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How much money does the average straight-to-DVD film make?


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#1 Lance Tang

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 09:35 AM

Anyone know the answer to the question?
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#2 David Rakoczy

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 09:41 AM

I wouldn't be surprised if that average came out to $10 USD..... in that there are so many 'films' shot for 'straight to DVD' that go absolutely nowhere.... :huh:
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#3 Lance Tang

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 10:20 AM

I wouldn't be surprised if that average came out to $10 USD..... in that there are so many 'films' shot for 'straight to DVD' that go absolutely nowhere.... :huh:


Oh right. How about on the high end? What films made a lot as a straight-to-dvd feature?
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 10:43 AM

Here's my interpretation of what's going on here:

- You want to make a film
- You intend to sell it straight to DVD
- You will budget this film based on what we tell you.

Here's what will happen as a result of this:

- You probably will get some money, because people who know nothing yet burst with confidence generally do, for some reason.
- You won't sell the film.
- You won't make any money.

Almost no films make money, and the chances of a film made by a man who has to ask this sort of question on a public forum making money is so vanishingly small as to be undetectable under an electron microscope.

P
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#5 kevin baggott

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 10:56 AM

Hey Phil - wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? As Kafks once said: "a man who does not have dreams only has nightmares." And that was Kafka for Christsakes! Make a film from yer heart - that means someting to you and you never know...
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#6 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 11:51 AM

Kevin and Phil are both right.

If you are making a straight to DVD movie it is extremely unlikely you'll make any money.

If you have a film you feel you need to make, "a film from yer heart," then by all means you should make it!

Bruce Taylor
www.indi35.com
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#7 David Rakoczy

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 11:57 AM

I agree with Phil. However, there are some crazy things happening under an electron microscope! So, one never knows. Your's may very well end up the all time Straight to DVD earner! If you have a good story to tell, don't let the odds against you hold you back!

I don't think there is going to be a real answer because there is no way of knowing how many 'staight to dvd' quote unqoute 'Films' have been shelved.
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#8 Freya Black

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 12:42 PM

Hey Phil - wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?


I get the feeling you are new here! ;)

love

Freya
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#9 Freya Black

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 12:49 PM

Oh right. How about on the high end? What films made a lot as a straight-to-dvd feature?


I think one of the questions has to be made a lot of money for who exactly?
Another would be what do you consider a lot of money?

Direct to DVD films are generally not made with the intention of making a lot of money. If they were they would have a full release, so they tend to be a different kind of film made with the intention of making some money. The amount of money being made from such releases has been plummeting lately tho.

Troma are an organisation that have succesfully been doing the straight to video thing for some time. You might want to check them out.

Desperado was a film made for direct to dvd but got picked up for a proper release, tho that was of course a freak incident.

love

Freya

Edited by Freya Black, 28 June 2009 - 12:51 PM.

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#10 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 05:18 PM

Only a small amount of movies are made to intentionally go straight to DVD, and those are generally studio (or subsidiary) movies. The "Bring It On" sequels come to mind as well as the "Get Smart" companion "Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control". Most movies are made with the intention of having a theatrical release (however misguided that may be). So finding an existing business model for producing a movie with the intention of going straight to DVD would be tough. Sure, you could try to see what the studios do, but they spend many millions producing those movies, not the hundreds of thousands that most small independents spend, so that model is probably out of reach for most people. Sure, there's Troma, but they have existing infrastructure I believe that they use on all of their films, so they're able to do things for quite a bit cheaper than someone just starting out.
Another reason any real numbers will be hard to find is that most producers never really divulge how much a film makes. They intentionally keep those #'s secret.
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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 05:46 PM

Almost no films make money, and the chances of a film made by a man who has to ask this sort of question on a public forum making money is so vanishingly small as to be undetectable under an electron microscope.


Hilarious Phil!


Direct to DVD films are generally not made with the intention of making a lot of money. If they were they would have a full release,


There are certainly movies made for the DTV market, Disney has done lot's. They base their returns on units sold world wide. As has been pointed out these are still expensive movies certainly not made with budgets under 100K. DTV movies do have the advantage of avoiding the incredible P&A costs associated with a theatrical release. Disney of course has the power to get their DVDs into Walmart with one phone call, indie filmmakers do not have this advantage. Disney will also pay for TV ads which is also key.

All that taken into account I did make a low budget DTV movie that has been distributed just about every where in the USA on DVD. And many others have had success in this area as well. The problem is that the percentage of low budget, non-studio, DTV, movies that get mainstream distribution is very low. Who knows the exact number but it must be below 5%.

The other thing that is killing DTV movies is web piracy. It's totally out of control and costing the industry tens of millions in lost revenue. Good luck selling your indie at AFM these days, most buyers just say forget it because they know that as soon as they release it in their territory it will be every where! Being sold for 50 cents at a flea market or available for free on-line.

I have lost untold thousands of dollars in revenue on Dark Reprieve due to rampant web piracy. And before you give me the, "who cares if you made less money on your movie" response. Think of this.....many people starting out in the film biz rely on work on low budget movies to get a foot into the industry. As fewer and fewer of these types of films get made, there are fewer job opportunities for those that want to break into the industry.

Case in point my key grip on Dark Reprieve was a local hire with very little prior film experience. From his experience on my film he has been able to land a number of paying jobs as a gaffer on several other shoots.

So how much does the average DTV indie movie make, very very little. Often times zero, as the creator has no way to get it to market. I know of several movies made with budgets between 300K-400K that have yet to generate one cent in revenue.

R,
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 05:53 PM

Richard, I advocate a return to 16mm prints as a response to this ;-)

In seriousness, if high-quality digital copies weren't available of *everything* these days, hell even analog tape would probably stop a lot of this, because pirates are notoriously lazy, it'd put an end to all but the sh*TT&est video-camera-aimed-at-screen knock offs.

The only thing that keeps movie piracy from taking off like MP3 music piracy did seems to be the large( r ) file sizes.

Edited by Karl Borowski, 28 June 2009 - 05:53 PM.

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#13 Freya Black

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 08:16 PM

There are certainly movies made for the DTV market, Disney has done lot's. They base their returns on units sold world wide. As has been pointed out these are still expensive movies certainly not made with budgets under 100K. DTV movies do have the advantage of avoiding the incredible P&A costs associated with a theatrical release. Disney of course has the power to get their DVDs into Walmart with one phone call, indie filmmakers do not have this advantage. Disney will also pay for TV ads which is also key.


Excellent point Richard! While I don't tend to think of Disneys TV movies as being straight to video exactly, disney make all kinds of stuff for release on DVD that I can only really adequetly describe as stuff. Stuff like "sing a long a princess DVD 4" (I kid thee not) and "lilo and stitch activity dvd" (I might be making that one up). As well as paying for TV ads disney also uses it's channels as kind of store fronts. They are in a good position in the current economic market as they aren't reliant on advertising for this reason.

Disney also has the advantage that they sell their own stuff. It was like I was asking earlier, make money for who? It used to be that a typical sale price for an independent direct to DVD film of a horror type or something might fetch $50,000. Last I heard this figure had dropped dramatically, and keep in mind that was for the movies that were lucky enough to sell! Disney are selling direct in contrast.

I forgot about Disney and there are other examples too like the olsen twin movies for example. Although the latter are noticeably made on low budgets. I guess there are all the computer/rpg game cash in type things too that exist primarily to sell in dvd mounds at the end of supermarket checkouts too. Usually even these movies are made to a different kind of budget tho.

love

Freya

Edited by Freya Black, 28 June 2009 - 08:18 PM.

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#14 kevin baggott

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 10:43 PM

Another reason any real numbers will be hard to find is that most producers never really divulge how much a film makes. They intentionally keep those #'s secret.
[/quote]


Or as Joseph Levine, the producer of The Graduate, when Mike Nichols asked him - "Hey Joe, this thing has really taken off. How much have we made? Can I see the books?" "Sure Mike. Anytime." "Oh, well I'd like to see them... I guess now, tomorrow if possible?" "Well, I keep all the books in Alaska Mike." True story told by Mike Nichols.

Edited by kevin baggott, 28 June 2009 - 10:45 PM.

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#15 Richard Boddington

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 11:13 PM

The only thing that keeps movie piracy from taking off like MP3 music piracy did seems to be the large( r ) file sizes.


The funniest thing I heard on this issue was how the movie Australia with Nicole Kidman hardly had any file sharing activity. The generally agreed to reason is that it was viewed as a "woman's movie" and was too long.

The web pirates are in the vast majority males aged 17-35. Have a look at the ads on the file sharing bootleg sites, what gender and age group are they targeted at? You see endless ads for porn sites and "dating" sites. The graphics are always good looking women.

So here comes a movie like Australia and the bootleggers give it a pass because they can't be bothered to wait for it to download only to see a movie that they think is for women. Family movies are also pretty much ignored by the bootleggers for this reason as well.

Unfortunately Dark Reprieve targeted males aged 17-25, so that pretty much sealed its fate.

The only satisfaction I had was the comments on some of the file sharing sites where "the guys" complained that they waited for Dark Reprieve to download and it took quite a while, then they watched the movie and hated it. I find that quite funny, and I hope all of the movie thieves hate my movie!! :D

R,
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 06:50 AM

thieves


Don't fall into the "every piracy is a lost sale" trap. Most of the people who pirated the film haven't stolen anything from you; there is no lost sale.

P
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#17 Paul Bruening

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 10:26 AM

We're all stuck with the fact that consumer behavior has been changing away from all of the movie industry's favor. Richard is correct in that his principle market segment expects that all product should be free to them. That kills Richard's (as well as all of us wanna' be's) ability to provide product. Phil is also right for the same reason. That market segment will only consume free product and will never represent a lost sale.

I talk to the local musicians about what has happened to music. I ask them why so many people are listening to old music. I ask them why there's so little unique music defining our current times. They say it is because of the death of the CD. Young people won't pay for music. Now, what the connection is between diminished profits and loss of creative quality is a difficult jump for me. But, there does seem to be a connection. The same may be occurring in movies. Does free product eventually kill the creativity out of any artistic product? Can Hellywood keep solving the problem with bigger spectacle at the expense of artistic merit and meaningful storytelling?

I keep going back to the individual consumer. That's the only place I can make any sense of what's happening. I ask myself, "What do they really want? What do they really need? Is Hellywood the only agency that can meet those needs? Can I answer any of those needs and survive doing it?"
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#18 K Borowski

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 10:37 AM

The funniest thing I heard on this issue was how the movie Australia with Nicole Kidman hardly had any file sharing activity. The generally agreed to reason is that it was viewed as a "woman's movie" and was too long.


Good story.

It is also pesky seeing how a lot of movies (I feel "Minority Report" was one of them) with intelligent story lines get marketed as dumb action-packed blockbuster popcorn movies to appeal to same said demographic.

While there is really nothing that can be done about direct-to-DVD movies, it is staggering how many internal security breaches there are with films that haven't even been released theatrically.

You would think there are things that can be done to protect digital content from being released in a pleasing viewable form, even in the age of the mandatory DI.
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#19 K Borowski

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 10:45 AM

Don't fall into the "every piracy is a lost sale" trap. Most of the people who pirated the film haven't stolen anything from you; there is no lost sale.

P


Nonsense, maybe these audiences wouldn't have seen it theatrically, but they certainly would've rented a DVD to play on their laptops.


Your arguments sound just like those of the naysayers when MP3s were first catching on big-time a decade ago. It took a couple of years for the piracy to become mainstream, but now CD sales have been devastated. They even speculate that eventually vinyl is going to re-surpass CDs in the not-so-distant future.

Ultimately, this is, in-part, the industry's fault for pushing cheaper and cheaper home viewing solutions.

The MPAA has a chance to keep the piracy trend at bay though, now that HD is catching on. Merely due to the large file sizes, it has become less practical to download or share HD movies.

Personally, when I hear people talking about movies they pirated, I will say "So do you still watch VHS tapes?" Most of the time, the answer is no. I reply: "Well you should, they would look better!"


The problem is that this group likes to waste immense amounts of time on the computer, but the act of duping a tape, which would probably cost less in the amount of time and material used vs. hard-drive used up, is beneath them. There is a psychology at work here that the studios are completely ignoring.


Maybe what you should do, Richard, is do spoof trailers, ala Minority Report, but instead of catering to the movie pirate crowd, cater it to the 30+ women's group, pull as much out of the film as possible to appeal to this demographic as a sort of disguise, and then by the time word of mouth brings the male population to the movie, it will take too long for the pirates to catch up! ;)
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#20 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 11:38 AM

How wrong art thee? Let me count the ways.

Way one:
vlcsnap_3396292.jpg

Way two:
vlcsnap_3397549.jpg

These are stills from feature films pirated in HD - Resident Evil and Appleseed Ex Machina, cited solely as an example of the problem at hand. Do they look better than VHS? Christ, they look better than DVD, thanks to frighteningly good h.264 compression technology, which provokes two further thoughts.

Thought one. Neither file is larger than a single, conventional, single sided, single layer DVD will hold, because they're designed to be downloaded, burned onto DVD and then watched in an h.264-compatible DVD player or laptop - and they're still thoroughly good quality HD, even having probably been recompressed from a blu-ray rip. This indicates clearly that a big obstacle to HD uptake, namely the introduction of a completely new and alarmingly expensive (due to the short wavelength lasers) disk format was actually a complete waste of time. So, not only is HD piracy entirely feasible, commonly practiced and very effective, it actually makes the legitimate technology look laughably outdated and feeble. The counterargument to this is that the codec options used to make high def h.264 look good at standard-def DVD bitrates require the most sophisticated decoders, which usually means decoding it on a computer, but there are very affordable DVD players out there which will do it and in any case the industry has the option of double sided or double layer DVDs to mitigate the performance issue.

Thought two. Blu-ray, HDCP, and the MPAA's system of copy protection combines arrogant presumption with technical and political ineptitude, achieving previously unheard-of heights of unpopularity and dysfunctionality. Because of this, even if I felt like blu-ray was a good deal, which I don't, if I bought a blu-ray drive for my desktop computer, which is connected to a full resolution TFT, I wouldn't actually be able to watch many titles in HD anyway. Piracy, therefore, (not that I make a habit of it) is actually the only even vaguely affordable way I can get access to HD content, without replacing every piece of gear I own (at least the drive, the graphics card, and the monitor, all of which are high performance and recent and not otherwise demanding of an upgrade). Don't even get me started on the pan-galactically ludicrous way Windows Vista behaves in relation to copy prevention; nonlinear editing applications run under the OS treat every frame of video like the crown jewels, increasing the cost and decreasing the reliability and performance of every piece of hardware and software in the system. If any of this was relevant it would be more understandable, but nobody is pirating movies by probing bus signals off the motherboard or even recording the DVI output of a graphics card; they're pirating movies by attacking the hopelessly inept encryption schemes used by the publishers, and this situation does not change with HD content either.

And the idea that every incidence of piracy is "certainly" representative of a lost sale is so fatuous it makes me weep; really enthusiastic pirates keep libraries of thousands of episodes of television programs and hundreds of feature films, a collection which would be completely unaffordable to own legitimately. The every-piracy-is-a-lost-sale argument is the one which the industry uses to create its unimaginably high loss-due-to-piracy estimates and it is completely invalid. Nobody can possibly know exactly what losses to piracy are, other than my best guess that they're probably higher given the internet and good codecs than they ever were for copied VHS tapes.

Given all this, and provoked by my cripplingly low opinion of the current output of Hollywood, I don't think that falling cinema viewing figures are much, if anything, to do with piracy. I think Hollywood has an absolutely massive quality problem, due mainly to spiralling budgets leading to intense corporate conservatism and the (obviously impractical) desire to ensure that every film is attractive to every audience. The favourite process seems to be endless rounds of rewriting by committee, which produces the most bland and inoffensive but criminally gutless drivel imaginable (see Star Trek: Voyager, or 95% of everything shown at my local Odeon for at least the last five years). This leads to simpler and simpler and more and more expensive filmmaking in a vicious circle that will only be broken when the industry admits it has a quality problem.

This is the last thing in the world it will ever do.

P
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