When Kimberly Steward was at home in St. Louis, Missouri making media rounds for the film “Manchester by the Sea” just ahead of its nationwide theatrical release this past October, she didn’t want to entertain the Oscar buzz surrounding the film.
The idea of it seemed too farfetched – too much of a fairytale ending for the first-time feature film producer.
“If anything happens with any kind of awards, I will definitely be giving Oprah a shout out,” Steward said.
“Manchester by the Sea” was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award making Steward the second African American woman producer to have a film in the running for the most coveted award of the film season. Oprah Winfrey is the other.
“What she has done as a filmmaker and a producer has opened doors for me and so many others,” Steward said of Winfrey. “If that actually happens, I will actually bow and curtsey to her because she paved the way.”
“This is exciting and surreal,” Steward told The Huffington Post’s Zahara Hill. “I’m just beyond belief.”
With a diverse mix of nominees both in front of and behind the scenes, Steward has the chance to strike Oscar gold with her debut as producer/financier thanks to “Manchester.”
“As an African American woman, it’s important to have that representation off screen too,” Steward said of her role in bringing the film to mass audiences.
Steward and her K. Period Media (which she operates with producing partner Lauren Beck) put forth the necessary financing for the Kenneth Lonegran feature to see the light of day.
“We had nobody except K Period,” Matt Damon said during a “Produced By” panel. A fellow producer along with Steward, the concept of the film was Damon’s idea – and he was originally set to star in the drama. Scheduling conflicts meant that Casey Affleck would assume the role of Lee Chandler, a reclusive New England janitor forced to confront his painful past and mend broken familial ties.
The film – and Affleck’s performance in particular – was praised by critics from its premiere at Sundance last winter.
While at Sundance, Amazon paid $10 million for the film’s distribution rights. Manchester” was believed to be a shoe-in for several honors for the next awards season.
First came the Golden Globes – where “Manchester” earned a total of five nominations. Casey Affleck took home “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.” Steward was the first person Affleck reached out to embrace when his name was announced at last month’s ceremony.
Chris Daniels talks to the people behind brand films such as BMW’s The Escape and Samsung’s Fighting Chance and identifies the secret sauce that engaged viewers and persuaded them to watch.
BMW’s 5 Series Sedan looks gleaming and gorgeous in the automaker’s new brand film, The Escape, but by the end of the action-packed 11 minutes the vehicle has been dented, cracked and shot at. As the film’s co-creative director Bruce Bildsten tells PRWeek, “We went out of our way to avoid any shots that looked like a car commercial. We made sure the car got pretty banged up and dirty.”
“In fact, to prepare for the final shot we had a stuntman jump off a ladder onto the hood because it wasn’t dented enough,” Bildsten recalls. “And the client was there saying, ‘Go for it!’”
The Escape arrives 15 years after The Hire, the first BMW film that raced to more than 100 million views back before high-speed Internet was widespread. The success was fueled by a great story, word of mouth, and earned media impressions. Many experts consider the action film (starring movie actor Clive Owen, who reprised his role for the latest iteration) a seminal moment for brand film as a viral content play.
Although it has taken time for more brands to experiment with the media, industry watchers note advertisers of all categories have gotten into the filmmaking business. Some, such as Nike and Chipotle Mexican Grill, have commissioned animated shorts; others, including Prada-owned fashion house Miu Miu and Häagen-Dazs, have done documentaries; and the likes of BMW and H&M have opted for cinematic fiction.
Its growing popularity is also reflected in the hundreds of entries to PRWeek and Campaign’s inaugural Brand Film Festival last year.
Experts attribute its rise to several factors, paramount among them being the democratization of content and the fact consumers are choosing what to watch and how to watch it.
Since its launch in late October last year, The Escape has been watched on YouTube more than 5.1 million times. Bildsten reunited with former Fallon colleagues David Carter and Brian DiLorenzo and created Geisel Productions to produce it. They worked on the first film for BMW USA while they were all at ad agency Fallon and hope to make more brand films under Geisel.
“The lesson we learned from BMW was that we could integrate the car into the story, but it could never be heavy handed,” he explains. “That’s the mistake often made with brand films. They’re selling; they turn the viewer off; and no one seeks it out.”
Experts agree a brand film is no longer a film if it’s selling (that’s just an extended ad), or telling a story strictly about the company (that’s an infomercial). They say it follows a different set of parameters and best practices that seem counter to almost everything else they do in marcomms.
Understand your brand first
Spectrecom Films & Spectrecom Studios in London, with corporate clients including American Express, Skittles, and Guinness, has increasingly been approached by newer brands looking to put themselves on the map, says Christiaan Harden, client services director.
However, he says companies can’t look to a film for helping define their brand; it has to instead evangelize and emote what your brand is about. “You can’t do that if you don’t have a good understanding of your own brand,” says Harden. “We’ve had to say to some clients, in particular for new brands, ‘Don’t even think of allocating a budget until you know who you are yourself.’”
A clear understanding of your brand also keeps you focused on the storytelling that would resonate and engage on an emotional level with your particular target, he adds.
“Sometimes a client already has an idea that may be imaginative and slightly different, but it is not communicated with the brand in mind – it’s just an idea for its own sake,” says Harden. “That’s why the branding stage and understanding your audience is so important.”
Also understand – audiences aren’t clamoring for your film.
“There are very few brands people genuinely care about. You could probably count them on the fingers of one hand,” says Matthew Gidley, SVP, MD, experiential and live events group, Momentum Worldwide and an award-winning writer who has worked on films for brands including Nokia and Meridien Hotels.
“You should assume nobody wants to see your brand film other than the client, a handful of your colleagues, and perhaps some close members of your family,” says Gidley. “It’s the number one golden rule and as an industry it’s the first rule we choose to ignore: Never be boring, and don’t kid yourself you’re being interesting.”
Choose your collaborators
Brands can work with production companies, ad agencies, and PR firms, which have boosted their production capabilities with hires of former executive producers in TV and film.
A field producer for Rachel Ray and The Martha Stewart Show before joining Weber Shandwick in 2011, Ian Cohen is now the firm’s global executive producer and president, content creation and innovation. He oversees over 100 employees globally, from directors and editors to photographers and animators.
Collaborating with a PR agency in helping to identify and craft a story for film offers distinct advantages, Cohen says.
“The advantage of coming at it from the PR angle is we ask ‘what type of film can we create that would get into the news cycle?’, because non-paid media is what we’re really after,” he says. “When we do a film and someone does an online search of the client, we want them to find coverage of the film – because it will be embedded in the coverage.”
“That unpaid media becomes the film’s rocket fuel. It signals this is something you can’t miss,” he adds.
As an example, he points to the 90-second mini-documentary Weber produced for Fisher-Price called “Wishes for baby,” which features new moms in hospitals around the world sharing their wishes for their babies. The footage – shot in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2016 – has been viewed on YouTube more than 1.8 million times and was picked up by the likes of USA Today.
Regardless of your collaborators, remember films are written by writers, not copywriters, says Gidley.
“The most sacred object in this whole enterprise is the script, and you’d better make sure whoever wrote it is a voracious reader of everything from history to politics to fiction to poetry to metaphysics – because they’re going to have to apply the rules of rhetoric to a subject that may not on the face of it be terrifically exciting (a brand),” he points out. “I once won an award for a brand film about a hotel chain, and the spark of inspiration came to me whilst reading a passage in a Jane Austen novel that reminded me of something I had once seen in a PBS documentary about the history of the Spanish guitar.”
“That’s what writers do. They find connections and turn them into ideas that move people,” Gidley notes.
He also notes that many of his most-awarded films were written while he was a planner at a large events agency. As a result, he advises clients make an effort to know who’s who in their agency roster and actively identify the people they want thinking and writing about their brand. “I have a chip on my shoulder, but I’ll say it anyway – the best people probably aren’t inside the ad agency,” notes Gidley.
Think about distribution upfront
Before joining Ketchum Sports & Entertainment in October, Michelle Carney was at Tribeca Enterprises where she produced films for clients, including a series of small business documentaries for American Express, an Olympics feature for United Airlines, and numerous projects for Dick’s Sporting Goods. Now she leads Ketchum’s branded film, video, and VR/AR offering Ketchum Films.
“A film can live forever and have multiple phases within its distribution window,” Carney points out. “It is imperative to think about distribution as you’re conceiving the idea for the film, whether it’s a documentary, narrative, or short. You want to make sure distribution aligns with those important times in a brand calendar.”
She also says while most brands look to an earned media strategy for their film using owned channels, they should also consider seeking a distribution deal with the likes of Amazon or Netflix. She says having a top-shelf director on a brand film gives it instant credibility.
Carney cites the short documentary Fighting Chance that Ketchum produced for Samsung leading up to the Rio 2016 Olympics, directed by Oscar-winner Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom).
Samsung’s film highlights the reality that of the one million athletes who train for the Olympics, only 1% qualify.
“If you have a great film, a platform is going to want to distribute it. They’re probably not going to pay a premium for it, but you never know when you have people like Morgan and Ron Howard making brand content,” says Carney. “That changes the game. Also, remember the distribution landscape changes every day and is constantly evolving.”
Cohen agrees as much attention should be paid to distribution as creative. “Often a piece of content is made and then handed off to distribution, but that’s the wrong approach,” he says. “The distribution team, whether for paid or earned media, needs to be engaged in the brand story upfront, because I’ve seen where they’ve said, ‘Hey, if we move this soundbite up or engage this particular cast of characters, we’ll get picked up by these different media trades.’”
“That is what you’re after: you’re not paying for 10,000 views and getting 10,000 views. You’re guaranteeing yourself 10,000 views [with paid distribution] and hoping for 100,000 more through earned media,” summarizes Cohen.
Go here to learn more about PRWeek and Campaign’s Brand Film Festival New York, or to submit your film for consideration for their second annual gala screening.
The deadline for submissions, which are open to work from the Americas and Asia-Pacific, is February 6.
The notion of longevity in Hollywood is getting rarer and rarer as old stars fade and most traditional studios change their ways. But longevity is what springs to mind when the subject is David Kornblum, VP of theatrical sales and distribution, APAC/Russia and global acquisitions, The Walt Disney Company Asia.
Kornblum will accept the CineAsia “Distributor of the Year” Award being given to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International at the final-night Awards Ceremony on Dec. 8 at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.
A 27-year Disney veteran based in the company’s Burbank offices, Kornblum oversees 12 direct distribution offices while keeping an eye on a number of sub-distribution offices there handling Disney product. His oversight covers approximately 35 markets (including several quite small) across a vast swath of territories comprising APAC (Asia-Pacific) and Russia. These include China, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, Australia/New Zealand and on and on to places like the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States like Kazahkstan, etc.), Singapore, Malaysia, etc.
Just as Kornblum is no stranger to Asia, he’s also no stranger to industry recognition, having been honored in 2013 as recipient of CinemaCon’s Passepartout award.
So what changes over these years has Kornblum seen that have impacted Disney’s business? Remember, this is the legendary Disney, which has barely tampered with its “secret sauce” throughout its long history as a giant of the industry.
One change is the familiar plot turn that began early in the past decade or so with China’s economic rise and its attendant film boom, which continues to play out (in spite of some softening earlier this year in film attendance). But China remains robust and Disney continues as a chart-topper. Says Kornblum, “China’s growth has now made it the global territory with the most screens [as announced in mid-November], having surpassed the U.S. with more than 40,000 screens. To put this growth in perspective, in 2012 China’s overall box-office take was $2 billion and should conclude this year at just shy of $7 billion.”
Overall in his territories, improvements to exhibition infrastructure have been “a boon to business,” he observes, especially in what he describes as “emerging” territories like China and Russia that are relative newbies to vibrant movie cultures and mass theatre attendance. Being the newcomer, Kornblum explains, is often an advantage vs. “mature” markets like Australia or New Zealand, where older moviegoing legacies from the last century like aging venues and even aging populations have an impact.
“In places like China where cinemagoing is relatively new, there are more youthful populations who are attending [a spike that has China now building 27 new auditoriums a day]. These [younger populations] are also in places like the Philippines, where 44 percent of the population is under 20 years of age, or Indonesia where it’s 37 percent and India with an astounding 41 percent of the population under 20. But in a ‘mature’ film-going country like Japan or Taiwan, you have only 19 percent or thereabouts under 20. You can do well in these markets but need the right movie.”
And then there are the vagaries of admissions numbers. Like China’s, Korea’s admissions slowed down a little this year, notes Kornblum, but Hong Kong and Australia have been up, as has Russia “at a whopping nine percent.”
“But with young audiences predominant in some markets and older in others, you have to adjust your film releases to that disparity.”
Beyond the diversity and beyond so many numbers to juggle, Kornblum is emphatic that “whether it’s a more product-driven mature market that requires even more of an exhibition/distribution partnership or an emerging territory—China being the prime example—that is more market-driven, it’s the product that drives everything. Fortunately, Disney is well-placed in these circumstances, as our storytelling is usually universal and targeting broadly.”
Another big stimulus for Disney business in Kornblum’s territories has been the consummation of the digital transition. “Only four years ago, digital was still growing, but now most of the regions have been entirely digitized. That makes releasing matters easier but also more complex,” he explains, “because of all the quick adjustments we can make to programming in the theatres, and with the increased speed and efficiency we have, we can better manicure our releases.”
Kornblum also cites the success of Disney’s branding efforts on behalf of its Walt Disney and Pixar feature animation and live-action Marvel and Lucasfilm releases, whose division names (and not just their respective titles) send signals of quality and resonate with audiences. “This Disney branding effort has now taken root—we call these brands the five pillars of our production philosophy—and they give us a calling card to customers around the world.”
Turning to “report cards,” recent Disney stats for APAC/Russia certainly attest to the power of that calling card in these regions and the quality of the films behind the five brands. Thus far in calendar year 2016, Disney titles that predominated as the highest chart scorers for the APAC/Russia region were Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia, The Jungle Book and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
And as gauged by the various markets it serves, Disney this year has commanded dominant market share as number one (whether as Hollywood release or industry release) in just about every key market, again with titles like Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia, The Jungle Book and Finding Dory going to the top of this class.
The big bumps in film-going across the emerging territories in Kornblum’s APAC/Russia region have been due, he says, to more “cinema-literate” populations, which translates to more people eager to watch and discover films. This surge in his territories has translated to APAC/Russia now accounting for over half of the world’s international box office.
With so many energizing forces and such impressive box-office results, Kornblum happily reports that “it’s a wonderful time to be in the theatrical distribution business.”
But theatres too need to continue to do their share, especially as Kornblum reminds, ticket prices inevitably rise. But, praising the new amenities being offered, he predicts “there will be no negative impact [on attendance] as long as theatres continue to enhance. You can say that theatres need to be like good restaurants. People love to eat at home because it’s easier and cheaper. But craving both food and that communal experience, they also love to step out to restaurants.”
In addition to theatre advancements and amenities “doing a great job” to attract filmgoers and these improvements gaining more of a foothold (3D, premium-large-format screens from IMAX and others, enhanced sound systems like Dolby’s Atmos and Barco’s Auro 11.1, etc.), Kornblum cites “immersive HDR and laser, the next steps in cinema presentation now happening, and we love these.” He’s also a big fan of great seating like that done by AMC and so many others, including the 4DX and D-BOX motion-controlled seating and their immersive scene-appropriate ride thrills or water spritzes.
“The larger screens are increasingly what audiences like to see and they still vote for 3D especially in China and Russia,” which as emerging markets mostly skipped the multiplex revolution of the late 1900s and jumped right into this century’s better theatres. But mature territories like Australia and Korea have lower 3D consumption, he adds.
Getting back to “restaurants,” Kornblum points to in-theatre dining as a popular amenity (pioneered by Village Roadshow and Hoyts in Australia) that has clicked. Also important (and pardon another restaurant reference), he believes it’s vital that theatres offer a varied menu—i.e., different kinds of films to customers. Kornblum points to repertory offerings that Disney can provide from its rich library of beloved cinema classics. “We have significant successes working with our exhibition partners on these repertory programs, introducing both kids and adults to new and old programming and often on theatre ‘off’ nights.”
As Disney’s man in Asia and Russia and traveling the silk and other roads of his territories about 15 to 20 weeks a year, Kornblum says, “I’ve been doing this for twenty odd years and it’s the way I roll!”
The regions are a long haul from where he lives in Southern California and where he grew up. Kornblum was driven to the business by a familiar force: a love of movies. And his innate wanderlust fueled his desire to hit foreign roads. “As a kid, I loved seeing films in theatres on the big screen,” he emphasizes, “because we all know it’s the very best way to see them. But I also learned back then to love all the numbers and statistics relative to this business.” Then came a love of travel and learning about and connecting to cultures outside the U.S. “After I graduated UCI [the University of California at Irvine], I went off to Europe and that did it.”
Prior to Disney, Kornblum worked in corporate finance at Paramount and for the independent Atlantic Entertainment. In earlier Disney roles in international sales and distribution, he oversaw sales planning, strategy and analysis. During his tenure at Disney, the company first crossed the $1 billion annual box-office threshold, with that figure growing dramatically.
As if his vast Asian and Russian expanses were a Lilliputian Liechtenstein, Kornblum for years has also had parallel chores for Disney with acquisition duties, hunting in places like South America for local productions to acquire for his territories that flow through the Buena Vista International pipeline. Like some kind of “marvel” of a superhero, he shrugs off the workload: “This is another business for me.”
Back wearing his distribution cape, Kornblum says that this year’s biggest surprise for him was the success of Zootopia, which “exceeded all expectations because of the great humor and its appeal to both young and old. It was also a fantastic production and also the subtext of segregation and profiling which was very astute and reflected our society today and appealed to adults. The Jungle Book was another surprise. With the latest in visual effects that also provided an immersive experience and fantastic storytelling from Jon Favreau, we were able to reinvigorate a tale that was over 100 years old. We had another movie we loved, Queen of Katwe, that was terrific but underperformed and reminded that in today’s world there still remain challenges in bringing great movies to people.”
Regarding the recent U.S. election with its message that the powers-that-be, including the media, need to get closer to the natives and understand them, Kornblum responded to a question about how he and Disney manage to get a grip on local tastes and cultures in the APAC/Russia markets. “We have a decentralized approach, so we have local managers and they are the experts and run the business for us. They have fingers on the pulse of what is happening and they drive our business in their respective territories. They really do it all.”
Marvel’s Doctor Strange became China’s number-one grosser in mid-November, and at press time expectations were high for the gorgeous animated South Sea tale Moana. Says Kornblum, “We expect great things from all of our brands now, beginning with Moana. We also have for later this year Rogue One, our first-ever Star Wars standalone, which is not associated with the Skywalker saga but is in the Star Wars universe with its story about a man on a mission. For early 2017, there’s the live-action Beauty and the Beast, which stars Dan Stevens [who broke through in “Downton Abbey”] and he’s great. And in early spring comes Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, follow-up to the first Guardians hit.”
With Disney productions perennially strong across so many industry changes, years and territories, the question arises (as does that restaurant analogy) if Kornblum can reveal the studio’s “secret sauce.” He reiterates that it’s the universal storytelling that engages and that reaches movie fans from eight to 80. “It’s what Walt Disney wanted of the company and what the Disney brand signifies. Ours are movies for the whole family and for others, and our five brand pillars exemplify our strategy.”
He ends with some soothing words for the industry: “Anything wrong with the movie business can be resolved by a good movie.” Some might quibble that it’s easier said than done, but Disney, with help from people like Kornblum, constantly does it.
SHANGHAI, Dec. 1, 2016 – IMAX Corp. today announced an agreement with Shanghai Film Corporation (SFC) and SFC-Bailian Cinema Management Co., Ltd. (SFC-Bailian) for three new IMAX® theatres in China.
An IMAX theatre will be added to a new complex in the city of Anqing, Anhui Province. Two additional IMAX theatres will be located in the Pudong district of Shanghai, with one added to a new development in Chuansha and another to an existing complex at the First Yaohan shopping center that is slated to open in December. Today’s deal brings the SFC’s IMAX commitment to 32 theatres.
Shanghai Film Corporation is China’s largest state-owned enterprise in the exhibition industry, with the second-largest exhibition market share in the country. SFC-Bailian is a joint venture between SFC and Bailian Group, which was established to manage all Bailian Group cinema exhibition developments in China.
“IMAX is a premium brand that has been embraced by Chinese consumers as the gold standard in moviegoing,” said Mr. Zhang Feng, General Manager of SFC. “While the film and exhibition industry in China continues to grow, it remains fiercely competitive. As such, IMAX is a key differentiator that allows us to capitalize on the many growth opportunities that exist and strengthen our leadership position in the market.”
“We are delighted that after 12 years in the IMAX business, our valued partner SFC continues to expand its footprint and position IMAX as the anchor attraction for their most important locations,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “Today’s agreement builds on a record-setting signings year for IMAX globally and in China. In the first nine months of this year, we signed 232 theatre agreements in China compared to 74 in all of 2015, which has also driven installations to record levels. This reflects the strength of our business in the China where we remain committed to delivering the best in Hollywood and Chinese movies in IMAX to more audiences across the country.”
About Shanghai SFC-Bailian Cinema Management Co Ltd. Shanghai SFC-Bailian Cinema Management Co Ltd. is a joint venture established in September 2015. It mainly focuses on cinema investment management, and also offers technical development and consulting services as well as technology transfer for TV and films. The company has two shareholders, Shanghai Film Corporation (SFC) and Shanghai Bailian Group (Bailian ). SFC is a film distribution and screening enterprise, which owns Shanghai United Circuit, a leading cinema line with 250 cinemas and 1,300 screens nationwide; Shanghai Bailian Group is a large state-owned retail enterprise whose main business includes department stores, supermarket, shopping malls and outlet. The company also owns real estate covering the whole industry chain. By leveraging both sides, Shanghai SFC-Bailian Cinema Management Co. Ltd. aims to become a professional platform operating 20 cinemas within three years.
About Shanghai Film Corporation Shanghai Film Corporation (SFC) is a holding subsidiary of Shanghai Film Group Corporation. SFC operates in a few business areas including film distribution, copyright content sales, cinema line management, and the investment, development and management of cinemas. As one of the few companies which cover a complete chain of film distribution and exhibition, SFC perfectly combines a few roles as professional distributor, comprehensive cinema line and high-end theater operator. SFC is a leading company in both film distribution and exhibition businesses.
Shanghai United Circuit Co. Ltd., (SUC) a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shanghai Film Corporation, is one of the leading cinema lines in China. Now it has over 250 affiliate complexes in 23 provinces with 1,300 screens and 16 IMAX screens.
About IMAX China IMAX China is a subsidiary of IMAX Corporation, and is incorporated under the laws of Cayman Islands. IMAX China was established by IMAX Corporation specifically to oversee the expansion of IMAX’s business throughout Greater China.
About IMAX Corporation IMAX, an innovator in entertainment technology, combines proprietary software, architecture and equipment to create experiences that take you beyond the edge of your seat to a world you’ve never imagined. Top filmmakers and studios are utilizing IMAX theatres to connect with audiences in extraordinary ways, and, as such, IMAX’s network is among the most important and successful theatrical distribution platforms for major event films around the globe.
IMAX is headquartered in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, with offices in London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. As of Sep. 30, 2016, there were 1,145 IMAX theatres (1,037 commercial multiplexes, 16 commercial destinations and 92 institutions) in 74 countries.
Filmmakers fortunate enough to receive distribution offers for their films are often confronted with complex deals to distribute their films. These can bewilder those unfamiliar with the customs and practices of the industry. Let’s begin with a discussion of international film sales.
International sales agents are distributors, although they usually do not own a single theater, home video label or television outlet. They are essentially distributors that license films to territory distributors (“buyers”). Territory distributors acquire rights to exhibit a film within their country although sometimes they may license rights for several different countries. They often find out about films from sales agents whom they meet at various markets held throughout the year. Sales agents and buyers typically attend the three major film markets, which are at Cannes, Berlin and Santa Monica (AFM) as well as TV markets such as Mip and MipCom. This film markets are critical: last year’s Cannes Market alone boasted more than 1,100 sales agents and 10,000 participants from almost 100 different countries.
Sales agents not only license films, but also service buyers by providing them with various materials and elements, including film and video masters, key art, photos and trailers. Most filmmakers have no clue how to go about licensing their film, for instance, to a Turkish buyer, and what terms would be acceptable. Moreover, they don’t even know who the buyers are in most territories.
Two-thirds of all film revenue now comes from abroad. International sales grew 35 percent from 2007 to 2011, while revenue in North America increased a mere 6 percent. Over the past four years, the number of screens in China has doubled to more than 6,200, a number that’s expected to double again by 2015. Chinese box-office receipts hit a record $1.5 billion last year. With China and other rapidly developing countries building thousands of new theaters, this trend is expected to continue. Indeed, the North American market is by far the toughest market to crack for a low budget independent film without stars.
Reputable sales agents should be willing to accept terms in their contract with filmmakers that protect their interests. Many such provisions do not cost the sales agent anything, as long as the sales agent lives up to the terms of its contract. A requirement for interest on late payments, for example, costs the sales agent nothing as long as payments are made on time. Such a clause is important because it will encourage a sales agent to live up to its commitments, and provide the filmmaker with a viable remedy in case the sales agent defaults. While a competent sales agent provides valuable services, one should always remember the importance of what the filmmaker brings to the table. Without a good film, the sales agent has nothing to sell. Most sales agents produce few if any movies themselves.
Indeed, the North American market is by far the toughest market to crack for a low budget independent film without stars. International sales grew 35 percent from 2007 to 2011, while revenue in North America increased a mere 6 percent.
Here are just a few of the most critical ways for filmmakers to protect their interests in contracting with sales agents:
No changes. The film should not be edited or changed without the filmmaker’s approval. Editing for censorship purposes, television broadcast and changes made for a foreign language release is permissible.
Minimum advertising specified. Contracts should specify the minimum amount the sales agent will spend on promoting the film. These expenses could include advertising in the trade papers, a billboard or payment for a screening room for the film.
Expenses limited. There should be a floor and a ceiling on expenses. Market expenses should be limited to the first year of release and capped per market. Promotional expenses should be limited to direct out-of-pocket costs spent to promote the film, and should specifically exclude the sales agent’s general overhead and staff expenses.
Term. The term should be a reasonable length. The filmmaker should be able to regain rights to the film if the sales agent gives up on it. It is best to have a short initial term and a series of automatic rollovers that apply if certain performance milestones are met.
Indemnity. Filmmakers should be indemnified for any losses incurred as a result of the sales agent’s breach of the terms of the agreement or violation of third party rights.
Possession of negative. The sales agent should simply receive a lab access letter rather than possession of the original negative; the sales agent should not be permitted to remove masters from the laboratory.
Errors and omissions policy. It’s generally the filmmaker’s responsibility to purchase such an insurance policy, though sales agents sometimes may be willing to advance the cost of this insurance. In such an event, the filmmaker should be added as an additional named insured on the policy.
Termination clause. If the sales agent defaults on contractual obligations, the filmmaker should have the right to terminate the contract, and regain rights to license the film in unsold territories as well as obtain money damages. It is only fair for the filmmaker to give the sales agent reasonable prior notice of default before exercising her right to terminate.
Limitation on action. The filmmaker should have at least three years from receipt of any financial statement, or discovery of any accounting irregularity, whichever is later, to contest accounting errors.
Assignment. It is best to prohibit assignment unless filmmaker consents.
Warranties. The filmmaker’s warranties, in regard to infringement of third party rights, should be to the best of the filmmaker’s knowledge and belief, not absolute.
Schedule of minimums. Foreign sales agents should agree to attach to their contract a schedule of minimum acceptable license fees per territory.
Arbitration clause. Every contract should contain an IFTA arbitration clause ensuring that all contractual disputes are subject to binding arbitration with the prevailing party entitled to reimbursement of legal fees and costs. The arbitration award should be final, binding and non-appealable.
New Day Christian Distributors and Word Entertainment are pleased to announce an expanded distribution relationship. Effective January 2, 2017, all titles from Word Entertainment will be exclusively distributed in the physical format to Christian Retail by New Day. The agreement encompasses Word Entertainment’s record and film partners and all artists on the Word and Curb Christian rosters, including: Meredith Andrews, Chris August, Francesca Battistelli, Big Daddy Weave, Blanca, Castro, Everfound, Family Force 5, for KING & COUNTRY, Natalie Grant, Group 1 Crew, Mallary Hope, Love & The Outcome, Dara Maclean, Steven Malcolm, OBB, Plumb, Sarah Reeves, Selah, Sidewalk Prophets, Todd Smith, Stars Go Dim, VERIDIA, We Are Messengers and Zealand Worship.
“The first major label relationship we established after starting New Day in 1981, was with Word Records,” shared Dottie Leonard Miller, President & CEO of New Day. “Serving Christian Retail is our entire focus at New Day. To be able to exclusively represent Word Entertainment and Curb Records to Christian Retail, along with products from their distributed labels and film partners, is a career highlight. We are humbled by Mike Curb’s and Rod Riley’s trust in New Day.”
This exclusive distribution arrangement brings together two great, independent, Christian-owned companies. According to Nielsen Music’s SoundScan, combined Christian music market share YTD for New Day/Word exceeds 16%.
Rod Riley, President & CEO, Word Entertainment, adds, “I have been a big fan of Dottie, Ed, and the New Day team for many years now, and it is an honor to bring our companies together as we effectively move forward into the future of the music industry. As we sharpen our focus on content creation while continuing to be committed to Christian Retail, this new relationship will strengthen how we are able to serve our artists and our catalog of 65 years.”
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of New Day signing the TillyMann (Tamela Mann) label for Christian Retail distribution, and extending its exclusive Christian Retail distribution relationships with Reach Records (Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Trip Lee, Tedashii, KB) and Tooth & Nail/BEC/Solid State Records (Kutless, 7eventh Time Down, Disciple, Demon Hunter, David Dunn). New Day will now exclusively represent a historic collection of independent Christian labels and artists under one roof with artists representing all styles of the Christian genre, including: AC, Hip Hop, Rap, Rock, Gospel, Southern Gospel, Jazz, Bluegrass, Country, and Inspirational. Also, for the first time, New Day will offer Word performance tracks, adding to the market leadership of their Daywind line which features over 4,400 titles across genres.
LOS ANGELES, Nov 8 ― Netflix and South Korean film production and distribution company Next Entertainment World announced today an international licensing agreement for the anticipated nuclear disaster film Pandora.
Pandora will be available to stream exclusively on Netflix to its members in 190 countries, excluding South Korea, next year. In South Korea, the film will be available to stream after its theatrical release. Its opening date in Korean cinemas has not yet been set.
This is the first time a Korean title has been pre-sold to Netflix.
“We are excited to work with Next Entertainment World Netflix and South Korean film production and distribution company Next Entertainment World announced today an international licencing agreement for the anticipated nuclear disaster film Pandora.to bring such high-quality Korean titles like Pandora to our members worldwide,” said Rob Roy, vp content acquisition at Netflix. “Netflix is committed to bringing the best of global entertainment to the world and in an era where the Internet knows no bounds, this is another step towards delivering great stories to fans no matter where they live.”
Says Kim Woo-taek, CEO of NEW: “We are delighted to partner with Netflix, a world-class content distributor, to be able to present Pandorato global audiences in over 190 countries. Following the recent success of Train to Busan in Asia, we hope the nuclear-themed Pandora can win much love from the audiences worldwide.”
Pandora, a CAC Entertainment film, is directed by award-winning screenwriter-turned-filmmaker Park Jung-Woo, who is known for the science fiction horror film Deranged. Disaster strikes a nuclear power plant in a small, quiet town when an earthquake unexpectedly hits. The Pirates star Kim Nam-gil plays a man who risks his life to save his family and country from the impending nuclear disaster. The film also stars Kim Young-ae (The Attorney), Jung Jin-young (Miracle of Cell No. 7) and Kim Dae-myeong (Misaeng).
Netflix made headlines earlier this year when it announced that it was investing US$50 million (RM210 million) in Okja, a fantasy film by Bong Joon Ho that is also due for simultaneous release over Netflix and in cinemas next year. Top execs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos stated plans to expand Netflix’s slate of Korean originals in addition to shows such as Drama World that have recently premiered. ― The Hollywood Reporter/Bloomberg
Altitude Film Distribution has acquired distribution rights in the U.K. and Ireland to Barry Jenkins’ critically acclaimed movie “Moonlight,” which is expected to be an awards contender. Altitude will release the film in early February, allowing the pic to be eligible for the BAFTAs.
Altitude chief Will Clarke said: “‘Moonlight’ is one of those life-affirming films that immerses you in its universal themes and kaleidoscopic view of life, but told with such emotional intimacy, delicacy and beauty that no one could fail to be moved in a way that is surprising and unforgettable. It is pure cinema and a milestone in independent film.”
A24 is handling international sales on the film, and is also distributing in the U.S., where it has grossed $1.47 million to date from a limited release. A24 will expand the release in the coming weeks.
“Moonlight,” the second feature from writer-director Jenkins (“Medicine for Melancholy”), was a hit with critics at its premiere at Telluride Film Festival and subsequent festival screenings at Toronto and London.
The pic — about a young gay African-American man growing up in a tough neighborhood of Miami — won the Gotham Special Jury Award for the performances of its cast, including a breakout performance by former athlete Trevante Rhodes (“Westworld”) as the lead character, Chiron. Also starring are Andre Holland (“The Knick”), Janelle Monae (“The Equalizer”), Naomie Harris (“Skyfall”), Ashton Sanders (“Straight Outta Compton”), Jharrel Jerome (“Monster”) and Mahershala Ali (“House of Cards”).
The producers are Jeremy Kleiner, Dede Gardner, and Adele Romansk.
Circus Kane is going to be frightening moviegoers with help from Uncork’d Entertainment, which has secured worldwide distribution rights to the circus-themed horror film.
The film from DeInstitutionalized stars Jonathan Lipnicki, and sees sees a reclusive circus master invite a group of social media stars to his house of haunts. Anyone who can make it out before being scared into submission will earn $250,000 — but the social media stars soon learn they are not only competing for money, but also fighting their lives.
The film is being directed by Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray from a script by James Cullen Bressack and Zack Ward, based on a story by Sean Sellars.
“I’ve worked with James on two films (Restoration and Bethany), and have followed Chris and his body of work for some time so the opportunity to work with both of them couldn’t be passed up” said Uncork’d President Keith Leopard.
DeInstitutionalized’s Gerald Webb and Christopher Ray are producing the project along with Bressack.
“We are very excited to work with Keith and the team at Uncork’d Entertainment. Their experience and relationships across all platforms make them the perfect partner to distribute Circus Kane.” Producers Webb, Ray and Bressack said in a joint statement.
At the top of the post, check out the first production still from Circus Kane, which features actor Bill Voorhees as one of circus master Kane’s horde of demented henchmen. The production team promises that’s just a small taste of the horrors to come from the film.
Carnaby International is the latest distributor to acquire the Irish box office hit The Young Offenders.
The Irish cocaine comedy, The Young Offenders, has already successfully grossed over €1m domestically and is now set to be distributed in a number of countries internationally, following Vertigo Releasing’s acquirement of the film late last month.
The UK Film and Distribution Company obtained the sales rights for Canada, US, UK and Australian/New Zealand in October after the movie’s hugely successful opening weekend.
The film took in €202k on its opening weekend and ranks as the most successful Irish film of the year. It has also become the fastest grossing Irish-made film to reach the coveted €1m milestone, placing it alongside Irish classics such as The Guard and Man about Dog.
In the film, Writer-Director Peter Foott showcases Irish acting debutantes and leads, Alex Murphy and Chris Walley who are supported by Hilary Rose (The Republic of Telly) and Comedian PJ Gallagher (Naked Camera).
Inspired by the true story of Ireland’s biggest cocaine seizure in 2007, The Young Offenders is a comedy road movie about two inner-city teenagers who look to cash in when a drug-trafficking boat capsizes off the coast of West Cork spilling 61 bales of cocaine.
Carnaby International Sales and Distribution is a UK film company specialising in worldwide sales based out of Soho London and are recognised by all major motion picture and television festivals and markets worldwide.
The deal was brokered by Carnaby International’s Head of Acquisitions, Lorianne Hall, together with Peter Foott of Vico Films.