If you've ever thought about, or have been in the process of distributing an independent film, you know that it's an absolute nightmare, and whether it's theaters or distributors, almost no one wants to give you a straight answer about actual numbers and how well comparable films might have performed. It takes a lot for a distributor to finally give up numbers, but yesterday at a SXSW panel, Gravitas Ventures did just that. They delivered with a case study, and some other films and their distribution numbers.

From IndieWire, here is the document and some highlights below:


  • It took more than a dozen tries to develop the marketing design for "AMERICAN"
  • Variance's theatrical advertising budget for "AMERICAN" was very limited: $500.
  • The producers broke even after the theatrical release, which earned $90,000.
  • Estimated VOD gross (over three years): $600,000
  • Gravitas has earned more than $1.25 million on a VOD feature, '5 Star Day,' thanks to the numbered title and the public's love of horoscopes
  • VOD sales on an award-winning doc were less than $100,000: The film's title began with a letter at the end of the alphabet.


The most fascinating part of this document to me is the importance of placing in the VOD lineup. While many artists cling to certain principles about keeping their integrity, changing your title to have a number or to start at the beginning of the alphabet could truly impact your overall sales. This isn't just magic either - it's based on the idea that many individuals when searching for a film will only look through the first few letters of the alphabet at most.

If you've ever looked into distribution, it's hard to get comparisons for similar films. Often we have to look at Hollywood films, with much higher P&A budgets, and in the end that isn't a very productive practice if you've got a truly independent film. As Ted Hope has said before in his blog, it's important for transparency throughout the independent film world because we've got a much longer road ahead and none of us have the budgets to simply throw money at the problem.

[via IndieWire]