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The Bad Metrics of Box Office Reporting

The Bad Metrics of Box Office Reporting

In my latest Industry Beat column for Filmmaker Magazine, I continue my ongoing fascination with the way that VOD and digital distribution are impacting the independent film landscape. Mainly, the article focuses on the ways that the film industry measures success–an outdated and increasingly irrelevant metric known as theatrical ticket sales. As IFC FIlms President Jonathan Sehring told me, “It seems like such an antiquated
model: People should be
fixated on the entire pie, not just on what represents 20% of the

Magnolia Pictures’ Eamonn Bowles likens the industry’s fixation to batting average statistics in baseball. “It’s like
counting the number of singles a player has and calling him the best
player,” said Bowles. “We have had at least three films this summer, Europa Report, I Give It a Year, and Drinking
, which have all grossed well over a million dollars on VOD, and two
of them, grossed over 2 million on VOD.”

But, of course, you wouldn’t know that reading Variety, Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter or any of the major trade publications that cover the industry. They’re all still focusing on a metric that dates back some 100 years. It’s time for the industry to change with the times–and the media that covers it to demand that change.
While those I spoke to suggested that the right people in the industry–producers, sales agents, talent agents, etc–are aware of VOD numbers and what can be expected, a number of others–particularly filmmaking newbies–remain in the dark. 
As I wrote, “As much as box-office numbers
don’t lie—although they don’t account for production costs and P&A spending,
which makes them distortions of the truth—they are out there and readily
available to chart, which is more than you can say for VOD.”

And in many ways, the article goes on to say, that’s always
been the case. As Cinedigm’s senior vp of theatrical releasing
Vincent Scordino told me, “Home entertainment and ancillary
performance has always driven investment and profit, and it’s not
reported. So maybe you can’t blame the industry for
[focusing on box-office], because it’s the only information that’s consistently
been shared.”


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