Sundance 2023: filmmakers must adapt to market reality, says indie distributor | Condition | Aici

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t excited to return to Sundance for the festival’s first crowdfunding series since 2020. Still, the industry’s concerns about how to deal with theatrical distribution can’t be overshadowed. independent cinema, especially adult-oriented comics.

Aided and abetted by the pandemic, streamers have come to the fore in the last two years as Sundance has gone virtual — including an eleventh-hour switch in 2021 to the event online amid Omicron’s surge – as it stole headlines from Apple, Searchlight/Hulu and Prime Video. buy big from Cha Cha Very Smooth ($15m worldwide), Fresh (pre-festival) and Nanny ($7m worldwide), respectively.

Theatrical buyers also scored, with a notable win for IFC Films Examiner if Sony Pictures Classics’ ALIVE heavyweight title contender Bill Nighy is still in the early stages of publishing. However, many of last year’s Sundance buys didn’t hold up at the box office because old audiences were reluctant to return to theaters or theaters were underperforming. in digital publishing mode.

Many in the industry are emotionally wedded to the theater, despite recent shocks in North America led by two studio-backed Oscar runners – Tár and the Fabelmans – the industry is cautious and many people have spoken to him Screen believe that it is time for film producers to better adapt their expectations to the reality of the market.

This comes at a time when streaming platforms are looking at their own production costs and continue to buy content. However, they have become stricter about what they get and it doesn’t have to be an independent film with a small cast. Their customers want to be entertained, just like theater audiences do.

A source said: “If it’s a dull story that doesn’t have value, it’s not what the market is looking for at Sundance. “We are still at the tail end of what was allowed to be done during Covid. A small, special film that costs a lot of money to make…it’s impossible.”

“My mind is open,” says Tommy Oliver of Confluential Films, which has four films this year. “People need to understand where the audience is and how they want to access content. As much as I love theater, it doesn’t work for every movie when you have a movie like this Tár SY the Fablemans both bombed theaters. You have to be careful.”

Confluential is executive producer of Qasim Basir’s NEXT story To live, to die, and to liveand the company funded another in the field of research, the biography of Thembi Banks Youth. Wild. for free., with Macros. Oliver’s company put up the majority of the equity in the American Doctorate Competition words Going to Marsprofile of poet and activist Nikki Giovanni by Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson, and Indigenous drama by Erica Tremblay Fancy Dance in the US Dramatic Competition.

He continued, “Most of the films that are titles at Sundance probably won’t be dramas. If you think about the movies that did well coming out of festivals like Coda, Nomadland, Cha Cha Very Smooth SY Nannymost of these films don’t do a lot at the box office, so maybe (getting Sundance 2023) will be a hybrid release or a worthy release (for the award).

“Most movies don’t think about where the market is right now. It’s a reality check. Viewing habits have changed and most people have shown that they do not want to watch dramas; they want to see a spectacle. There will be exceptions but those exceptions need to be taken care of.”

IFC Films pioneered the day-and-date model but still varies in how they release each film and will often create a special theatrical run. President Arianna Bocco is scheduled Examiner opened in June of last year to precede other films and take advantage of the commercial elements of the film (one of Maika Monroe from that’s it the following) and take advantage of the buzz from Sundance. Examiner played for an 18-day special in around 700 theaters, grossing $2m, building awareness and must-see buzz before it hits the extra stage.

Festivals to visit like Examiner and the next stimulus that gets people out of the workweek doesn’t come often. IFC Films is not looking for programmers because of this; companies want movies that can have an impact on their audience regardless of how they release them.

“I’m not sure the creative community has caught up, on the indie side, with what’s working in the market and what people want to see,” Bocco said. “I enjoy seeing what’s at Sundance and how they might resonate in the marketplace.

“We release (all) differently and we do what is right for our films. It’s not just the day and the date,” continued Bocco. “We did a theater window and we did a more strategic window to show the theater. Many of them (my classmates) think like that. We don’t need to fill a channel full of titles. “

Bocco said the name of the game is to keep track of what works in theaters while focusing on how to reach the largest audience with a digitally focused campaign.

Kino Lorber is another veteran distributor who has managed the reputation and publishing of independent festivals. It won five films at Sundance last year, including Alejandro Loayza Grisi’s acclaimed Bolivian environmental drama and winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize. Utamathe trans documentary and winner for NEXT listeners of Chase Joynt Creation of Agnesand Francisca Alegría’s amazing Chilean film The cow sang a song to the future, which will open theaters in the spring.

The company uses a solid approach to distribution and tends to release fashionable theaters for all price films. “Our policies have evolved,” said Wendy Lidell, SVP of theatrical and non-theatrical divisions and acquisitions, a title that reflects the changing times. “It was a moving target. We started with 90 days and during the pandemic we reduced it to as short as 30 and 45 days following AMC’s guidance. “

In the end, the company settled on a 60-day window to allow time for their release to live. Lidell noted that regional cinemas will play films even after they have gone digital.

“For something like that Utama the cinematography needs to be seen in the theater,” he said. Kino Lorber planned the release of the beginning of November for Utama hope it becomes a Bolivian Oscar submission. It was done, though Utama It did not make the list of international films for the Oscars. Kino Lorber went from nothing and the theatrical release made less than $50,000 before moving to digital, where the business flourished for a long time.

Old viewers

Getting older audiences to the cinema is difficult. “It’s a lot harder than it used to be,” Lidell said. However, Kino Lorber, which operates the premium VoD platform Kino Now, has transformed its business and built a popular library, which according to Lidell can account for 40% of the company’s revenue.

“I don’t know that people who don’t go home will come back,” he said. “We’re going to try to get people to come out and (provide a) long-tail release and get used to the new environment. We are on the agnostic stage; the idea is to bring the best movies to the most people.

“A hit is a hit is a hit and quality will succeed, which is why building a strong library will win us over; if the percentage of our income is less from theater and more from other fields, that’s fine. If you had asked me (about the possibility of independent theater companies) 10 years ago, I would have said that you have to do theater because that is the only way to release the film. Not so anymore. We are trying to future-proof our company and move into the digital realm.”

Producer and founder of Picturestart Erik Feig has acquired Cooper Raiff Cha Cha Very Smooth SY Am I okay? at last year’s festival (both starring Dakota Johnson) and generated strong reactions from buyers, with Apple and Warner Bros / HBO Max jumping on the headlines.

This year Feig has an entry in the US Dramatic Competition Theater campa comedy starring Amy Sedaris and Jimmy Tatro about a desperate attempt to save a New York theater group from financial ruin before opening night.

Theater camp intended for the audience to enjoy. I’m excited to see it with such a large audience at Sundance and we’re going to ask what’s the best way to get it out there,” Feig said. “We’ll be looking at plays, broadcasts, and streaming with theatrical options.”

Feig said that streamers seem like the best way to reach audiences for last year’s Sundance selection, given how the festival has gone virtual and that there are still big questions on the minds of audience about returning to the cinema.

A year later, the industry learned the opportunistic way of making movies suitable for theaters. “There’s a theater market out there, 100%,” he said. “Last year we saw a lot of things that worked, and a lot of things that didn’t work and it’s not that customers forgot about going to the cinema. Retailers have become more savvy and have learned to window-shop and tap into their markets in different pockets. The business of streamers has evolved because they are more focused on their customers and know what they want. “

As inflation and prolonged Covid protocols drive up prices, and the prospect of a summer writers’ strike looms over Hollywood and threatens supply lines, will theater buyers scramble to stock up? ? Not necessarily.

“A lot of times it’s a rush of buyers who really need a product,” Feig said. “Many buyers are becoming more educated about what’s right for them. You’re going to have a lot of buyers who might want something but not a lot of buyers who need something.”

Oliver Wheeler of Range Select, who represents the global sales of Sebastian Silva’s Premieres entry Color of the Sun and Laura Gabbert’s food industry documentary Food and country in Premieres, it’s good. “Even though we were ultimately successful in creating a strong and competitive market when we were virtual,” he said, “you can’t completely replicate having buyers in the same room with the audience. It’s going to have an impact.” it’s good in the market.”

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