The independent sector is at long last finding help to pay for the marketing expenses of theatrical releases.
On Friday, Endgame Entertainment unveiled a prints and advertising fund worth $400 million-$500 million for the release of films such as helmer Rian Johnson’s “Looper.”
Meanwhile, Patrician Asset Management just secured its first investment from a non-U.S. institutional investor for its diversified film financing fund.
Endgame Releasing, which is the new P&A fund, contributes a foundation of equity augmented by a revolving senior debt facility from Comerica and Union Bank — two mainstays of lending to the independent sector — and also mezzanine debt from London-based Octopus Investments. “There is flexibility built into this structure,” said Endgame Entertainment president Douglas Hansen.
Endgame Releasing will focus on theatrical releases reaching at least 1,800 domestic screens by paying their $20 million-plus theatrical marketing campaigns.
The wide-release is also pursued by established P&A financiers Clarius Capital and Qualia Capital.
“It’s safer for us to spend $30 million than $20 million,” said William Sadleir of Clarius. “That may seem counterintuitive. So many producers say, ‘How cheaply can I get this film out there?’ but then the film fails.”
Amir Malin, managing partner at diversified media financier Qualia Capital, which provided P&A for Sony Pictures’ “Planet 51,” said, “The volume of submissions is up but the commercial viability is down. Most of the submissions we are seeing don’t merit a viable commercial release.”
At Patrician Asset Management, Hollywood marketing executive and senior portfolio manager David Forbes said that P&A works best when there’s a slate of films, so risk isn’t concentrated in one or just a few movies.
P&A, though needed, is generally hard to find because it is structured as the last money put in and first money paid from theatrical rentals, video and perhaps other ancillary revenue from the same film. The erosion of video revenue upended P&A recoupment calculations.
“To borrow money today, you have to have a very strong foreign sales component and ancillaries in place (video and TV deals) to show the revenue coming back, even if the film gets only limited exposure in the U.S.,” said Mark Borde, who is co-president of Freestyle Releasing, which provides theatrical distribution for films that supply marketing costs.
While the theatrical pipeline is less clogged with fewer releases, effectively marketing smaller titles remains an expensive challenge.
“There’s certainly a need for P&A funding,” said Clark Hallren, managing partner at Clear Scope Partners, a Rizvi Traverse media financer assembling a P&A fund.
Small independents looking for one-picture P&A deals are often left to solicit wealthy individuals. “There’s not a lot of P&A money out there for indie films,” said John Flock, CEO of W2 Media.