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Strong VOD Numbers for ‘Capone’ Can’t Cover Costs for a Busted Theatrical

Record-breaking rentals for the Tom Hardy crime drama don't necessarily mean profit.



Vertical Entertainment

Josh Trank’s independently made “Capone” starring Tom Hardy has grossed over $2.5 million in rentals from various home viewing platforms after 10 days in VOD release. Distributor Vertical Entertainment, a major player in the straight-to-home release world, released these numbers along with the declaration that this is a record for the company.

Vertical has been a leader in handling films that were once known as a busted theatrical — familiar stars in films that were intended for theatrical release, but didn’t find a buyer. Instead, they find limited theaters and day-and-date home availability.

Hardy created elevated interest in “Capone.” Unlike luminaries such as Bruce Willis and Nicolas Cage, who can elevate a low-budget title action/genre into viewer appeal, Hardy remains a major star. And with the absence of most theaters, its appearance as a home exclusive (Vertical took no theaters, it appears), the release didn’t bear the feel of a discarded title.

Its performance has been quite good. It started strong (as high as #2 at iTunes, in its second week still #5), and revenue will likely increase after its initial availability at $9.99 decreases to $5.99, which is where Vertical prices most of its releases. However, these results don’t suggest VOD is a viable alternative to theatrical. At this point, all the metrics suggest it’s far from being a money-making proposition.

The reported budget on “Capone“ (a mostly Canadian production, which likely reduced the cost) came in at over $20 million, and was made with the expectation of a theatrical release. It was filmed in spring 2018, with initial publicity (including early stills of Hardy’s extreme transformation) over two years ago. According to sources, the completed film went to multiple distributors, with no deal forthcoming. (One source tells IndieWire this was likely more than a year ago). Concerns included the (correct) guess that this would not have the review or festival support often vital for independent projects. (Metacritic has it at a mixed-negative 46 score).

Analyzing financials for any given VOD is challenging with no real box-office analog, but here’s what we can gauge: The $2.5 million taken in so far will see Vertical collect perhaps 75 percent, or $1.8 million. We don’t know the details of their deal with the producers (who include early Quentin Tarantino partner Lawrence Bender), but figure they will get the bulk of that since it’s likely Vertical didn’t pay a high price for the rights (if they did, they’d have that money returned first).

That leaves the production company collecting perhaps $1.5 million from rentals so far. It’s still seeing interest after 10 days, but initial response is usually the strongest. “Capone” could double its take, possibly more with the likely price reduction. At the high end, this might means a $4 million-$5 million return.

For a VOD-play release, that would be excellent. But it still would leave the film more than $15 million in the hole.

Of course, VOD is not the final word in revenue streams so it’s still possible that the financiers still could be made whole. At some point, DVDs, premium cable, and library worth will add to the domestic haul. And the publicity for the U.S. release could enhance future foreign sales. Per IMDb, which is not always complete in its international territory sales, only South Korea and Switzerland have been sold (unclear in what release format). With nearly all the world available, Tom Hardy’s name, and the valid positive PR about the U.S. showings, this should strengthen the sellers’ hand in making additional deals.

The numbers for “Capone” don’t necessarily scale against, say, a $50 million film. However, the interest also suggests the title might have had more potential as a Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Apple streaming release; this might have been worth its cost or a little more to a top streamer.

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