Welcome to the new normal. While we currently have no Sunday box-office estimates, we have our first full-fledged VOD report courtesy of Kino Marquee. The numbers for the streaming arm of New York distributor Kino Lorber bear little resemblance to those of, say, Universal VOD, but it’s an eye-opening look at the potential — and the limits — of virtual cinema.
These early numbers suggest the combined virtual-theatrical returns could end up in the range of a full theatrical release. For now, they also suggest that for theaters there is no substitute for the physical customer.
“I think we have all learned over our joint foray into this new business that virtual ticket sales do not make up 100% of theatrical revenue lost by exhibitors and distributors,” said Wendy Lidell, Kino Lorber’s senior VP of theatrical/nontheatrical distribution and acquisitions, writing to the Art House Convergence Google group. “This is a different business. We are competing with lower cost online streaming options, but I believe we need to maintain the premium price of a premiere theatrical window, and we on the distribution side are endeavoring to promote films as such.”
Kino Lorber is known as a venerable distributor of high-quality titles, most of which premiered at festivals, and it has one of the most vital DVD/Blu-Ray libraries around. In March, it launched Kino Marquee, a VOD platform that also enables movie theaters to serve their audiences and generate revenue.
Unlike traditional theatrical releases, Kino Marquee allows it to offer far more films, and for much longer periods. The goal, Kino Lorber announced, was “to emulate the moviegoing experience as much as possible, enabling movie audiences to support their local theaters by paying to view films digitally.”
Kino Marquee currently features eight titles. Four came in partnership with other distributors: Good Deed’s Irish comedy “Extra Ordinary” and Zeitgeist’s documentaries “Beyond the Visible: Hilma at Klimt” and “The Woman Who Loved Giraffes,” and Ken Loach’s “Sorry We Missed You.” One is a re-release, “Thousand Pieces of Gold.” Also included is a collection of repertory titles from Hungarian director Istvan Szabo that include the recently restored “Mephisto.”
From March 19-April 30, some eight Kino Marquee titles grossed $316,000 via online release. Initial results show two standouts that represented more than half of that total. One is “Bacurau,” a 2019 Cannes award-winning Brazilian film, which grossed about $100,000. The other is “Extra Ordinary,” an Irish comedy that premiered at SXSW 2019 and stars Will Forte. It grossed about $79,000 in virtual release.
The eight titles received staggered releases across five weekends. Not every theater handled all Kino Marquee titles; out of the 233 that participated in “Bacurau,” 10 accounted for 40 percent of the film’s gross.
For theaters, some of these returns can be quite small. For “Bacurau,” 213 theaters shared about $60,000 in revenue, which is split 50/50 with Kino Lorber. Sources suggest some New York partners, led by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Film Forum, and BAM are standout, similar to what would happen in normal theatrical play.
Still, even with a return that’s almost certainly significantly less than what theatrical would provide, so are the expenses. And, it allows theaters to stay in touch with customers and keep their communities alive.
And, compared to other Kino Lorber releases, these top earners show some promise. In 2019, its top theatrical release by far was “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” with $521,000, and only a handful topped $100,000.
Kino Lorber thrives on the volume of its releases, its library (which includes many classics), and its access on niche outlets like Criterion and MUBI. This is just one sample look, and we’re glad for it; let’s hope others follow.
Results are listed by title, (theatrical and virtual release dates), virtual gross, and total gross, which includes theatrical. Titles listed in order of virtual gross.
Bacurau (3/6 theatrical, 3/19 virtual)
Virtual – $100,152 Total gross – $158,267
Extra Ordinary (3/6 theatrical, 4/3 virtual)
Virtual – $79,307 Total gross – $240,201
Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klimt (no theatrical, 4/17 virtual)
Virtual – $56,064 Total gross – $56,064
Sorry We Missed You (3/4 theatrical, 4/3 virtual)
Virtual – $35,160 Total gross – $63,933
The Woman Who Loved Giraffes (1/10 theatrical, 4/10 virtual)
Virtual – $17,628 Total gross – $131,486
Beanpole (1/29 theatrical, 4/10 virtual)
Virtual – $17,304 Total gross – $214,562
Istvan Szabo Collection – Mephisto, Col Redl, and Confidence (1/10 theatrical, 4/10 virtual)
Virtual – $6,420 Total gross – $35,280
Thousand Pieces of Gold (pre-release previews, 4/24 virtual)
Virtual – $5,268 Total gross – $14,753