“How Reese Witherspoon and Megan Ellison are changing the movies”

November 24th, 2014 by

A Washington Post feature by Alyssa Rosenberg:

Last week, I wrote about how hard it was going to be to fill the slate of Best Actress nominees at the Academy Awards, given how few movies this year gave women significant screen time and rich, complex parts. But two of the movies that have produced genuine contenders–David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” and Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Wild”–have one thing in common: Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Pacific Standard.

Witherspoon, who was part of the Hollywood Reporter’s annual actress roundtable, told the magazine that her success as both a producer and a potential Best Actress contender (she stars as memoirist Cheryl Strayed in “Wild”) were the result of a recent decision: to stop waiting for other people to start making movies about interesting female characters.

“I can’t speak for other people. I just recognize that about three years ago, I started seeing this complete lack of interesting female leads in film. First I got mad, really mad. And then I was like, “It’s nobody’s fault; if you’re not proactive about things …” I’d had a company before, but it was basically about trying to develop things that I would eventually be in,” Witherspoon explained. “So I just switched the idea: If I can develop anything for any other women, I don’t care who it is; I just want my daughter to grow up seeing complex, interesting, nuanced women in film. So I started it with my own money — you know, the first thing people tell you is, “Don’t put your own money into anything” — so I was like, is this really dumb? But I got a great partner [Bruna Papandrea] and the first two things I sent her were ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Wild.’ And those were the first books that we optioned.”

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Witherspoon is hardly the first woman to make this hike, of course. Her potential awards-season dominance recalls that of Megan Ellison (daughter of billionaire Larry Ellison), whose Annapurna Pictures production company has also turned out a reliable series of contenders and intelligent provocations. Annapurna Pictures movies tend to be less intrigued by the inner lives of women, and they are more likely than Pacific Standard films to have male main characters. But the women in movies Ellison makes never seem less than formidable and fascinating, even when they have to swipe the movie from a male co-star or lead.

As Darnell Hunt in my recent interview suggested, the issue of gender and racial inequality on all fronts of the Hollywood movie and TV business is systemic. One thing that is needed is for creatives to take the lead in creating and championing stories that embrace diversity as well as compelling, interesting characters.

What Witherspoon is doing is admirable, but we don’t have to be a movie star to take up the call. As writers, we have a choice as to the type of material we write. If we’ve got a great story idea that features a female and/or ethnic lead, don’t let conventional wisdom stop you. Write that script. The more and better material out there, the more likely we’ll scripts that embrace diversity get produced.

For the rest of the WAPO article, go here.

Does a record-setting October box office mean anything?

November 5th, 2014 by

Per Box Office Mojo:

Overall business totaled $755 million, which is up a whopping 20 percent from last October. It’s also a new October record ahead of 2009’s $693 million haul.

While Gone Girl and Annabelle were the top performers, the big year-over-year increase can be chalked up to strong numbers in the middle. Seven titles earned between $30 and $55 million in October; in comparison, only one movie wound up in that range last year (Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa).

I’ll grant you $30-$55M is peanuts compared to the revenues generated by big summer superhero franchise movies. However consider the October numbers with these Box Office Mojo headlines from this last summer:

May Box Office Hits Lowest Level Since 2010

June Box Office Down 16 Percent From Last Year’s Record

July Box Office Falls Short of $1 Billion

August ended the summer on an up note, primarily due to Guardians of the Galaxy, however the fact is movies underperformed domestically this year while October set a record.

Does that mean anything? I’d like to think it does, specifically there are audiences who enjoy Comedy, Drama, Family, Horror, and genres other than Science Fiction and whatever we might choose to call Superhero movies. The more Hollywood can expand their development slates to include those genres, they can stop leaving that money on the table.

Ron Meyer on Hollywood ‘Assholes,’ CAA ‘Monsters’ and Advice for the Next Generation

October 15th, 2014 by

The Wrap’s Jeff Sneider provided a good summary of a recent appearance by one of the most powerful people in Hollywood:

NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer headlined the spotlight interview at TheGrill on Tuesday, where he sat down for an intimate chat with Jason Blum titled “When Does a Mogul Become a Legend?”

Meyer and Blum had a solid rapport, which comes as no surprise given that Universal and Blumhouse have a 10-year first-look production agreement.

Blum was especially impressed that in a town where executives trade jobs like musical chairs, Meyer has stayed at the same place for 20 years, prompting him to share his secret to longevity.

Here is one quote I found particularly insightful, Meyer talking about how he started out as a young agent:

“I was never the smartest person but I had certain fundamentals that really made the difference. Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups and it changed my life. I decided I’d treat people the way I wanted to be treated. You can be a chump once but not twice. You can’t always tell the truth but you have to tell the best truth you can and work as hard as you possibly can. No matter what job you have to do, ‘yes’ and ‘thank you’ are the two best words. I said “yes” to everything they wanted and thanked them for letting me do it.”

You could pretty much strip out each sentence in that paragraph as takeaways:

Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups.

I decided I’d treat people the way I wanted to be treated.

You can be a chump once but not twice.

You can’t always tell the truth but you have to tell the best truth you can and work as hard as you possibly can.

No matter what job you have to do, ‘yes’ and ‘thank you’ are the two best words.

Every May, I send off a wonderful group of college graduates off to internships in Hollywood. I suspect I’ll walk them through each of these tidbits, insight into how Hollywood power brokers think… and pretty good advice for getting ahead in the business.

Here is some video of the session:

For the rest of the article, go here.

The ‘shortening’ of movies

October 14th, 2014 by

In my conversations with fellow screenwriters, there is a general consensus that the typical movie scene is getting shorter. Whereas scenes 50 years ago might have 3-4 pages long on average, when I first broke into the business in the late 80s, the rule of thumb was 2 pages. Nowadays it feels like the average scene is more like 1 1/2 pages long.

Likewise there is a sense that what used to function as the end Act One plot point now is more likely to occur at the midpoint of the first act.

The same seems to be at work with page count. A quarter-century ago, a normal script might run to 120 pages. Nowadays I talk to writers who like to hit 110, even 105 as an ideal length.

In thinking about this phenomenon of ‘shortening’ movies, there’s really nothing more than anecdotal evidence. Sure, we can screen the 1984 original version of The Karate Kid, note that Miyagi doesn’t officially start training Daniel until nearly midway through the story (although he has been teaching him basic hand motions in a surreptitious fashion), and realize that could never happen in a contemporary movie.

Audiences are smarter. They need less setup. They want to get into the action quicker. Everything about social media is about fast, faster, fastest, and that seems to be reflected in contemporary movies.

But again, no hard evidence… until now. From a recent Wired magazine article:

As filmmaking technology has advanced, films have changed to take advantage of it. The 2005 version of King Kong looks and feels nothing like the 1933 version. The newer Kong appears in vivid color, and thanks to CGI he’s a convincingly lifelike beast. The original soundtrack is tinny and shrill; in the newer one, the great ape’s snorts and growls are deep and realistic.

Movies have changed in less obvious ways too, says James Cutting, a psychologist at Cornell University who’s been studying the evolution of cinema. Cutting presented some of his findings at a recent event here sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “All these things are working to hold our attention better,” Cutting said.

The average shot length of English language films has declined from about 12 seconds in 1930 to about 2.5 seconds today, Cutting said. At the Academy event he showed a scatter plot with data from the British film scholar Barry Salt, who’s calculated the average shot duration in more than 15,000 movies made between 1910 and 2010. That’s a lot of shots. In a 2010 study, Cutting found an average of 1,132 shots per film in a smaller sample of 150 movies made between 1935 and 2010; the King Kong remake, incidentally, had the most: A whopping 3,099 shots packed into 187 minutes.

Here is a chart visualizing that data:

shot-length

Why this trend?

Cutting says some people have tried to pin declining shot lengths on MTV, by invoking a sort of video-killed-the-attention-span hypothesis. He doesn’t buy it. For one thing, Salt’s graph of declining shot durations has no obvious inflection point in or after 1982, the year MTV was born. Shot durations were declining before that, and they kept declining at a similar rate after.

Cutting isn’t sure what’s driving the change. One factor could be that older films tended to pack more characters into a shot. As a result, film makers had to allow more time for viewers to look around to see who was there. In one recent study Cutting found that each additional character added 1.5 seconds to the length of a shot on average.

So here is actual empirical evidence that at least one respect, there is some shortening effect going on in movies: the length of camera shots.

Does this buttress the argument that there is a shortening effect at work in movies: scenes, Act One, page count? What do you think? And if this is a trend, why do you think it’s happening?

For the rest of the Wired article, go here.

HT to Franklin Leonard for surfacing the article.

Is this the model for a “next-generation film studio”?

September 25th, 2014 by

This interesting news item was announced in March:

Several years ago, the Hollywood producer Robert Simonds Jr. began thinking about how a movie studio for today’s age — with the ascendance of China and a dizzying array of distribution channels — should look.

Now Mr. Simonds and his backers, including TPG Growth and the Chinese investment firm Hony Capital, think they have the answer.

The group plans to announce on Monday the formation of a studio with ambitions to fill in a space abandoned by bigger rivals. Its focus: $40 million movies featuring big-name stars, the kind of comedies and dramas that have lost some currency in Hollywood, displaced by giant summer spectacles. The group’s goal is to invest more than $1 billion in new projects over the next five years.

The thing that caught my attention: $40 million movies. That is precisely the type of budget the major studios have been avoiding like the plague. So duly noted until the venture took more shape. Cut to yesterday when this was announced:

Former Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson has been tapped as chairman of the motion picture group at Robert Simonds’ new film and television studio.

Fogelson, a film biz vet who headed Universal Pictures from 2009 through September 2013, will oversee all aspects of the company’s motion picture group, including its production, marketing, distribution and home entertainment strategy.

Bringing in the former chairman of a major studio is big news and tops a list of several important hires in the last six months. More information on their business strategy:

The still-unnamed studio is currently ramping up to finance and self-release up to 10 films a year, produced with budgets in the $20 million-$60 million range.

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It was a natural for Fogelson to turn to the slate of 34 to 40 films he greenlit while at Universal, including “Safe House,” “Contraband,” “Identity Thief,” “Bridesmaids,” even “Neighbors” — successful mid-range budgeted titles that fit the model of Simonds’ new company.

“Being able to hyper-focus on that with the kind of size and scale and do it 10 times a year,” eventually got Fogelson to join Simonds’ team, he said.

With the major studios making fewer movies and focusing on either $100M+ franchise movies or micro-to-low budget genres films, there is this gaping hole in the middle which this venture is making the centerpiece of their business strategy. In fact, it is being dubbed a “next-generation film studio”. Hyperbole? Probably. But then this happened two days ago:

Citing the explosive growth of Chinese giant Alibaba, Fosun chairman Guo Guangchang predicted great things from former Warner Bros. film chief Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 at a press briefing with top Sony Pictures brass and Robinov at the Sony lot Tuesday evening.

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Generally, Robinov said he is looking to make the types of broadly commercial and “visually unique” films he made at Warner Bros., which included Ben Affleck’s Argo and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Anticipating a staff of about 15, his company will have green-light authority but rely on Sony for marketing and distribution. Within three years, he hopes to be releasing as many as six movies annually.

Robinov said he will make films of varying budgets from $45 million to north of $100 million, looking “opportunistically” for projects that could be Chinese co-productions or otherwise “take advantage of Fosun’s relationships in China.”

Apart from the fact Studio 8 is tied to Sony, there are a couple of similarities between this venture and the Simonds/Fogelson initiative: (1) Chinese funding. (2) Mid-range budgets: $20-$60M / $45M-$100M.

Does this represent the wave of the future? Maybe. For screenwriters, it should mean more movies which translates into more gigs. Yea! Hopefully it means more movies for folks who like comedies such as Neighbors and Bridesmaids, dramas like Argo and Safe House, and other mid-priced movies featuring actual human beings, not just CGI eye-candy. Double yea!

What do you think? Are you encouraged by these developments? Think it will succeed? Head to comments and let me know what you think.

How Movies Synchronize the Brains of an Audience

September 1st, 2014 by

Reboots. Remakes. Sequels. Prequels. Franchises. And now this:

Picture a movie theater, packed for the opening night of a blockbuster film. Hundreds of strangers sit next to each other, transfixed. They tend to blink at the same time. Even their brain activity is, to a remarkable degree, synchronized.

It’s a slightly creepy thought. It’s also a testament to the captivating power of cinema, says Uri Hasson, a psychologist at Princeton University. At a recent event hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Hasson presented his research into what happens inside people’s brains when they watch movies. His work got a receptive but somewhat wary reaction from several film makers, including Jon Favreau (Swingers, Iron Man, Chef) and Darren Aronofsky (Pi, The Wrestler, Black Swan).

“Somewhat wary reaction”? Seems to me this could take Hollywood’s formula fetish to a whole other level:

On the second evening of the two-night event, Aronofsky and his writing partner and sometimes co-producer, Ari Handel, were on stage with the scientists as Hasson presented the results of a small study he’d done with a clip from Black Swan. It comes near the end as Nina, the main character portrayed by Natalie Portman, is unraveling. She hallucinates black feathers poking through the skin on her back. It’s an intense scene, and like that of Dog Day Afternoon, it seemed to get nearly 70 percent of the cortex firing in synch across subjects.

“They do look very similar, but it’d be more surprising if they didn’t,” said Handel, who earned a PhD in neuroscience at New York University before getting into movies. “If you’re watching a movie, that’s your entire sensorium and your feelings.” If people’s brains were out of synch during a movie, Handel suggested, that might be a bad sign that their minds were wandering. One person might be thinking about the call they need to make, while another contemplates making a popcorn run.

“It’s a scary tool for the studios to have,” Aronofsky said. “Soon they’ll do test screenings with people in MRIs.” The audience laughed, but it didn’t seem like he was joking, at least not entirely.

Here you go: Movie test screen audience of the future!

For the rest of the Wired article, go here.

Major Hollywood Studios Current Business Approach: Big Budget Franchise and Low-Budget Genre

August 27th, 2014 by

I have written about the bifurcated business approach currently in vogue with Hollywood’s major studios: Big budget franchise movies on the one end, low budget genre films on the other. This Variety article from last week — “Universal Veers From Superhero Trend for a Monster Plan” — is further proof of this business model:

While most studios in Hollywood are betting on superheroes to save the box office, Universal Pictures is doubling down on creature features.

This month, the studio acquired rights to Anne Rice’s “The Vampire Chronicles” book series. In July, it announced plans to create a Marvel-like cinematic universe around Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Invisible Man and the Creature From the Black Lagoon.

At the same time, the studio inked an eyebrow-raising 10-year, first-look deal with microbudget horror producer Jason Blum, whose Blumhouse Films is behind the profitable “Paranormal Activity,” “Sinister,” “Insidious” and “The Purge” franchises. Last summer, the studio lured Legendary Entertainment into the fold, and now the production firm is co-financing U’s “Jurassic World” and “Dracula Untold,” and has its own upcoming thrillers, including “As Above, So Below” and King Kong tentpole “Skull Island,” which Universal will release.

Right there in that third paragraph, we see these two strategies butted up against each other: Microbudget horror movies (Blumhouse Films); Big budget franchise movies (Legendary Entertainment).

Of course, writers well-versed in subtext will note: There’s nothing in the middle. No mid-budget movies anywhere in sight. For fans of adult dramas and thrillers, or comedies with A-list talent, by and large the fate of those type of films is in the hands of various financiers and their co-productions. Fortunately, there are a lot of those filling the void created by the major studios.

But the question is: Will this bifurcated model be able to sustain itself for the next 5-10 years? What do you think?

Bifurcation

For the rest of the Variety article, go here.

Update: Gender in Spec Script Sales

July 23rd, 2014 by

Earlier this month, I posted this, an update on spec script sales by gender from 1991-2013. GITS reader Rich Kachold went through each of the sales from 2013 and caught a few discrepancies, so the Black List team went through everything one more time, this time including some sales posted by Jason Scoggins I had not included. Here is the revised infographic:

Gender-in-Spec-Sales 2013 Final

While the percentage of spec sales by women from 2011-2013 ticks up from 9% to 10%, that number is still remarkably low.

A bit of good news is there is another great resource available to screenwriters, especially women: Chicks Who Script has just started doing a regular podcast. The three hosts: Emily Blake, Maggie F. Levin, and Lauren Schacher. Check it out and spread the word!

Note: It is impossible to track every single spec spec transaction. The numbers here are based on the best information available.

Many thanks to Susana Orozco for taking the time and effort to aggregate the data for last year, Rich Kachold and Kate Hagen for reviewing the 2013 sales to provide this year’s updated information.

UPDATE: Stephen Follows has done a bunch of research on this question: What percentage of a film crew is female? Go here to see the results.

A proposal about uncredited screenwriters

July 23rd, 2014 by

I recently posted an interview with Joss Whedon in which he talked for the first time about his work rewriting the script for the movie Speed. Here is an excerpt:

Whedon: In my whole career, I’ve never had to talk about it. I’ve never signed a copy of it, I’ve never sort of been a part of it. And I was proud of it, I worked hard on it, I had a really great time and I worked with really cool people. I thought it was good stuff. Graham has been very generous, but I did not get a credit on it. The studio gave me one, but then the Writers Guild of America took it away, and I was pretty devastated. I have the only poster with my credit on it.

A majority of movies produced in Hollywood have had multiple writers work on them, most of them uncredited. Sometimes the writer doesn’t even seek credit, generally the case with ‘script doctors’ who work strictly for hire. Other times, writers actively seek credit, but do not receive it due to the determination of the WGA arbitration process.

Which leads to an odd situation: There can be literally hundreds of people credited with working on a movie, yet one or more writers who contributed to the development of the script receive zero credit.

So why not this credit: “Additional Writing By” and list all the other writers who were hired to work on the project? Slot it in the end credits crawl which would set off the credited writers with their own title card.

You may ask, “What if a writer contributed only one scene to the final movie? Why should s/he deserve an Additional Writing By credit?” What if the one scene is an important moment or plot point? Isn’t that creative contribution worth at least some public recognition? But even if the scene isn’t all that critical, it’s still a narrative element that would not in all likelihood exist in the final cut were it not for the work of this currently uncredited writer. I’d say that writer deserves some acknowledgement for their creative input.

You may ask, “What if the writer didn’t contribute even one scene, one character, one piece of dialogue to the movie? How in the world does s/he deserve an Additional Writing By credit?”

Writing a script involves thousands of choices. Decisions made and pages written that end up being tossed aside does not mean they are without value. Indeed, if Uncredited Writer’s draft explores, let’s say, twelve narrative possibilities that end up being rejected, that is not a negative in terms of the creative process, but rather a positive. First, the filmmaking team now knows they don’t have to go that way again. Second, those choices that end up not working for the final draft will almost assuredly help subsequent writers and the creative team determine what does make sense. So even if there are zero words of Uncredited Writer appearing in the shooting script, the fact is that writer has been part of a creative process which eventually led to a final draft, a story which may never have been realized without the choices made by that very same writer.

Here’s the thing: The use of Additional Writing By will never happen for at least two reasons: (1) I believe the WGA would look at it as cheapening the contributions of the credited writers. (2) It would expose how crazy Hollywood’s approach is to script development. Like the 11 writers 20th Century Fox hired to write The A-Team. Hell, I’ve participated as a judge in a WGA arbitration in which there 18 writers involved. Does Hollywood really want the public to see a list of writers hired per each movie that approximates the length of the Gettysburg Address?

And yet, it just doesn’t seem right for a writer to slave away on a one or more script drafts, perhaps representing six months or more of their creative effort, only to receive a big fat nada in terms of official recognition for their work. You think that doesn’t hurt? Look again at what Joss Whedon said about being denied a credit on Speed: “I was pretty devastated.”

Doesn’t the idea of Additional Writing By seem like a sensible, fair idea? Tell me if I’m wrong and why. Or perhaps you have a better idea. If so, head to comments to carry on this conversation to see if we can make invisible writers become visible… and receive credit for their creative efforts.

Has “Snowpiercer” shifted the VOD / theatrical model for indie films?

July 22nd, 2014 by

If you are interesting in the business of movies, especially in emerging trends, this is a must-read from Indiewire by Anne Thompson and Tom Brueggemann because it suggests we are witnessing a paradigm shift happening before our very eyes that could have enormous implications in the indie film world.

Thirty years in, Harvey Weinstein knows the distribution business. While he’s a wily theatrical animal who knows when to spend big on a wide release and when to dump a movie, he took a radical route with Bong Joon-ho’s action adventure “Snowpiercer,” starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, seizing the chance to try something new. Weinstein’s decision to open an action picture with major movie stars via autonomous subsidiary RADiUS with a video-on-demand release two weeks after its theatrical opening is rippling through the film community.

As the Hollywood studios struggle with a depressed summer box office, losing the fickle young male demo and locked into a standoff with theater chains on release windows, they’re watching the independents experiment with video-on-demand release models. “Snowpiercer” marks a tipping point in the movie industry’s shift from analog to digital. Why? It marks the most commercial movie to ever open in theaters and quickly go to VOD.

According to Weinstein, following two weeks in theaters, “Snowpiercer”‘s first week on VOD earned $2 million, a company record.

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Recognizing the shifts in the market, Weinstein banked on the VOD future three years ago by starting an autonomous division at The Weinstein Co., RADiUS, headed by two presidents, Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, who had pioneered theatrical/VOD releasing at Magnolia under president Eamonn Bowles. Believing passionately that there’s a bigger audience to be found on VOD, the duo have been experimenting with different models for multi-platform releases, from premium video-on-demand, which makes a film available at a high premium price-point ahead of theatrical, to theatrical with a much shorter VOD window.

The traditional model is at least a 90 day window between theatrical and VOD release. From an exhibitor’s perspective, this makes sense because it gives theaters an exclusivity period which “incentivizes” people to get out of their homes and into the local bijou. That model still stands for major studio releases, but things are changing rapidly in the indie world.

The Indiewire article goes into great length about how Weinstein determined not to go the traditional wide theatrical release route for Snowpiercer [bottom line, he didn’t think the movie was mainstream enough to warrant those P&A costs], but rather opted to do two weeks in limited theaters, then to VOD — to generate revenue and build buzz — and then to increased theatrical exposure.

What’s really informative about the article is this:

Here’s TOH box office analyst Tom Brueggemann’s financial projected breakdown based on a 2500-screen theatrical release reaching a projected $50 million, based on sources inside and outside TWC and RADiUS.

The theatrical breakdown:

  • Marketing expense of $25 million
  • Film rental (45%) of $22.5 million
  • Weinstein has an ongoing deal with Netflix (RADiUS as an autonomous company owned by Weinstein doesn’t fall under this). Sources familiar with gross-based Netflix deals suggest that the payout to TWC could have been around $10 million.
  • Blu-Ray/DVD would have grossed around $6 million (split revenue, with around $3 million net to TWC).
  • Cable, depreciated somewhat by Netflix exposure, perhaps $6 million more.

Using those figures (again, all of this comes from discussions with multiple players who have worked on specialized films that have grossed in this range, but these could vary widely) show that at $50 million gross TWC would end up netting around $18 million after marketing is deducted when all initial platform revenues came in.

The VOD breakdown: VOD earnings are harder to calculate and project, but here’s a stab after discussing details with multiple industry sources:

  • The first week’s reported total earnings on VOD and iTunes was $2 million, ranking #1 on the latter. Industry estimates on the distributor return — RADiUS would not confirm any specific deals — ranges from 60 to 80%, much more than theatrical.
  • Theatrical gross is up to $3.5 million, with $5 million or higher possible. That would mean film rental of between $2-2.5 million. Marketing of about $5 million is a fraction of what TWC’s would have been (increasing VOD sales), but likely could equal the film’s theater gross.
  • Radius cites 85 million potential customers (multiple people can view the same purchase). 1-2% of these potential buyers actually purchasing the film — a high number for a first-run or shortly thereafter VOD title — would mean somewhere between 850,000 and 1.7 million buyers.
  •  Cable VOD and iTunes costs vary — different cable markets have different price points (it’s $6.99 on Time-Warner LA right now — this often decreases in later weeks). ITunes started at $14.99 to buy the film. Let’s estimate that between the two, the average price ultimately will be $9.
  • A 2% customer purchase level would mean, at a $9 average price, $15.3 million in revenue. RADiUS’ share estimated at 65% would be about $10 million. Based on the first weekend of $2 million in purchases, this could be a high, but again, the holds for VOD are much better than for theaters.
  •  Blu-Ray/DVD and cable would still bring in revenue, but with the lower theatrical gross and the early VOD, at a lower level than with a pure theatrical release. Figure an additional $5 million return to RADiUS.

By this model, RADiUS gets an after-marketing initial return of $13 million including theatrical gross and subtracting marketing. Again, this is calculating at the high end of possible performance from this multi-platform pattern. The theatrical-driven alternative model was calculated at a slightly less optimistic ($50 million) estimate and again looks like it might have shown a profit of $18 million.

In context though, and as a test of an unproven model, this is more than a respectable showing. It’s a strong enough result to suggest RADiUS and others will continue to experiment with this.

As a writer, I have a choice: Learn about all this business stuff or not. Personally, I prefer knowledge to ignorance on these matters, although I certainly respect writers who find the more they know, the less creative they are. That said, if you’re ever in an admittedly rare situation where you write an indie feature that is so low-budget and does really well at the box office, you could actually see net profit returns, it’s wise to know the lay of the land how the revenue streams break down on the VOD side of things — hence the value of this breakdown above.

Meanwhile as a consumer, I am thrilled about this approach to VOD. On a personal level, it meant I was able to see Snowpiercer weeks before it opened at a local theater. Granted it’s a movie I will have to see again on a big screen (which I will gladly do) because of the mind-blowing visuals, but knowing I can watch movies the same day or close to when they are released in NY and LA is a major plus. In addition, as a fan of indie films, the more VOD penetrates into the consciousness of consumers living outside major urban areas, I have to think that will grow the overall revenue stream for this market segment which in turn will mean more product for us fans.

Finally, another plug for Snowpiercer. It’s an amazing accomplishment with a story that works on all levels: emotional, intellectual and visceral.

For the rest of the Indiewire article, go here.

UPDATE: Here is a featurette on Snowpiercer:

See Snowpiercer!