I was catching up on my reading and caught this from one of Anne Thomson’s blog entries she wrote from Cannes last week. Thompson wrote that “[v]ideo drives everything. I know I’m supposed to already know this, but it really drives it home when you hear the would-be buyers discussing the way they put these deals together. They do crunch the numbers and when video doesn’t crunch for a black and white or foreign title, it doesn’t make people comfortable, no matter how much they love a movie.”
While I agree that video accounts for a substantial portion of the gross on pictures and I am sure that Anne and the people she speaks with know their stuff, video is (and has been) imploding in very much the way the music business is getting whacked with CD sales though for different reasons. Video is down because there is a great deal of content out there with no distribution – lots of supply vs. demand. CD sales reportedly have gone in the toilet due to online access to tunes though I understand there are other reasons for this as well.
The best way to maximize foreign sales – and increase the likelihood of covering a picture’s budget – is with a US theatrical release. If a client is trying to sell the foreign rights for a movie about paint drying or a smart, material-driven movie and the paint drying movie has a guaranteed US theatrical release, the buyers will usually if not always take the former over the latter.
Why this is so probably has more to do with the credibility Hollywood has over the movie going public the world over than the quality of the material. Higher movie revenues in foreign territories are generated by the consumer’s preference for titles released theatrically in the US. Back in the day, a producer could four-wall his movie and call it a US theatrical release to satisfy the conditions of a foreign sale. But foreign buyers won’t accept anything less than a genuine commitment from a distributor – even with a platform deal – to theatrically release the picture in the US.