How Ryan Kavanaugh Can Save the Movies

by Cotty Chubb
December 23, 2010 9:25 AM
27 Comments
  • |

Thompson on Hollywood

Indie producer Cotty Chubb has a modest proposal for Relativity chief Ryan Kavanaugh that could save the movies. (Chubb wants the studios to be involved, which may be part of the problem.)


The movie business is being strangled. For a professionally produced picture to succeed, it must be released theatrically. But not every movie is fit for 3,000 screens or appropriate only to educated adults, the twin poles of distribution today. And there is almost no middle ground.

Everybody knows the independent movie business has been squashed. But the studios aren’t doing so well either, when you look closely at long-term prospects. Their audience is slowly drifting away.

• Movie tickets sold have declined about 3% this year, and have been absolutely flat over the last decade. Hardly the sign of a thriving business in a population that’s grown 10% in that time.

• Tickets prices have risen 40% since 2000. Forty per cent! They went up 5% this year, in the teeth of the worst recession since the 1930s. 3-D! Oh yeah, right.

• Most worryingly, the fastest declining segment of the audience is young adults. If that generation gets out of the habit of going to movies in theaters, uh-oh.

Can you blame them? There are no jobs, tickets cost too much, and all they get, for the most part, is product, usually "branded" (another way of saying "unoriginal"); they don't get what we used to mean by the word "movies." They're not really familiar with the experience of sitting in a crowded, darkened room with their cohorts and seeing something that provides an emotional experience, something that they can take out of the theater and into their lives, whether wrapped in comedy's bright clothes or cloaked in tension and threat.

The studios, for the most part, don't make actual movies for them anymore, movies like Say Anything or Fight Club. For every Superbad there's a hundred enormous branded spectacles, notwithstanding the deliciously nutty Black Swan or the passionate The Fighter (which, like The Social Network, lands a little older). And independents, for the most part, don't know how to reach that audience, or can't afford to.

For a new generation of moviegoers to develop among the 18-25 audience, they need to experience movies that matter to them, are unique to their generation, and speak to them with their voice.

That means risk. Who knows what can work when someone is saying something new? But there’s no business model for risk when the cost of reaching the audience is so high. (Even the delightful Easy A cost about $35 million to take to market, according to friends who should know.)

Here’s what an original movie needs to succeed. It has to be ubiquitous in the culture; readily available however, whenever and wherever its audience wants it; priced right for the experience; and with a community-building capacity built into its presentation.

But movies can't be available however and wherever and whenever so long as the theatrical exhibition chains insist on their window. Day-and-date release on digital platforms is anathema to them.

Everybody knows that this business model is cracked, if not yet outright broken, but nobody knows how to change it.

Here’s where the red-headed buccaneer of movie finance comes in. Since 2004 Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media has provided massive slate financing for studios, particularly Universal and Sony. And recently his company has transitioned into a significant stand-alone producer and distributor. Kavanaugh cannot be ignored by the exhibitors.

There are only three companies that control more than half the screens in America, a remarkable concentration of power over how movies are experienced and therefore what movies are made.

Here’s what Kavanaugh should tell those three CEOs:

"I'm Ryan Kavanaugh and I want to fill your theaters with young people eighteen to twenty-five, people who've slowed or stopped their movie consumption, people who will buy your popcorn and hot dogs and sugary drinks (and they'd buy expensive beer if you'd sell it to them and expensive pot if the government had any sense). I want your theaters to be full of happy people.

Relativity bought Rogue Pictures from Universal to make movies for those audiences, young movies, smart movies, crazy movies, exciting movies, and I want people to see them. They won't be costly big blow-things-up CGI spectaculars. Rogue can't and won't compete in price with those. So I don't want to charge my audience the same as for those big spectaculars.

Here's my deal. If I've got a picture that's going out on three or four hundred screens, I'll let you have the movies almost for free. Give me a buck or two for every ticket you sell. You set the price for the ticket-buyer in your theaters so that you bring in the most people and sell the most stuff to them. That's all your money and you keep it all. Price it the way that makes sense in each theater, in each market for each show. I don't care about that so long as I get my buck or two.

But I get to put the picture out day and date any way I want: VOD, disc, streaming, download to own, whatever the buyer wants.

You get a growing theatrical audience and almost all the revenue from it. I get to concentrate my marketing dollars on opening the movie on all platforms at the same time, and thereby achieving ubiquity at a substantial savings. We both get to price right for the audience and the specific experience. And with right pricing and immediate all-platform access, we can build community and buzz and want-to-see.

Some will want to experience the movie in the theater. Great! Make that experience the most fun possible. Stop the noisy pre-show bullshit. Nobody wants to pay money to see a movie and be subjected to those lame ads. They want to talk to their dates and talk to each other and then see the trailers and then shut up and see the movie on a beautiful big screen with great sound. The more exciting and fun it is for the right price, the more people will come to your theaters.

Some will want to watch it at home, on a computer screen in the privacy of their own room or on the living room screen hanging out with friends. Why should we care where they watch it, so long as we're both making money?

Help me save American movies, because if we don't, we're all going to go out of business doing the same old dumb thing the same old dumb way."

If Ryan Kavanaugh can pull that off, and open the door for the smaller, wilder, independent movies to find a theatrical audience as a part of their release, then more distributors than just Rogue can come back into the business, taking different chances, finding different voices, and maybe even growing the audience for the first time in a decade.

Making exciting new pictures with exciting new film-makers for an audience that is excited to see them sounds good to me. It's been a long time since that has happened.


You might also like:

27 Comments

  • Anastasia Chavez | February 4, 2011 10:19 AMReply

    The people who need the support and guidance the most are the people with the next big movie ideas, I am someone with those ideas. I have roles for Hollywood's stars, I have projects with theatrical viability, they can be marketed, pitched, sold, profited from. There's a blatant disregard for suppy and demand in this industry. You want to know how to fix the current state of this industry, it's time to go back to basics. Never heard of this Kavanaugh and I hope he's not just some other lame who thinks he's been sent here to save the day who doesn't care for story, performance or the audience leaving the theater with a sense of real well-being. As far as I'm concerned, this guy's agenda is the same as the people who he's purportedly going against. I don't buy anyone's bullshit anymore, especially since I possess the material and cinematic ability to take this industry to the next level. This industry HAS already changed people. Now it's time to progress it.


    youtube.com/user/ANASTASIACHAVEZVLOG

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13DWaGee6gQ - Hollywood Needs A New Business Model

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4jegkwD9vc - The Movie Business Needs To Go Above And Beyond

  • Jeff Steele | January 25, 2011 6:10 AMReply

    Thanks Cotty. This is a well thought out, articulate piece. The disconnect between exhibitors and younger audiences is truly disheartening. Unfortunately, P&A (not so much the "P" anymore) continue to be prohibitively expensive, preventing the riskier, edgier indie films that might resonate with these audiences from reaching them.

  • Troy Allen Dyer | January 11, 2011 11:52 AMReply

    Your thinking is flawed because you don't know current business models or profit sources. Theatrical ticket sales make up less and less revenue compared to ancillary markets. And the 18-25 year olds will buy a bunch of DVD's and downloads after a film leaves theaters (if the film is worthy of ownership), and that is the issue. Nobody knows anything. That's why Elliot (Ryan's financial backers) had to go all-in with $6-10 billion of equity to corner the market for 5 to 7 years. It's the way of the studio system. Nobody knows which flicks will be hits with audiences, so you have to make all types of films at all budget ranges. Ryan was lucky enough, or I bet smart enough when communicating with Elliot, to know this historical fact going in. The best best is still to have a theatrical release, and a big P&A budget for top-of-mind marketing, but more often than not, it's the big cities that get a film into theatres in the smaller towns across in America. A new model is coming, where there are not risks to release indie films. My company, Geneva Media Holdings, is doing it. But the model for the studios will always remain strong. The world is growing. Populations are growing. Film and television is growing. What opens doors for indie films is 1) tax credits like IRS code sec. 181 theatrical tax deductions, state film tax incentives, rebates and credits, and a guarantee that the indie film you just invested in WILL NEVER LOSE MONEY! Again, I suggest the next indie producer who seeks out finances, without offering to protect the investment, reconsider the liabilities he is leaving with his benefactor. Leave Ryan to do the work he was born to do within and without the studios. Let the wealthy benefactors of the arts make the important and exciting indie films. Ryan will be happy to distribute the good ones, test market them in advance, and make money. That is a fact.

  • MICHAEL | January 1, 2011 11:20 AMReply

    oooooooooooooooooooooh..Ouch!

  • M | January 1, 2011 5:38 AMReply

    You're Welcome. Happy New Year!

  • Cotty | January 1, 2011 5:01 AMReply

    No hard feelings, M, and thanks for being part of the thought process that gets us, let's hope, to a more viable business model -- and better movies. HNY!

  • Cotty | January 1, 2011 1:08 AMReply

    Margot, of course you're right. In a bad economy (and no segment has been hit harder than the early-20s) people look for value. And that audience has mostly been respected as consumers only, for their ability to spend, not as people with desires and needs that movie stories can satisfy or gratify.

    There is a structural impediment in developing and making NEW movies (not branded, supposedly risk-reduced, retreads) for that audience, because the cost of reaching them is so high if a wide-release theatrical strategy is mandated.

    Rogue has the opportunity to be the distribution brand of choice for that audience if Mr Kavanaugh can harness his power to open simultaneous channels of distribution.

    There's no-one in what might be called the "New Line of the 80s" space, making smart chance-taking movies with young talent for the 18-25 audience, because traditional pattterns of distribution make it too expensive and the current alternatives (Magnolia, IFC VOD etc) don't pay the rent.

    It's not so much that I as a producer yearn to make only those movies, but if that audience loses the habit, and the appetite, for movies, what will the future bring?

    (And "michael," if you are moved to comment, can you keep it to a couple of concise paragraphs, please? If you want to write a longer piece, perhaps you should do that and submit it to Anne.)

  • Margot | December 31, 2010 9:24 AMReply

    The stats in this article are quite interesting considering that the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles has experienced both an increase in average attendance (rising steadily since Fall 2009) AND a growing number in the young adult demographic. Our highest ticket price is general admission which is $11 ($7 for members), but the kicker is, that these people are, for the most part, turning out to see OLD movies - classics with a reputation for being good.

    We had around 1000 admissions from three screenings of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) last week and tonight 300 youthful people came out for a one night revival screening of THE GODFATHER. By show of hands, only about 25 of those people had never seen it at all. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, WEST SIDE STORY, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and other big screen classics garner a sizeable audience several times a year.

    So perhaps it isn't a lack of interest in film or the expense of seeing films on the big screen that is bringing down the commercial US box office and chasing away the desired youth demographic. Rather it's the expectation that the quality of most new release films will not be high enough to bother to see the film in the theater.

    In a bad economy, perhaps people want a sure thing for their money.

  • MovieMadness | December 29, 2010 5:41 AMReply

    There are many contributing factors: Mainly the declining economy and the lack of quaility films.

  • Frank Glass | December 29, 2010 3:20 AMReply

    Okay, you have nailed the problem to a degree. Everything is a knock off. And looks like just like the last one. Season of The Witch will tank. Why? It tries to Harry Potter and Narnia and all that same stuff with the big birds, etc. It's too much. And Cage is finished. So are a lot of them. Jennifer Aniston is done. Yet, if we concentrated on good stories and forgot about trying to sell tired "stars". The audience will come back. Remember the Titanic? Simple story telling and look what happened.

  • michael | December 28, 2010 11:18 AMReply

    12-28-2010
    in the LA Times ...

    "Focusing purely on headcount is nice if you don't want to accept money," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures. "But if money goes up while bodies go down, I'm not sure it's necessarily a bad thing."

    One of your peers who is scared to death of CFI.

  • michael | December 28, 2010 11:05 AMReply

    PIXAR chose all the movies they were going to make ... BEFORE they started making movies! (They weren't a brand before they picked ALL the stories that have eventually MADE them a Brand!)

    People don't go see "branded" movies if the story is crappy.

    Just ask Disney... (hmmmm - maybe THAT's why THEY bought out PIXAR!)

  • michael | December 28, 2010 10:52 AMReply

    The only films that are "too expensive" to teenagers ...

    are all the crappy ones!

    And yes, WE DO know how to tell which films are going to succeed with the mass audience ... more than 95% of the time even before the script or casting in finished! (It's called "story".)

    Why do you think Pixar is so CONSISTENTLY SUCCESSFUL?!

    just sheer dumb LUCK? Oh Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    (But your SHORT-SIGHTED, SELFISH, GREEDY, ARROGANT, and impotent colleges - would rather get paid to make ANYTHING they can get paid to make - rather than make the sacrifices required to make QUALITY!!!)

    Quality is NEVER "too" expensive to a TEENAGER.

    When distributors put out consistent quality, the teenagers will come. No matter what it costs.

    That's how sequels can succeed ... or fail.

    You have a good heart Cotty, but you are not facing the facts of the dominant DISTRIBUTION business model. I know you know the system. I know you wish it didn't exist.

    And you just can't bring yourself to believe that there really is a way to identify the quality stories BEFORE you shoot the flick (I.E Pixar!!!) As it marginalizes your industry's inability to forecast success - and puts you behind the trend.

    See ...
    Your peers want to be allowed to make crappy movies ...
    and then force the theaters to make the financial sacrifices so that the filmmaker still gets paid. Your peers are seriously dishonest.

    Make consistent quality films - and "they will come".
    (Just like Pixar does.)

  • Cotty | December 28, 2010 7:03 AMReply

    I guess the thing I don't understand from some of these comments is the persistent notion that the young adult (18-25) audience isn't price-sensitive. When a business is selling 4% fewer tickets than the year before, and raising prices 5%, how can anyone say that? And why would movie tickets be any different from books or airline tickets or anything else these days where the audience can discover a price they want to pay?

    Ask a teenager, ask a 22-year-old. They'll tell you. They are going to the movies less because movies are too expensive. Sure, they'll go to Inception because it gave them an original big picture and was worth the money. For most of the rest, enh.

    If we as movie-makers lose that audience, if they don't feel what it's like to have a group experience in the dark, we'll lose the movies as they grow older and we age out.

    And if the only way to make movies for young adults is to spend a minimum of fifty million dollars, to make and mass-market even the smallest studio picture (e.g., Easy A), then how will voices emerge that matter to that audience?

    Truth is, we don't really know what original unbranded movies will appeal to an audience or movies like The Tourist or the Jim Brooks picture wouldn't get made (not to pick on Sony, whose product mix is generally pretty brave).

    The only way to know is to make the damn things on a business model that allows for failure and encourages possibility. And price them where the audience wants to buy the chance that the picture will work for them.

    We have to make the theatrical experience more affordable. Maybe it's coupons, as Michael R. Bernard and Jonathan Dana suggest, maybe it's improving the theatrical revenue split to benefit exhibition and enable day-and-date, maybe it's something else.

    But a business that runs on declining sales of increasingly expensive product is not a business with a long-term future. And that's what worries me.

  • Raj | December 28, 2010 1:52 AMReply

    Heaps mad idea, let's kill theatrical!

  • michael | December 25, 2010 6:55 AMReply

    AND OH YA...
    You know that automated infrared video camera ?

    ITS ALREADY WATCHING YOU...

  • michael | December 25, 2010 6:51 AMReply

    Eventually, each studio's broadband channel will be the pipelines of choice. And large screen home theaters with secure downloading from each of the major Distribs will be the norm. Sure there will always be place that teenage lovers, liquid adolescents, and the geriatric lonesome will need to escape to, but that subsequent audience will never really grow - and so the number of theatrical venues in North America will not grow.

    Most teenagers don't go to the theater - because there are too many other things that are more fun to play with - so even good movies can come in second to net-wide gaming and social interactions. Only the few and far between epic can pull the complete and total teenage market share. If you want to get them back in the habit of consistent theater attendance - only consistent quality product can provide the cure. And the Distribs just have no way of accurately measuring the audience enough ... to be able to consistently produce projects that can fulfill their desires.

    But lowering box-office prices is not a business model that will make the youth come back and stay back. It is only consistent quality product that competes with all the other consistent quality products available elsewhere.

    (Eventually theaters will be history, if they don't eventually start sharing with independent filmmakers who need financing ... in return for creating theater specific product that will guarantee the theaters an audience. It worked for TV when they partnered with the NFL, and it's keeping them both afloat.)

    At least with CFI audience tracking, we can guarantee consistent product, and we can pounce an usher on audiences and rip them out of their seats ... IF they even "think" about opening that Blackberry! (Biometric software predicts what they think and when they are starting to think it so the theater managers can step in and prevent interruptions.)

    So we can also improve theater-goer manners (both the young and the old, who can be as bad as the young - or some other minorities), and we will eventually get to enjoy proper theatrical behavior. (As long you don't mind being watched by automated video camera ... while you watch the film, do you Cotty?)

    And if the Distribs learn to share because they find out that they can't compete with "Call of Duty" ... and other better product in a "broadband only" biz model ... then the theaters will be making enough money NOT to play commercials beforehand. (Which is why I only go to ArcLights, and even then earlier than any teenagers or minority crowds or Crackberries can.)

    But don't wait around for any coupons.
    Coupons telegraph desperation and coupons will never build resonance. And ONLY resonance can sell enough tickets for profitability. And ONLY consistent, quality product will build resonance.

    Good luck getting the theaters to drop the ticket price from $10 to $5 (when teenagers don't care about the movie because it has no special effects) ... and when everybody else can download it for the same $5 per capita and stay home and truly enjoy themselves. They can't sell popcorn to people who don't show up.

    And kids won't show up, just because you lowered the price of that crappy product ... even if the theater actually did start shampooing the carpet.

    And Ryan the Red would never consider it - as it would ANNIHILATE the size of his theatrical distribution fees (his "deals" with independents and other studios). That's THEIR business model and it is really all they care about - just before they go after the ancillary markets for themselves anyway, day and date or not.

    Saving the theaters from going upside down, is just NOT in their long term thinking.

    You have a good heart Coddy, but that windmill is just not changing its sails.

    michael@CFIassurance.com

  • michael | December 25, 2010 6:50 AMReply

    .............................................................................

    OK Cotty,
    Let's play catch-up!
    (And this will be only my third time commenting, since it seems you are counting.)

    The revenue tracking and sharing system goes both ways.
    The Distrib has to be only as honest about how many D&D discs and POVs he sold ... as he believes the theater manager is being as honest about the number of tickets sold.

    But with audience eye-tracking biometric software ...
    which monitors the actual theatrical audience in real-time in each of their seats while the digital download plays (see that large panel of infrared LEDs on the back wall of modern venues). It paints the audience with light (that only the biometric scanning security cameras see.) ... so tracking income is no longer hit & miss. The theater owners can't lie about attendance now ... or they don't get in on revenue sharing and they are left behind.

    (And the tracking also helps manage the audience's behavior and stop piracy to improve the experience and prevent lost sales).

    If Distribs NEED the theater to open its product each weekend in order to generate the momentum and resonance ... then the theaters NEED the Distribs to keep them open and profitable with GOOD PRODUCT that is CONSISTENTLY PROFITABLE.

    And selling crappy product with coupons is a "lose-lose" situation that still won't build audiences, or sell more popcorn. REALLY ... when was the last time your bought a crappy pizza just cause you had a coupon?

    Coupons only work if the product is worthy and where is too much worthy product competing in the open market. So eventually you would end up with distributors competing to see who could sell their crappiest product at the lowest coupon price on opening weekends ... instead of two years later at the corner grocery store. (That would not be a very solid business plan I'd say. Popcorn sales would diminish - as would the theatrical ROI needed to produce more product.)

    The key is for the Distribs to discover new ways that they can guarantee consistent quality in big, medium, and small projects - that mass audiences desire to see on big screens ... AND also consistent, quality independent projects that the artsy audiences want to see at small screens.

    It can be done easily (CFI Assurance has proven it for years) ... but the Distribs don't want any part of that kind of consistency modeling, because they are angling to keep the entire market share just for themselves, without having to make anything any better product than it already is. That keeps there investment down ... and their margins up!

    It's not the quality of the product that distributors care about - it's only "the Deal" ... and the percentage of the income they can run away with. Their percentage is all they work hard to create and polish - not the actual product. If a film does well they all take the credit - but they had no idea it would be beautiful - they just wanted their hard money and percentages ... no matter what the resonance turned out to be. The number of films that studios pass up because they cant get their deal - and then those projects turn out to be major blockbuster - is astronomical and perfectly proves the point. "The Deal" ... is more important than the eventual outcome of the product. (If a suit makes a small deal on a major blockbuster, he gets LESS credit at the office than if he makes a mega-deal with a low grosser.)

    I know. Its sad ... but its true.
    The "deal" the agent or the studios make in production and distribution, is more important than the consistency of quality product.

    So ... the Distribs control the product, and that controls the market, and that controls auxiliaries like theater venues. So the same thing that happened to burlesque, radio, broadway and TV broadcast ... will also happen to most film theaters and cable TV ... unless they find a way to participate in the future development and marketing of product they can share in.

    (continued below...)

  • weetiger3 | December 24, 2010 11:52 AMReply

    "The problem is not the pre-show ads (talk right through them - using your indoor voice), it’s the lack of control over the audience that increasingly has made me watch movies at home."

    Exactly! This is what has kept me from the theater more often than not. I blame the advent of video, followed by dvd's, instant streaming etc. This generation that Chubb Cotty thinks is the future of theater attendance, does not know how to behave in a theater.

    I go only when I'm more likely to be one of the few people at that particular showing, and even then I sit in the first row to be as far away from the groups of people who can't differentiate between the theater experience and being at home in their living rooms. (I also happen to like that location.) I avoid seeing "family-themed" films at a theater so that I won't have to endure other ppl's ill-mannered children who have not been TAUGHT how to behave in a theater. (Although I did break my own rule for How to Train Your Dragon.) The big budget summer tent-pole movies are just as bad. Perhaps it's the mob mentality, but the idea of seeing a long-awaited blockbuster, like next summer's Green Lantern with a crowd at the theater fills me with dread, not anticipation.
    I'm not above complaining to management if someone is ruining MY experience but as mentioned above, theaters need more personnel to police the auditoriums. It shouldn't be my responsibility when my ticket cost as much as that of those who can't refrain from talking or texting.

  • Ken-Ali | December 24, 2010 11:47 AMReply

    Cutty, that is an absolutely GENIUS idea! Kudos!

  • Cotty | December 24, 2010 7:35 AMReply

    Maybe it's just late at night but I don't really understand what you're saying, Michael (not Michael B) and David.

    David suggests that the various exhibition venues be able to share revenues with each other. This is too complicated to work and to the extent that audiences pay cash, good luck with believing reports of revenue. Anyway, my proposal makes it incumbent on each platform to maximize its own revenue, and possible to do so. Please an audience and thrive: that should be the only rule.

    And Michael, back for seconds and thirds in the comment line and glad to see you, first of all, this has nothing to do with studios. They're not interested in the 300-400 print release this model calls for. Second, this has everything to do with building an audience for MOVIES in an audience 18-25.

    They are the future of the business. They respond to creative risk, being young. But a business model that serves them doesn't exist. That's the problem. That's what I'm trying to address.

    Yes, movies are primarily a theatrical experience and yes, proper marketing requires a theatrical release. The proposal acknowledges that truth by almost giving the theatrical revenues away to the exhibitor in exchange for allowing day and date on all other platforms, an alternate source of revenue the theatrical exhibitor has no claim to.

    Failing this proposal, the younger audience will likely continue to drift away from movies. They're not getting what they want, for the most part, and they're not getting it at a price that seems fair or with an availability that seems consistent with their culture of immediacy.

    It's as though the exhibitors are making it hard to see our movies, expensive and often inconvenient. How exactly does that help us producers grow an audience?

  • michael | December 24, 2010 6:14 AMReply

    The REAL issue is not the amount the studio charges customers to watch at home. The real issue is ...

    HOW VALUABLE TO THE STUDIO, IS THE MARKETING TOOL, THAT ADVERTISING A THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE PROVIDES?

    If the studio/distribs NEED the venue to effectively market the product ... then they are going to have to find a way to equitably compensate the theatrical venue, and keep the venue alive and in its place as an efficient marketing tool. Sharing percentages of the revenue from all day and date income ... with theaters that provide themselves as opening day marketing venues ... would be a fair approach.

    (But when have the studios ever been known for fairness?)

    If the theatrical venue becomes neutralized as a marketing venue, the the issue is mute. And the mega-theaters will be muted as well.

    But then we will have lots of art theaters to choose from, using digital encryption to project and protect the product ... and that will help nurture a whole new specialist market that goes back to the circuitous marketing routine of the sixties ... before Jaws created the cinematic wide-release (and the theatrical venue's "jumping of the shark" was first achieved).

    With that old retro-marketing and with new digital encryption, it creates very little value and too much risk-taking for internet thieves.

    The small theater will return and the art community will thrive. It's the circle of life! (That is of course as long as the world doesn't get EMP'd tomorrow ...)

  • Cord Cutter | December 24, 2010 5:09 AMReply

    "then shut up and see the movie on a beautiful big screen with great sound"

    "Isn't it pretty to think so?

    Saw Deathly Hallows first weekend it was open, paid a good price for reserved seating in a well equipped theatre and sat next to a woman who had her phone open and on vibrate the entire time - she didn't want to miss anything important - not on the screen, on her phone. When theatres start policing their auditoriums for people who text during movies, I may (just may) return. The problem is not the pre-show ads (talk right through them - using your indoor voice), it's the lack of control over the audience that increasingly has made me watch movies at home.

  • David | December 24, 2010 1:18 AMReply

    Cotty,

    Nice article and there is a method to this madness that you write about here. i do believe that Michael has a point about the Theaters needing a way to hedge if there is indeed a plan to use a day and date model.

    One idea would be allow the theaters to take a piece of the day and date from other deliverables such as DVD, VOD and Streaming as well as Non Theatrical Exhibition revenue from community halls, churches and schools while allowing the other day and date deliverable people to take a piece of the box office. Those who control their own markets would obviously take the lion share and the filmmaker could take a piece of it all, albeit a smaller piece of many pies.

    This would allow for the widest release possible and people would naturally choose the right standard and experience that best suits them.

    Of course to do this one would have to have a tracking system for all this madness and this of course is not available at this time.....or is it?

  • Cotty Chubb | December 24, 2010 12:37 AMReply

    Re variable pricing, of course we have that already with premium pricing for 3D. It's really a matter of the theater managers having the freedom to price most effectively for the market they serve and the product they sell.

    Giving the exhibitor the opportunity to keep most of the income from tickets along with 100% of the income they garner from food and drink, as they do already should shift the balance. Anything that helps the theater sell popcorn is money in the pocket to the exhibitor.

    And note I'm only proposing that this would apply to pictures that are going out in a somewhat limited release, 300 or 400 screens. There are 26,000 screens in America. Most of the theaters in the exhibitor's portfolio wouldn't be playing the picture regardless.

    But simultaneous release on all platforms might be enough to make the release of movies like Catfish, which came out through Rogue, more profitable and therefore more likely to be produced. Catfish ran to 127 screens at its widest, grossing almost $3,250,000 over about 12 weeks. Its marketing spend in unknowable, but whatever it was, Rogue has to spend again a few months later as the subsequent windows opened.

    How is that sensible? Wouldn't it be better for everyone, theater owners and Rogue alike, if the marketing spend can be concentrated on one release date, building awareness and conversation and want-to-see?

  • michael | December 24, 2010 12:02 AMReply

    Actually here's what the exhibitors at the table will say back to the red-head...

    "OK Ryan, tell ya what! You split the income 50/50 with all of us on anything you release on D&D, and we'll allow you to market your product in our theaters."

    Can you do that Ryan?
    If not, you'll just have to put up with getting kicked out of theatrical distribution by other studios who will. It's inevitable.

    (Your only other option is to start your own web-brand with a "netflicks" model.)

    To corner the theatrical market and the day & date at the same time, you have to guarantee the exhibitors that your movies will succeed one way or other in the theater - or you are toast.

  • Bring back Dollar Daze! | December 23, 2010 10:57 AMReply

    I'll tell you what will put butts in seats. Bring back "Dollar days." If you made Tuesday and Wednesday $1 tickets for everybody, and 1/2 price Thursdays then all the movie theaters would be packed. Every screen needs to have different films on it for this to work. On screen advertising would be limited to 5 minutes on dollar days only. The people would have more money in their pockets for concessions, popcorn sales would go through the roof, and lines would be around the block to get in. Lines and crowds (and cheap tickets) will draw teens and young who like to hang out and who don't have a lot of allowance money. It will also draw familes on budgets who can now afford tickets and popcorn and babysitters without breaking the bank.

    This requires that the theaters hire more concession stand people and ushers to clean up and deal with the crowds on weekdays, which would employ hundreds of thousands more people in this country. The people who are annoyed by lines and crowds would wait and go on weekends, when the tickets are full price, which will lead to bigger weekend crowds too. The more people who see a movie, the more who talk about it, the more tickets will be sold overall. Audiences get a fun and affordable experience.

    Also bring back "Midnight Movies" at big theater chains (not just at the small theaters), where odd, strange and independent movies can play for 1/2 price at Midnight. Make movie-going an event again! Then we can all start making more movies again and not just one-size-fits-all kind of movies. Everybody wins.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • French Debut Feature 'Party Girl' to ...
  • Stephen Colbert Inherits the David Letterman ...
  • FIRST LOOK: Eddie Redmayne Stars as ...
  • Davis Guggenheim's Malala Yousafzai ...
  • Trailers from Hell Chases 'The Mouse ...
  • WATCH: Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan ...
  • The Top Ten 'Mad Men' Episodes (So ...
  • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to Reunite ...
  • WATCH: You May Never Eat Again After ...
  • Why Ray Winstone Is Perfect for That ...