#GoldenGlobes and the box office

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The five nominees in the Best Motion Picture, Drama category.

Best Motion Picture, Drama
Carol (The Weinstein Company) | $7,004,358 +  $8,402,177 | N/A
Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) | $153,636,354 + $222,200,200 | $150M
WINNER: The Revenant (Fox) | $41,383,741 + $20,487,466 | $135M 
Room (A24) | $5,166,724 + N/A | N/A
Spotlight (Open Road) | $28,546,477 + $309,218 | N/A

‘The Revenant’ won the award and opened strongly, but the outsiders ‘Room’, ‘Carol’ and partly ‘Spotlight’, for some the most important movie of this batch but a difficult one, will hopefully gain stronger market traction in home video windows thanks to the visibility provided by the Golden Globes. The big “loser” in this category is ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, which instead seems to be the only title meant to become a cult for the years to come and perform exceptionally in home video for long time, as showed by the extraordinary reception from the public: George Miller’s long-awaited return to the dusty dystopian Aussie badlands, which also won the prize for best-reviewed science-fiction movie, was named the top film on wide release after scoring a 97% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. How many times have you seen it? I watched it three times and I would watch it again. Pure adrenaline. Hopefully will get some recognition from the Academy.

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The five nominees in the Best Motion Picture, Musical, or Comedy category.

Best Motion Picture, Musical, or Comedy
The Big Short (Paramount) | $42,724,340 + $9,700,000 | $28M
Joy (Fox) | $46,531,854 + $23,679,037 | $60M
WINNER: The Martian (Fox) | $226,486,935 + $369,269,299 | $108M
Spy (Fox) | $110,825,712 + $124,840,712 | $65M
Trainwreck (Universal) | $110,212,700 + $29,296,198 | $35M

Although funny at times, ‘The Martian’ should simply not have been placed in this category. Nonetheless, having grossed 62% outside the US, it “travels” much better than the usual comedy, thanks also to a very smart marketing campaign and, we shall say, thanks to Matt Damon. ‘Joy’ could have performed better but the release date (Christmas day) did not play in his favor. It is a wonderful story but, despite the amazing acting performances, seemed incomplete and pretentious sometimes. ‘The Big Short’ is the most original and even eccentric film in this category but as expected it has been struggling overseas due to the US-centered subject, despite the star-filled cast. ‘Spy’ and ‘Trainwreck’ both exceeded expectations, especially the very funny Paul Feig’s movie.

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‘Inside Out’ producer Jonas Rivera and director Pete Docter.

 

Best Motion Picture, Animated
Anomalisa (Paramount) | $486,076 + N/A | $8M
The Good Dinosaur (Disney) | $117,438,706 + $148,700,000 | N/A
WINNER: Inside Out (Disney) | $356,461,711 + $499,668,421 | $175M
The Peanuts Movie (Fox) | $129,152,908 + $92,114,145 | $99M
Shaun the Sheep Movie (Lionsgate) | $19,375,982 + $64,100,000 | N/A

‘Inside Out’ is hands down the best animated film of 2015 from all point of views and a masterpiece for the years to come. Thanks, Pixar. Well done again, Disney. It also performed exceptionally well at the box office due to its cross-generational appeal, which is partially missing in the other nominees. ‘Anomalisa’ is a little gem that will be enjoyed by many in VOD.

 

Legend: Title (US Distributor) | Domestic gross + Foreign gross | Production budget

Source of data: BoxOfficeMojo.com

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#CinemaCon2015 showcases great slates and stunning technologies

During the annual conference organized by the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) and held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, the major Studios have as usual showcased their upcoming slates.

Not so usual however is the caliber and market potential of the movies, from Paramount‘s Summer 2015 star driven releases Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Terminator Genisys presented directly by Arnold and Tom, to Warner Bros‘s big event movies such as Mad Max: Fury Road, San Andreas, Black Mass, Point Break, Entourage, and of course Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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Tom Cruise presents the new chapter of the Ethan Hunt’s saga.

From Disney‘s incredible 2015-2017 of epic hero driven slate including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tomorrowland, Inside Out (screened in Dolby Vision), Ant-Man, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and Doctor Strange, to Sony‘s filmmaker driven movies such as Xmas, Spectre, Pixels, Aloha, Money Monster, Hotel Transylvania 2.

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Preview screening of Inside Out, the new Pixar’s animation film, in Dolby Vision.

From Universal‘s franchise driven slate of films such as Ted 2, Pitch Perfect 2, Jurassic World, Minions, Fast and Furious 8, even with authorial additions such as Everest, Crimson Peak, Straight Outta Compton, and the new Illumination’s animation feature The Secret Life of Pets, to Fox‘s author driven and internationally oriented films such as Ridley Scott’s The Martian, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant starring Leonardo Di Caprio, David O. Russel’s Joy, the new animation film The Peanuts Movie, and then Hitman Agent 47, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, Paul Feig’s Spy (also featured during the following party), Paper Towns.

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Paul Feig entertains the attendees of the Spy Party.

But CinemaCon means also the trade fair where hundreds of vendors showcase their products to the theater owners and film industry professionals: besides concessions and seating solutions, marketing and analytics tools and apps among which startups such as Dealflicks, Intensnet, Showtime Analytics and Peach Digital, make their way among established companies such as online ticketing/marketing providers Fandango and MovieTickets, POS providers RTS, NCR, Vista, and technology providers such as Imax, Barco, Cinemeccanica, Christie, 4DX, and Dolby, official sponsor this year with its new Vision system, based on wider color gamut and high dynamic range (HDR).

Also emerging as main point from panels discussions, one consideration needs to be made at this point: on one side the vendors and the real estate investors seem to be pushing toward building more and bigger theaters and upgrading technology turning theaters into high-end all entertainment venues for tenth-pole big event movies and richer audiences, on the other marketeers, filmmakers and distributors, together with smaller theater owners are wondering how to get teenagers back to be frequent moviegoers leveraging timely releasing and smart pricing strategies, an analysis that needs to take into account what is happening in the digital space – i.e. the shrinking windows and the increasingly common day-and-date releases. A lot of work has to be done in this respect and the different parts of the industry are responsible to seek win-win solutions, with the primary objective of protecting the moviegoing experience and ultimately making consumers happy, the one and only way to drive revenue up. For the film industry to thrive, no one should be left behind: many theater owners (the majority of attendees of CinemaCon, the ones outside the big chains) cannot keep the pace with continuous investments in technology while facing diminishing margins and lower attendance. New technologies are desirable only if the demand justifies the need of new investments: mature markets such as North America and Europe are struggling in this respect, whereas biggest part of the growth is coming from Asia, China in particular (see https://flixbiz.com/2015/03/12/global-box-office-inflated-by-chinese-wind-us-suffering/).

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The legendary Clint Eastwood interviewed by Stephen Galloway, THR.

CinemaCon was also the moment to honor the careers of great executives such as Fox’s Chief Jim Gianopoulos recipient of the Pioneer of the Year award, and Warner’s SVP Asia Distribution Erlina Surharjono recipient of the Passepartout Award, and to celebrate stars like Julianne Moore and legends like Clint Eastwood, recipient of the Fandango Fan Choice Award for Favorite Film of 2014 for the surprising results of American Sniper. In particular, the director told the audience about his working style and his incredible career, disclosing also some funny anecdotes – i.e. very few people know that Sergio Leone did not speak english and he did not speak Italian, but they could understand each other using the secret language of filmmaking.

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The 2015 Big Screen Achievement Awards.

The Big Screen Achievement Awards ended the 4-day convention with the bubbly and at times hilarious appearances of Alan Arkin – Lifetime Achievement Award, Elizabeth Banks – Breakthrough Filmmaker of the Year, Francis Lawrence – Director of the Year, Amy Schumer – Breakthrough Performer of the Year, again Paul Feig – Comedy Filmmaker of the Year, again Julianne Moore – CinemaCon Vanguard Award, Kevin Hart – Comedy Star of the Year, Rose Byrne – Female Star of the Year, Paul Rudd – Male Star of the Year.

There was also a final party sponsored by Coca-Cola at the Caesar’s Palace pool but that must stay outside of the chronicles because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

Oscars 2015, theatrical distribution: facts and figures

As the D-Day for Hollywood’s Awards Season is approaching, it is worthy taking a look at the Best Picture nominees’ theatrical distribution facts and figures, playing a little bit with the numbers.

All in all, the overall worldwide theatrical gross box office for the eight candidates was more than $1 billion, with each release falling within the wide $11 to $397 million range and $125M on average ($99M if we strip out the out the outliers American Sniper and Whiplash from the analysis) against production budgets of $3.3 to $58.8 million, $165.1 million in total and $20.6 on average.

The highest grossing film is American Sniper with $396 million and counting, whereas The Theory of Everything scored the highest percentage in foreign sales with 66%. Clint Eastwood’s latest film also had the best average per screen at its wide opening weekend, an impressive $25,111, despite being released to 3,555 theaters.

In terms of ROI (Return On Investment) for each project regardless of the investor, and therefore considering the initial investment (production budget) and the gross box office, Boyhood leads the group with a terrific 11x given the small production budget of $4M (estimated) against theatrical worldwide sales of more than $44 million. All in all, moviegoers paid $6 for each dollar invested by the producers for the eight Oscar nominees.

US-OSCARS-VANITY FAIR

American Sniper

Premiere: AFI Fest, 11 Nov 2014

US Distributor: Warner Bros | Wide Opening w-e: Jan 16, 3,555 theaters, $25,111 avg

Domestic Gross: $310M | Foreign Gross: $87M (21.8%) | Prod Budget: $58.8M (ROI 6.7x)

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Premiere: Venice Film Festival, 27 Aug 2014

US Distributor: Fox Searchlight | Wide Opening w-e: Nov 14, 857 theaters, $2,884 avg

Domestic Gross: $37M | Foreign Gross: $36M (49.2%) | Prod Budget: $18M (ROI 4x)

Boyhood

Premiere: Sundance Film Festival, 19 Jan 2014

US Distributor: IFC | Wide Opening w-e: Aug 15, 771 theaters, $2,584 avg

Domestic Gross: $25M | Foreign Gross: $19M (43.1%) | Prod Budget: $4M (ROI 11x)

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Premiere: Berlin International Film Festival, 6 Feb 2014

US Distributor: Fox Searchlight | Wide Opening w-e: Mar 28, 977 theaters, $8,741 avg

Domestic Gross: $59M | Foreign Gross: $115M (66.2%) | Prod Budget: $31M (ROI 5.6x)

The Imitation Game

Premiere: Telluride Film Festival, 29 Aug 2014

US Distributor: The Weinstein Company | Wide Opening w-e: Dec 25, 747 theaters, $10,619 avg

Domestic Gross: $81M | Foreign Gross: $77M (48.7%) | Prod Budget: $15M (ROI 10.5x)

Selma

Premiere: AFI Fest, 11 Nov 2014

US Distributor: Paramount | Wide Opening w-e: Jan 9, 2,179 theaters, $5,189 avg

Domestic Gross: $49M | Foreign Gross: N/A (0.0%) | Prod Budget: $20M (ROI 2.4x)

The Theory of Everything

Premiere: Toronto International Film Festival, 7 Sep 2014

US Distributor: Focus Features | Wide Opening w-e: Nov 26, 802 theaters, $6,248 avg

Domestic Gross: $33M | Foreign Gross: $65M (66%) | Prod Budget: $15M (ROI 6.6x)

Whiplash

Premiere: Sundance Film Festival, 16 Jan 2014

US Distributor: Sony Classics | Wide Opening w-e: Nov 14, 419 theaters, $1,718 avg

Domestic Gross: $10M | Foreign Gross: $1M (7.9%) | Prod Budget: $3.3M (ROI 3.4x)

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Sources: IMDb.com, BoxOfficeMojo.com, TheNumbers.com

#RomaFF9 showcases new patterns of film distribution

The ninth edition of the Rome Film Festival is coming to an end having showcased some interesting new patterns of film marketing and distribution.

The film market named The Business Street has brought to Rome 811 professionals, of which 295 buyers, 104 world sales agents e 246 producers from 52 countries, with a 30% increase of international participants (35% more buyers and 14% more world sales agents). A very needed initiative for boosting the film business.

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Among the main happenings, the panel organized by Europa Distribution has been a unique occasion to discuss and dissect the new trends of digital distribution, focusing on how professionals in different territories implement and define different strategies to keep up with the pace of an industry that is in constant change. As consumers have drastically changed the way of watching films and have risen their expectations on availability of content, professionals have had to re-think their communication strategies and look for new ways to communicate with the audience. These new challenges have paved the way for innovative and creative marketing and distribution strategies, designed to increase the audience reach both in cinemas and across additional platforms.

Tim Grady, President of Adopt Films, has pointed out that ideally VOD shall come one week after theatrical, while everything needs to be curated, as there is so much content. He highlighted the importance of non-theatrical releases, even though, regarding day-and-date, distributors like IFC and Magnolia can easily do day-and-date because they own theaters, whereas others cannot unless they rent the theaters. As far as Netflix, he says it is a safety net for independents.

Somehow forced by the sluggish Italian market to have a different and more conservative approach is Stefano Massenzi, Head of Acquisitions and Business Affairs at Lucky Red. He says that local exhibitors want at least 15 weeks between theatrical and digital release and they would like to get a cut of VOD revenues in exchange for shortening the windows but distribution cannot agree upon the deal because it already pays advertising and VPF and that is enough.

Differently, Katie Ellen of the British Film Institute and Madeleine Probst of Watershed Cinema have pointed out that exhibitors must take risks if they want to flourish and work in synergy with VOD creating a halo effect for it, whereas Kobi Shely of Distrify has added that VOD helps understanding who the audiences are thanks to big data.

The VOD in Europe is growing and therefore digital distribution is by far the hottest topic to discuss at the moment.

Trends-of-the-European-Market

The conference Audiovisual market and regulation: an industry at crossroads, hosted by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and organised by the Directorate-General for Cinema of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, has provided an opportunity to discuss the changes that need to be made to the European regulatory framework in the light of the changing scenario, paying particular attention to technological developments, the role of new players, future business models and the status of independent audiovisual producers.

It has been pointed out that the arrival of new players such as SVOD platforms is going to change the role of typical film producers, who are going to become crossmedia producers and experiment new forms of creativity. For instance, Netflix opens up new opportunities for local producers because they need to connect with local audiences.

It is also going to change the role of theaters, which will be the place for exceptional experiences and social gatherings, while pan-European day-and-date releases experiments show a low rate of cannibalization and increased availability of movies and global audience.

The main pros of digitization has been found to be new alternative production formats associated with lower costs, new alternative release and marketing strategies, larger consumption of audiovisual products, whereas cons may be piracy and changing consumption habits connected to a generally lower willingness to pay for quality content. The main trends observed in the audiovisual market in the latest five years show EU market share down from 20.7 to 15.4 percent, US market share up from 59 to 68.8 percent, and physical home video decline not compensated by digital.

Christoph Schneider, MD of Amazon Instant Video Germany added that free TV is benefiting from having previews on new digital non-linear services because this creates awareness, whereas YouTube’s representative underlined how they are opening up opportunities for the film industry through creating engagement, and BskyB’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs, David Wheeldon highlighted that they have been offering new online services in addition to the traditional ones and they have been very successful. Christopher J. Dodd, former US Senator and now CEO of MPAA has said that disruption is the opportunity as Netflix has invested $7B in feature production, while 50B films and 56B series were consumed digitally in a year, even though a better and more productive dialogue between content and tech providers is needed, and also search engines need to cooperate not driving traffic toward illegal services.

Many rules and regulations that apply to linear players do not apply currently to non-linear services: for instance, advertising and restrictions of audience, hate speech rules, promotion of european works. Authors want their cut of the pie and share risks and benefits as much as they are the production level. Both production and distribution will increasingly be driven by big data, but level of requirements are currently quantitatively different for linear and non-linear services.

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Meanwhile, the difference between broadcasters and non-linear services is fading, as some pay-TV distributors try to compete on the SVOD market: for instance, BSkyB with Sky Now, Canal Plus with Canal Infinity, HBO with HBO Go, CBS, and even smart TV producers such as Samsung and Sony push content to audiences, therefore acting by regulation as service providers, perhaps. Meanwhile, piracy and copyright are crucial issues to address. Most of the pay-TV distributors will look for deals with Netflix, but they will probably continue to provide their own transactional VOD service or third service.

AVMS (i.e. AudioVisual Media Services) that offer OTT services (e.g. Netflix) are covered by the directive because they exercise editorial responsibility over the content: the debate is whether the directive should also cover other internet gatekeepers such as Google. The art.13 of the directive imposes to promote European works on the platforms but it is not clear as of how to do it, therefore this is up to the member States (e.g. a section for European works, a section in the home page, financial obligations, or a percentage in the catalogue). Obligations are currently applied depending on where the service is based, not upon where it goes to (e.g. Netflix is based in Luxembourg).

The best method for promoting European works is considered to be marketing effort, whereas financial contribution to production funds makes sense, according to VOD operators, only if they get something in exchange such as exclusive licenses. Also, a question should be asked as if theaters do not have (at least not in every Country) quotas, why should VOD operators do? One thing is sure, there is a mandate from the European Union to foster creative industries, production, audience development.

It has also been acknowledged the positive effect of fiscal incentive schemes supporting film and audiovisual productions in Europe, such as tax shelters, rebates, tax credits, together with slate funding mechanisms both from the EU, the States and the Regional funds: in particular, there has been some movement away from a tax shelter model, which is less transparent and has historically seen abuse, even though it has the advantage to provide cash flow during production.

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The Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini has closed the conference saying that we need rules at the global level or the market will be easily dominated by global players that skip national or even continental regulations, that cultural exception is useful to protect national identities, that we need to improve the connection with audiences and the international circulation of works, because creative industry is the main strategic sector for Europe.

All in all, a flexible mindset is needed to operate profitably within the changing film industry, whereas a set of rules may help to guide the flow if there is clear evidence of necessity.

Outdoor cinemas in Rome were not built in a day

According to the associations of film exhibitors, local Government should help regulating the wildfire spread of outdoor arenas in Rome. They have denounced the danger of uncontrolled proliferation at a press conference, saying that the greatest part of the 50 arenas in the region, not only are located too close to indoor theaters, but also often operate lacking safety, quality, and fiscal standards, thereby determining unfair competition within the struggling film exhibition market, which is already greatly weakened by poor content from distributors (only 33 new releases in the July-August period, 71 in September-October). As a result, they have announced the shutdown of all movie theaters in the Lazio region and the submission of a complaint to antitrust.

Here are some quick facts and figures about film exhibition in Rome in 2013:

  • looking at the maps, 11 out of 28 arenas in Rome are located within 1 km from one of the 73 venues (about 74,800 seats spread over 334 screens, 272 of which are digital);
  • investment for digital conversion was almost € 18 million, whereas the sector employs 2,795 people in the region of Lazio;
  • total gross box office in 2014 was € 84 million from 12.5 million moviegoers.

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Exhibitors’ battle for a fair market is greatly shareable and certainly needs to be sustained by the Government and understood by the people. Nevertheless, the problem this time needs to be seen with a broader perspective: film distribution needs as many forms as it is possible, and no one is superior to the others, neither theatrical. Secondary exploitation, such as non-theatrical or ancillary, is fundamental for many productions to recoup their investments, whereas less than 10% of them break-even during theatrical exhibition. Without saying that many movies do not make it into theaters, therefore alternative distribution forms such as non-theatrical or digital VOD can be sometimes the only way for them to reach the audience.

All in all, outdoor arenas are nothing new and were not built in a day: it seems that the counterpart for local exhibitors’ battle against outdoor arenas is in fact distribution, which should probably be asked not to rent current movies to occasional outdoor arenas, and only grant the license for non-theatrical and ancillary rights, which can normally be exploited passed a 6-month window after theatrical release date. Another, perhaps smarter, solution would be for exhibitors to face good weather and people’s willingness to enjoy a movie under the stars setting up their own outdoor arenas just like clubs and bars normally do.

The customer is always right, especially in the entertainment industry, so let’s try to adapt to her/his requests. When the market is depressed, then flexibility is more needed than ever: one should look at the big picture and try to collaborate with all the pieces of the value chain in order to develop the sector as a whole.