Park City 98: Will it Get Bought? Ted Hope Discusses the Realities of $undance
by Mike Jones
The age of the record breaking theatrical distribution deal may have come to
an abrupt end at this year's Sundance. With more and more films being acquired
at the script stage, Good Machine's Ted Hope is curious if there will there be
any films that warrant the kind of deal that "Star Maps" had, or "Shine".
Taking into account the current temperature of the theatrical distribution
market, Hope thinks the chances are slim. "Generally speaking, the expectations
of what is needed to be spent to get audiences into the theater and consequently
what you need returned have both increased. It's changed the game a lot."
The general expectation if your a major distributor, Hope explains, is that
$500,000 will be spent to distribute the film, in hopes of making $5 million
at the box office. "That effects the type of films that can get picked up.
And since you don't have any fierce biding for the smaller films, consequently
the next tier of distributors can pick them up for virtually nothing." He
speculates, for instance, that "The Daytrippers" and "Pillow Book", which did
good business on a limited level for CFP, probably didn't give much back to the
filmmakers. "I think there is still a very good business in the low end
distribution for people." However, advances are little to none. Distributors
make most of their money in the ancillary markets such as television and video,
but need a strong theatrical run to fuel it. Filmmakers generally aren't
included in those back-end profits.
"Obviously, a better deal is when somebody can have (a distributor) take a film
out theatrically yet hold on to any specific media." Hope's advice? "Get over
the preciousness of an initial theatrical release, or find a new way to offer
more value than having the film just projected onto a screen." Films like "The
Last Seduction" and "Gun Crazy", went on to a theatrical run after premiering
on a cable station. "It basically functions as a word-of-mouth screening, plus
there's much more advertising that goes out around it."
In addition, Hope also advises filmmakers to take advantage of the valued
Sundance brand -- to bleed out the media hype and attention the event now
ushers in other screening opportunities whether it be theatrical, tv, video,
or another film event like last year's FUEL Tour. "It's a hell of easier to
pick the 50 films that will not get distribution out of Sundance than it is
to pick the five that will. How come those 50 films can't end up a week later
as a pay-per-view film festival? There's a lot of interest in the Sundance event
and why can't that be parlayed into a secondary event?"