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Indie Distributor Scorecard 2015: Who Won and Who Lost

Indie Distributor Scorecard 2015: Who Won and Who Lost

The race for box office bragging rights when it comes to indie
distributors is a lot more complex than simply naming which film has the biggest
total gross, so we’ve decided to track the ten indie distributors with the top
grosses in 2015 (as of December 20th, at least) and take a closer look at whether they had a
good year, taking into consideration how many and what kind of films
they’ve released and what their numbers were like last year.

Note that we only track distributors that
have primarily opened their films in limited release (which rules out Relativity, Open Road and STX Entertainment, before you ask), and that the ten distributors noted in that regard are the ones with the biggest share of
the overall marketplace (but again — their ranking below doesn’t
necessarily mean they’re winning).

READ MORE: The 20 Highest-Grossing Indies of 2015

1. The Weinstein Company
Overall market share: 2.7%
Total gross: $285.7 million
Movies tracked: 13
2015 movies: 10
Year-to-date comparison: Up 44%
Big Hits: “Paddington,” “The Imitation Game”
Respectable Grossers: “Carol,” “Southpaw,” “Woman in Gold”
Misses: “Burnt,” “The Young & Prodigious T.S. Spivet”

Overall Verdict: Winning. Though still down 40% from their mammoth 2013 (their best year ever with a $464.5 million total gross), The Weinstein Company managed to improve significantly over last year thanks to Oscar holdover “The Imitation Game,” family hit “Paddington” and fairly strong mid-size grossers like “Southpaw” and “Woman in Gold.” And with its year-end options “Carol” and “The Hateful Eight” just getting started, Harvey and company should have a very strong finish to the year and a happy first few weeks of 2016.

2. Fox Searchlight
Overall market share: 1.1%
Total gross: $115.1 million
Movies tracked: 10
2015 movies: 8
Year-to-date comparison: Down 12.6%
Big Hits: None
Respectable Grossers: “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2,” “Wild,” “Birdman,” “Brooklyn,” “Far From The Madding Crowd,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “He Named Me Malala,” “Mistress America”
Misses: “True Story”

Overall Verdict: Losing. It should be noted that this designation is largely because
Fox Searchlight was coming off an epic year thanks to “12 Years a Slave,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Birdman.” By comparison, 2015 just didn’t measure up. Even the best picture win for “Birdman” only added up to an additional $18 million this year, while the only Searchlight release to hit $20 million in 2015 was “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which at $33 million still fell $13 million short of its predecessor.  Still, its 12.6% drop from last year is no disaster thanks to quite a few minor hits (“Brooklyn” and “Far From The Madding Crowd,” in particular). So while technically Fox Searchlight may have been down in 2015 — they were far from out.

3. Focus Features
Overall market share: 1.1%
Total gross: $114.4 million
Movies tracked: 12
2015 movies: 10
Year-to-date comparison: Down 6%
Big Hits: “Insidious Chapter 2”
Respectable Grossers: “The Theory of Everything,” “Sinister 2,” “The Danish Girl” (so far, at least)
Misses: “Self/Less,” “A Little Chaos,” “Maps To The Stars,” “Cop Car”

Overall Verdict: Even.
It was a photo finish between Fox Searchlight and Focus Features, with the former grossing less than a million more than the latter as of December 20th (which will remain the case given which films each have in the market right now). Unlike Searchlight, Focus was coming off of a less memorable 2014 as it continued its transition into a post-James Schamus era. Most of its money came from wide release horror sequels “Insidious Chapter 3” and “Sinister 2,” while parent company Universal ended up counting the grosses of huge hit “Fifty Shades of Grey” towards its own year-end tally. Focus did find respectable business from two Oscar bait indies starring Eddie Redmayne (last year’s “The Theory of Everything” took in $12.3 million in 2015, while “The Danish Girl” has crossed $3 million so far in very limited release), though the likes of “A Little Chaos” and “Maps To The Stars” disappointed despite the presence of Kate Winslet and Julianne Moore, respectively.

4. Sony Pictures Classics
Overall market share: 0.6%
Total gross: $61.9 million
Movies tracked: 21
2015 movies: 18
Year-to-date comparison: Up 63%
Big Hits: “Still Alice”
Respectable Grossers: “Grandma,” “Whiplash,” “Foxcatcher,” “Wild Tales,” “The Salt of the Earth”
Misses: “Irrational Man,” “Truth,” “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”

Overall Verdict: Winning. Led by Oscar winner “Still Alice” (which only had a qualifying run in 2014), SPC was up a big 63% from last year. “Alice” ended up becoming the seventh highest grosser in the company’s history, while its fellow Oscar nominees “Whiplash,” “Foxcacther” and “Mr. Turner” all added to their counts this year too. And while true 2015 releases didn’t really break out beyond summer hit “Grandma,” enough respectable grossers added up to enough for SPC to have a strong year overall.

5. A24
Overall market share: 0.5%
Total gross: $55.2 million
Movies tracked: 11
2015 movies: 9
Year-to-date comparison: Up 316%
Big Hits: “Ex Machina,” “Amy”
Respectable Grossers: “While We’re Young,” “Room,” “A Most Violent Year,” “The End of the Tour”
Misses: “Slow West,” “Mississippi Grind”

Overall Verdict: Really winning. If there was an award for most impressive box office year by an indie distributor, it would definitely go to A24. Three years in to their existence, A24 found its biggest hit ever (“Ex Machina” at $25 million), the biggest documentary grosser of the year (“Amy” at $8.5 million) and a major Oscar hopeful that is just getting started at the box office (“Room” at $4.7 million and counting). That all added up to a stunning 316% jump in grosses from last year, which was in itself a strong year for A24.

6. Roadside Attractions
Overall market share: 0.3%
Total gross: $37.1 million
Movies tracked: 12
2015 movies: 11
Year-to-date comparison: Down 0.4%
Big Hits: “Mr. Holmes,” “Love & Mercy”
Respectable Grossers: “Chi-Raq,” “’71”
Misses: “Miss You Already,” “Stonewall,” “Z For Zachariah”

Overall Verdict: Even. Despite some major disappointments in “Miss You Already,” “Stonewall” and “Z For Zachariah,” Roadside Attractions had two sizable summer hits — “Mr. Holmes” ($17.7 million) and “Love & Mercy” ($12.5 million) that were enough to make their 2015 grosses basically on par with last year.

7. Broad Green Pictures
Overall market share: 0.3%
Total gross: $34.6 million
Movies tracked: 7
2014 movies: 7
Year-to-date comparison: N/A (first year)
Big Hits: “A Walk In The Woods”
Respectable Grossers: “Learning To Drive,” “99 Homes”
Big Misses: “10,000 Km”

Overall Verdict: Winning. Though no home run, the first year out for Broad Green Pictures remained impressive. They found a late summer hit in “A Walk In The Woods” and awards season contenders in “99 Homes” and “I Smile Back.” With just seven releases bringing in a strong $34.6 million, Broad Street collectively it set up the company very nicely in the indie landscape going forward.

8. Bleecker Street
Overall market share: 0.2%
Total gross: $21.9 million
Movies tracked: 5
2014 movies: 5
Year-to-date comparison: N/A (first year)
Big Hits: “I’ll See You In My Dreams”
Respectable Grossers: “Trumbo,” “Danny Collins,” “Pawn Sacrifice”
Big Misses: None.

Overall Verdict: Winning. Another newbie, Bleecker Street also had a very nice entry into  the marketplace in 2015. Blythe Danner-starring “I’ll See You In My Dreams” surprised many by becoming one of the summer’s highest grossing indies ($7.5 million), while “Trumbo” has already grossed $6.2 million as it emerges as a potential nominee in a few major Oscar categories. That’s no small feat for a first-timer.

Overall market share: 0.2%
Total gross: $17.5 million
Movies tracked: 10
2014 movies: 9
Year-to-date comparison: Up 75.7%
Big Hits: “It Follows”
Respectable Grossers: “Goodnight Mommy,” “Citizenfour”
Big Misses: “The Last 5 Years”

Overall Verdict: Winning. Notably, RADiUS-TWC gets a substantial amount of revenue from VOD, which often makes for unimpressive grosses on the theatrical side. But even despite that the company had a big 2015 theatrically. “It Follows” was a huge breakout and RADiUS’s biggest grosser ever, while Austrian import “Goodnight Mommy” and Oscar winner “Citizenfour” were strong as well. Collectively, they helped RADiUS jump over 75% this year.

10. IFC Films/Sundance Selects
Overall market share: 0.1%
Total gross: $11.9 million
Movies tracked: 31
2014 movies: 27
Year-to-date comparison: Down 63.3%
Big Hits: None
Respectable Grossers: “Phoenix,” “Clouds of Sils Maria,” “Two Days, One Night”
Big Misses: “The D Train,” “The Human Centipede 3,” “Jenny’s Wedding”

Overall Verdict: Losing.
IFC Films and sister distributor Sundance Selects are unique to this
list in that they release way more films (31 in total), and the vast
majority of them are likely to make most of their revenue on VOD. This means their theatrical numbers aren’t always indicative of overall success. However, it was going to be hard for IFC either way this year coming off of “Boyhood” last year. Its 31 tracked films were unable to collectively add up to even half of that film’s $25.3 million grosser last year, which makes it hard to see the distributor coming off a big winner in 2015.

READ MORE: Can One Box Office Success Point to the Future of Foreign-Language Films in the U.S.?

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