Independent Films by the Numbers

The marketing of Independent Films

Does Film Content Matter for Theatrical Releases?

Odd as it may seem I have begun to wonder if the success of a film in theatrical release is actually driven by its content (beyond a few breakout and unanticipated dogs).  If you plot gross returns against number of screens a movie played on for the top 150 films in the last two years, a funny pattern emerges… the more screens a movie plays the mover money it will make.   

Given that most films open in wide release, this means that for most films success is being decided by the deals created to get them to an audience, rather than the audience’s response to the actual movie. In other words, with few exceptions, the gross revenues of a film in theater release are highly predictable based on the release strategy alone…. promotion and distribution seem to be more important predictors of gross returns than the artistic or content merit of the film.   

In the 2006 movie “Idiocracy,” the future is dominated by low intellects and the top movie is a just shots of peoples asses.  This future is not so unrealistic, since if you were able to place that movie on at least 4,000 screens nationwide with suitable promotion it could very easily be the top film today.  

In the documentary community, there is much talk about how the theatre business does not give docs a chance, so it is hard to find these films in theater release.   What this discussion misses is a realization of how broke the system is today.  Craft is not driving the theater system today, so theaters are saturated with one after another pieces of Hollywood slock.    We see a similar pattern on TV where the number of stations have increased, but there seems to be fewer quality shows to choose from.  What we need to do is think about how to fix this.

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