Variety and Digital Media Wire held the Future of Film Summit this afternoon at the uber-hip London Hotel in West Hollywood. This year’s agenda: Dealmaking in the Age of Digital Cinema. The event ran smoothly and the panelists were informed and engaging. The audience wasn’t as sophisticated as one might find at Variety’s annual Film Finance Forum, but it wasn’t entirely pedestrian either.
Like the America Film Market that preceded it this week, this conference could be summed up in two letters: 3D. 3D Films, 3D theaters, 3D televisions, 3D Blu-ray, 3D sound, Jon “3D” Landau keynote, and more were all well represented here today. And with good reason. The interesting statistic that kicked off the program was
3D adds 21% to box office.
Veteran foreign sales agent Robbie Little hit the nail on the head with: “saying your film is 3D is like saying it’s in color.”
The conference ran parallel tracks: one on film finance and one on digital distribution. In hopes of learning something new, I attended the digital distribution panel, which I found engaging. Dolby, Sony Home Ent., Oscilliscope, NATO, Magnolia, and Cinedigm represented the first panel: How is Technology a Game Changer?
As expected (and hoped), the dominant topic was Premium VOD (which I tweeted about last week) and the effect its window will have on theatrical exhibitors. John Fithian of the Nation Assoc. of Theatre Owners held the line that Premium VOD (the recently proposed $30 to $50 VOD release during the initial theatrical window) will lose two dimes in exchange for one nickel. The first dime being from theatre goers that opt to watch the movie at home as a group (like a pay-per-view event) instead of going out. The other dime from the fact that the Premium VOD release creates a pristine copy for pirates during the theatrical window, before any DVD release. He noted that four people watching the PVOD event will only generate $30 in revenue, compared to $80+ at a theatre. I don’t think the first dime is a fair trade for that nickel, because a lot of people will pay that wouldn’t have gone to the theatre anyway, like parents of small children. The piracy issue, however, has some serious merit and could wreak havoc for international distributors, especially in Russia, Eastern Europe, China, Spain, Latin America, and more.
Marc Cuban and Todd Wagner’s Magnolia Pictures (Magnet Releasing) has been playing with distribution windows using day-and-date and Super VOD offerings for several years now with tremendous success. Tom Quinn (SVP Magnolia) had this amazing statistic that
80% of the time they see overages from Super VOD.
Obviously, we have no idea what kind of MG’s and marketing costs are being incurred and recouped on behalf of these films, but it appears to be paying off. This is niche content that is targeted at niche audiences, which alleviates the need for mass market P&A.
Meanwhile, down the hall at the the film finance panel’s Q&A, an audience member asked the panel for their thoughts on crowd funding. The response … crickets. Apparently nobody knew anything about it. That is a shame.
All in all, I recommend attending The Future of Film Summit in the future…. especially when I am on the panels.