Sample Book Chapters

Chapter 11 - Indies

Chapter summaries in this section of the website are distilled from 139,000 words in the book.

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   “I never knew why it took the majors at least 15 years to capitalize on summer releases geared for the youth market…You (simply) made a film about something wild with a great deal of action, a little sex, and possibly some sort of strange gimmick.

                      B-film maker Roger Corman

   Independent distributors tend to fill market segments—meaning niches—not covered by the majors. They also focus on low-budget films. Roger Corman’s book How I Made a Hundred Hollywood Movies and Never Lost a Dime from which the above quote is taken, recalls that the indies feasted on teen and youth summer movies in the 1950s to 1970s. The movies had provocative titles, such as Sorority House Massacre and Piranha.
   It’s difficult to prosper in the hardscrabble independent sector today, but occasional films have achieved unbelievable riches, which

Table 11.3. Sample of low-budget $800,000 movie ad campaign

Type of marketing/Spending ($)

Print/daily and weeklies 250,000

On-line/Web site             250,000

Wild posting (labor)          30,000

Radio                               50,000

Outdoor billboards               0

Print/magazines                   0

Television                            0

Subtotal paid media    580,000

Creating trailer/ads          40,000

Official website                10,000

Duplicating posters and the like 15,000

Publicity and screenings 125,000

Festival screening support 30,000

Non-media subtotal        $220,000

Grand total $800,000

Note: 1. The figures exclude the cost of manufacturing and shipping of the release prints

Source: Marketing to Moviegoers


keeps hopes alive. Relativity Media enjoyed a hit with action thriller Limitless, which rolled up $79.2 million in domestic box office in 2011 from a film that cost just $27 million to make. The Weinstein Company ranked in $138.8 million in domestic box office from British import The King’s Speech, which is a $15 million historical drama that won the Oscar for best picture.
   Going back further, the horror Saw series—which numbers six films and counting—has grossed $361 million in the United States and Canada for Lionsgate on production budgets ranging from just $1.2 million to $11 million
An independent film distributor that pays $5 million to acquire United States rights to a finished film really is making a $10 million to $20 million investment. The distributor can easily spend another $5 million to $15 million in theatrical marketing costs if it opts for a national release. Thus, film companies must evaluate if a given film as the screen power to earn back all expenses.
   Independents are squeezed because of economic pressure to finish theatrical release quickly, which means releasing on a national basis. In past decades, slow rollouts and regional bookings were feasible. Before the video age arrived in the late 1980s, independent films usually were distributed in a patchwork of regional runs over a period of months or even a year, saturating one area for a time and then moving elsewhere.
   For indies, online publicity and promotion start months before theatrical release. Some independent filmmakers launch into Internet marketing to connect with a potential audience while a film is merely in development and before the first frame has even been shot.
   A centerpiece of the first stage of marketing can be the official movie website. An inexpensive but attractive website costs from, at the low end, $5,000 to $20,000 to create. A cheaper, early-stage website, which is very sparse and can be set up quickly, can be simply a single page or poster—known as a splash page. At the earliest stage, a core audience that will be most enthusiastic about a film needs to be identified as the target for low-cost Internet and other grass-roots marketing, such as passing out handbills at events.#
 Text copyright © 2013, Robert Marich. All rights reserved. Used here with permission from SIU Press.