Indie Producers on Why Exhibitors Encourage Piracy, Oscar Campaign Value

Indie Producers Talk Piracy, Oscar Campaign

Piracy is threatening the financial underpinnings of the movie business, but theater owners are partly to blame, a panel of independent film producers argued at Saturday’s Produced By: New York Conference.

“The real criminals here are the exhibitors,” said John Sloss, a film sales agent and the producer of “Boyhood.”

Sloss argued that hoping 20 year olds will either see films in theaters or opt to wait four months until they hits DVD “is a joke.” Already films such as “Snowpiercer” and “Margin Call” are opting to be released on demand and in theaters simultaneously, causing their profits to swell.

“You have to make the theatrical experience work on its own merits,” Sloss said.

“We’re creating bad habits,” he added. “I don’t think people steal content because they want content for free. They just want it when and where they want it.”

Tom Quinn, co-president of Radius-TWC, agreed that theaters would be better served to improve the way they present movies to consumers, rather than simply rely on a rigid delineation between when a film screens theatrically and its home entertainment debut.

“They need to deliver a show, deliver a pre-show and deliver a post screening Q&A,” said Quinn, citing theaters such as the IFC and Alamo Drafthouse as ones that inspire a great deal of loyalty among core customers.

But other producers disagreed that the theatrical experience has an expiration date, arguing there is something about a movie theater that is utterly unique.

“People want to go in and have a shared experience … and you can not duplicate that in your home,” said Donna Gigliotti, the producer of “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Reader.”

The bigger threat to the health of the theatrical experience is the movies themselves. Last summer’s box office downturn was directly attributable to a lackluster slate of offerings, Gigliotti argued.

“There will be a disintermediation of the theatrical experience if people do not make any good movies,” she said.

The exhibition industry wasn’t the only sacred cow the producers attacked during an expansive discussion on the opportunities and drawbacks of streaming and digital distribution. Quinn also took aim at the independent film industry’s reliance on the Academy Awards as a way of drawing crowds.

“I don’t really understand what the Oscars are worth,” Quinn said. “There’s a lot of money that’s wasted every year chasing these awards. For me, it’s money that could be used onscreen.”

He quipped the industry would benefit from “campaign refinance” reform.

Hawk Koch, the producer of “Wayne’s World” and “Primal Fear,” disagreed from the audience.

“The biggest marketing tool that any film has is the nomination for an Oscar,” he said. “If it says nominated for an Oscar, it enlarges every other platform. … How many of you go to a film because it won a People’s Choice?”

Forgoing a traditional theatrical release in favor of emphasizing digital sales potentially hurts an Oscar campaign, the producers noted. But that may eventually change.

“There will be a day and date release that wins Best Picture,” Sloss predicted.

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  1. luacheia99 says:

    Why do you guys do not tell also the poor security system that companies as Itunes and Amazon have?
    IFC guys is talking about On Demand and Digital at the same time that the theater release but it is a huge failure.
    Two weeks ago IFC released Camp X-Ray in one tiny theater in NY IFC Center and on Demand and Itunes. 2 hours after Itunes started to rent the movie, either was already on torrent. A ITUNES HD copy with subtitles in English.
    It totally screwed the released of a tiny little indie.
    IFC should sue Itunes!
    A lot of people wanted to see it but they couldn’t because region restrictions. That is another big problem.
    If you go digital, make it worldwide!
    A lot of people paid for the digital rent but a huge amount simple downloaded it illegally.
    This discussion is more complex…

    I as an audience want to have access to digital, on Demand, and theater. I use all the platforms.

    • George Ebersole says:

      On the one hand you’re talking about international restrictions (which is where most piracy originates), and on the other hand you’re talking about how there’s a lack of security to fight piracy. I think your opinions are at odds with one another. Could you clarify your stance?

      • George Ebersole says:

        Most piracy comes from overseas; China, Ukraine, Germany, Singapore. Cultivating an audience is old news, but the practice is outdated because of the way films are released. I don’t think your thinking is right.

      • luacheia99 says:

        George, yes these two different things but in the end are part of the same problem.
        First the industry is searching for an easy way to reach audience beside theatrical release and think it will be a solution for indies and studios productions.
        Well… Not that simple.

        Follow me but please have a little patience with my English. It is not my first language.

        If you are not a big studio with a huge budget for marketing a movie with a complete packet [A list names, good script and famous director] to feel a theater, you won’t get people there, as others are talking below and above. A go out to the theater is an expensive adventure. Movie Tks + popcorn or whatever + parking tks. But the movie goer want to have this experience. Share this experience. But what you do? Put it in tiny little theaters in 1 or 2 cities and wait for sites as Rotten Tomatoes to say your project is good enough to value the price. When Mojo box Office say it is not what it was expect. Everything falls apart.
        So… What the indie distributor think… Let’s make on Demand, digital and limited release at the same time. Because people from other cities or even States can see it on Demand or rent it digital.
        That strategy has 3 big problems…
        First… How motivate and reach audience to go to the tiny little theater or to rent on Demand or to rent on digital, if in the weekend of its release 31 other movies are being released also.? Little tweets and FB posts are not enough. You have to reach your niche audience before and make this audience work with you, desire or product. You need to listen them, see what are their difficult and how they can help you in the buzz.
        Second, if you are going to release the movie on digital at the same time that on Theater and on demand, you need a company that really has a security system that prevent illegal copies of your movie in a few hours. Because you will be screwed by them. American or worldwide, if you are asking $6.99 for a. 24 hours rent. It is not cheap but people will gladly pay for it to have the pleasure to prestige an actor or a filmmakers. But… If 2 hours after the release it is already ripped on torrent, all the buzz and effort from evolved, even the rad fans will be wasted because 72 after no one will have more control of the situation. And. I am talking about the American market.
        Third came the worldwide market… Every movie goer or Filmmaker or a person in the industry knows that now a days a movie is made for the worldwide audience. It is the way to pay the bill and have financial return. The digital distribution model is a failure. Totally failure. It is a big illusion.
        With social media and the Internet, the globalization of the audience is a fact.
        Millions of YouTube access, million of instagram and Facebook. Millions of people from all world writing as me in blogs and sites as Variety. So… The regionalism of the distribution just make people frustrated. They want to see a movie, are willing to pay to have this pleasure but their Itunes store say that they can’t buy it because this person can’t buy a movie in US Itunes store, even if this person doesn’t need subtitles to understand the dialogs.
        So… Now came the sad part…
        First… The person who did the ripped copy of the movie was in American probably because it was only release in the US Itunes store. Second rad fans had to make a tutorial to teach fans how to buy gift cards and how to make an US Itunes account to have the chance to see it legally. Can you imagine how much these persons wanted to see the movie and how it was complicated and only a huge desire of see it profiting made them to do that. It is too much work to just spend money. Don’t you think?
        So.. Even with all the buzz and the hard how… 72 hours later a little indie was seem by millions of people without any one profit for this.

        I am giving the example of this little indie. Because it just happened.
        The niche audience of the movie tried contact and dialog with the distributors during months without any feedback. During the release they never listened what were the difficulty. People having difficult of find the movie on Demand. On Demand where? People having difficult to rent in Itunes, Amazon and Googleplay because they had never used the system and didn’t know that pre – sell was not the right option but rent was. Make the main actress go to TV. Shows and Q&A sections without almost no divulgatio of dates and hours. But in all the events saying that it would be release on Theater in a certain day but in reality it was released in 1 tiny little theater I NY. So… All the buzz was throw in the garbage can. 32 movies were released at day.
        Fans got this little drama indie in the Top general rental list in #12 art the end of the three days weekend and #4 in the top drama list in Itunes. But by Monday everyone inside or outside US knew that a HD copy with subtitles was on torrents and everything went down.

        Well… To finish…

        What I am saying is…

        Pirate copies, digital and. VOD distribution and theatrical release are complex but really simple problem.

        Your audience is worldwide
        Your audience American or worldwide wants to interact, wants even to help if asked without interference in the creative process. Don’t take it as granted because it is not. You need to cultivate it.
        Your audience want to pay legally in principle if the price is fair and easy to get.
        Your audience want to have the pleasure of seen a movie with friends and share the experience.
        Your audience is willing to rent it legally several times or buy it from start if it is good or with an actor or director that they are fans.
        But this modern audience that knows how to rent a movie on Internet is not stupid and neither hypocrite. They will get it for free if it is there to be take. If it easier.
        Get real security in the real systems of companies like Itunes. This copies are not camera copies or copies from promo copies. Itunes and Amazon are to blame for this just in time piracy and should be sued.
        Make a real viral online marketing with the help of the fans to create and spread the news of the release of the movie.

        It is sad for me as an old lover of the art of acting and an avid movie goer to see the industry falling in recognize the reality and not the dream.

        I need to have access to good and interesting movies. But these are lost in a sea of Fucking movies or comic or ya movies that are crazy bad.

        The industry will go down if it stop to look only in the mirror and do not open the window for a perspective beyond their eyes.

        Sorry for big text and for my English.

        Thanks for Listen.

  2. Sam says:

    You cannot blame studios and movie theaters for wanting to preserve the window. If someone talks about a movie that they just watched and it was also available on demand, what would encourage them to go the movies? We are not in that much of a hurry in putting out product.

  3. faceinthemistylight says:

    Reblogged this on The Face in the Misty Light and commented:
    The usual formats and platforms for film distribution will change–it’s inevitable at this point. But how, is the question? And when?

  4. George Ebersole says:

    What ThomT said; I quit going regularly because of a lack of security, because of rude behavior, because of overpriced tickets and overpriced food, but, more importantly, because the movies are not as good as before. If you make movies for teenagers, then you’re going to attract teenage audiences with teenage manners who have teenage dollars given to them by mom and dad. The audience that built the film industry (the 18 to 50 year olds) was driven out a long time ago by poor theatre going experiences, poor product, and overpriced tickets. Still, according to some statistics, profits continue to rise. Even so, the exhibitors should keep in mind that without the majors and indy film makers, they have NO PRODUCT if the product itself is squeezed for every penny it’s worth in exhibition.

    Finally, “Thor”, “Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”, as entertaining as those films may be, they are not going to garner any Oscars other than in the technical department. Oscars appeal to what used to be the mature adult audience that saw films aimed at the 20 to 50 year old working class dem. But those people are gone, and if that’s the case, then what good is an Oscar in marketing a film?

    Just my view.

  5. ThomT says:

    Too many theaters have priced themselves out of the competitive field. I’m not downloading content and I don’t need to see any movie the first (or even second) week of release but I absolutely refuse to pay $10-$15 to sit in a movie theater while other are using their phones to either talk or txt when I can wait three to four weeks and see the exact same feature at a very reduced rate of $2-$4 (and usually not be subjected to the same crowd who don’t now how to act in a theater) at the bargain cineplex across the street. When it costs $50 to $75 for a movie date theaters can’t expect people to continue filling their seats and they need to wake up and smell the popcorn.

  6. CallieR says:

    With ticket prices in Canada ranging from $12 to $20, it becomes impossible to watch all the films one would like in theatres. For the average person, the only films worth watching in theatres are the effects-heavy ones like CBMs, the Middle Earth series, action flicks (The Raid, John Wick, etc), war films, space films (Gravity, ST, Star Wars), or the F&F series. The average film, even prestige pics like Gone Girl, St. Vincent, and The Kings Speech, isn’t really worth shelling out money for when you can watch it on Netflix or something for a fraction of the price. For these films, day-and-date releases would probably work better.

  7. John Shea says:

    Of course, John Sloss shouldn’t work with exhibitors if he really believes them to be criminals. That would solve the windowing problem for any other movie he might produce or sell. In any case, I doubt exhibitors will want to work with anyone who denounces them as criminals.

  8. jhs39 says:

    Day and date won’t work with bigger films because people will not go out to the show if they can stay home and watch the movie in the comfort of their own homes.

    When theater owners came up with the modern multiplex that has 18 theaters or more in order to accommodate so many theaters they not only made smaller auditoriums with fewer seats they also made the film screens significantly smaller–the Imax multiplex screen that theater owners charge a premium for is still much smaller than the screens from cheap neighborhood theaters in the 1970’s. Since the screen is shrunken there is no longer a significant upgrade in seeing a movie in the theater over seeing it at home.

    People who cite Snowpiercers and Margin Call as examples of why movies should go day and date should release figures showing how much the movies made on demand and in theaters to back up their claims. Is a significant amount of revenue from those movies still coming from theatrical play or is the theatrical run (just in one theater when these day and date movies play in Chicago) just a commercial for on demand?

  9. John Shea says:

    John Sloss has a rather cynical view of 20 year olds and their patience. Four months is not a long time.

  10. Stuart Gillies says:

    Sorry but the reason people download isn’t the “want it where and when I like”, it’s because it’s extortionate to watch a film in the cinema. If I want to watch a film it costs me £8-£12 ($12-$15) yet I can wait 6 month and buy it on did for that price and at least I get to keep it and watch it again and again whenever I like. I love the cinema experience but can’t afford to watch the 5-10 films (minimum) a year I want to watch

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