshop that I am running with Jon Reiss and Sheri Candler next month. We MUST take control of our own distribution, by connecting with audiences and running distribution models that are hyper efficient and targeted to maximise exposure, cash returns and generate new opportunities for further exploitation. Can you afford your film to take just £86 at the box office? I can’t.
The old model is broken, the new model is evolving, but finally, we are in control. Check it out here.
Onwards and upwards!