Indies amass $1.3 bil

Boosted by blockbuster pix such as “The Last of the Mohicans,””Basic Instinct ,””City Slickers” and “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” foreign revenues of U.S. indie fare jumped a robust 7.6% to $ 1.3 billion for fiscal ’92, up from $ 1.2 billion in ’91.

Detailed figures released yesterday by the American Film Marketing Assn. show video and TV/cable figures account for much of that increase, soaring 20% worldwide to 72% of the grosses, or about $ 944 million. Theatrical revenues, however, are down all over Europe and the Far East.

This marks the first time in the history of the survey, conducted by indie accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick, that theatrical sales were surpassed by ancilliary markets, according to a news release.

Michael Goldman, AFMA chairman, told Daily Variety that the theatrical drop in foreign markets –especially the U.K., Germany and Japan–mirrors the dip in domestic theatrical revenues.

“The same problem they’re having in this country is also true internationally , and that’s the high cost of release. It’s also because there’s fewer pictures playing theatrically because of wide releases. When you’re going out with 300 prints in Germany, it’s a lot more expensive than going out with 30, so they’re much more selective about which pictures go out,” Goldman said.

New Line Intl., with a record year, attributes the change to product. “The theatrical market is becoming increasingly demanding for A product,” said prez Ralph Mittweg.

Meanwhile, TV revenues have increased overseas “largely because of the privatization of the markets in many territories: that evolution began many years ago where governments are letting go of their hold,” on the public TV nets , according to Goldman.

The stats–based on 39 of AFMA’s 101 members–indicate Europe is still the single biggest market, but its share has dropped to 59% from 64%, with combined Euro revenues down to $ 765 million. Euro theatrical revenues plummeted 45% to $ 206 million.

England’s theatrical B.O. was horribly off with a 58% dive to $ 47 million, followed by Italy, down 54% to $ 32 million and France down 51% to $ 23 million. Not surprisingly, Germany replaced the U.K. as the No. 1 source of revenue.

Even Japan–which Morgan Creek Intl.’s Gary Barber characterizes as the toughest foreign market to predict–beat England despite declining from $ 79.536 million to $ 39.302 million in ’92.

Several exceptions to the abysmal Euro B.O. rule were New Line’s “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” which racked up a total $ 27 million in foreign theatrical B.O., including $ 5 million in the U.K.

The good news, which may be temporary, was largely in video, where Japan more than doubled revenues (see chart). “Japan’s TV/cable sales were helped by Wowow (pay-TV), which was buying to build up inventory,” Goldman said, quickly adding that boom is over.

Vid and cable/TV sales were generally strong in the Far East, largely because many companies with large libraries are selling titles at warehouse prices with hopes of offsetting rampant piracy.

“Companies with libraries are finding a lot of opportunities to sell groups of theatrical films to the video market in (both the Far East and) Eastern Europe,” Goldman noted. “For instance, they’re selling maybe 200 titles at $ 2, 000 each, but selling cheap in a market they would otherwise lose completely.”

The “Taiwan cable market is paying $ 2,000 per title for large numbers of films: These are new markets,” Goldman explained. “Argentina has opened up this year for both video and television and even some theatrical.”

Goldman also noted there was a decrease in sales activity at the three major markets, namely Mifed, Cannes and the AFM.

“It’s the first year that less than half the sales (43%) are being done at all three markets,” he said, adding, “Markets are being used for new ideas and networking, collection problems and introducing new projects.”

Meanwhile, U.S. indies are doing more business in one-on-one deals with repeat clients.

“They tend to establish relationships with distributors that have proven good at handling their films,” Goldman said. “As a distributor myself, I’d rather give my business to someone I know is an ongoing, successful distributor.”

Worldwide video sales are up 85% to $ 422 million; Scandinavian homevid increased 283% to $ 24 million; and German homevid rose 103% to $ 71 million. Canada, isolated for the first time, made $ 11 million in video, Latin American total revenues were up 24% to $ 103 million and Far East total revenues were up 21% to $ 272 million.

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