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Author Topic: "Not on the Marketing Plan"
Sally Strasser
Film Handler

Posts: 16
From: Tupper Lake, NY
Registered: Nov 1999


 - posted 05-26-2015 01:48 PM      Profile for Sally Strasser   Email Sally Strasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I read the LOOK vs AMC thread with great interest...and wholeheartedly agree that movies should run when and where the buyer (theater) wants to put it. Since my theater is in a small town far from any city, I don't have to deal with clearance issues thankfully. But....

A group of independent theaters in Upstate NY upgraded to digital on their own dime after running into the declining availability of prints. I book my own theater and have good relationships with my studio distributors. I am told "you're not in the marketing plan" occasionally....it does not make sense. Why wouldn't you sell me a movie my audience wants to see because of that? We have no VPF...there's very little expense, unlike when we were dealing with film. Another small owner has been cut out of many....he couldn't get PITCH PERFECT or MAD MAX, which are really wide releases. I'm getting worried about this happening more....

These theaters are in small towns with tiny populations. If I can manage to keep the place open and maintained on what cash comes in, the studio should be able to afford to sell me a movie I want. Movies become irrelevant here after a few weeks....and if I don't get the movie, they'll download it. Or they're forced to drive 75 miles to the next big multiplex...in the snow.

How is it that the studios can refuse a film to a theater because it's too small? Is that even legal?

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10973
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 05-26-2015 02:29 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It doesn't sound legal to me. From my perspective it seems like the giant companies who run movie studios only want to deal with giant companies who run movie theaters. They look down upon any "mom and pop" independent small business with disdain, regardless of the fact small businesses are the backbone of this country (not to mention the biggest source of customers for their theaters).

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Martin McCaffery
Film God

Posts: 2481
From: Montgomery, AL
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-26-2015 02:59 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
As a single screen calendar house art house, I get all sorts of crap from the distribs who have their marketing plans that don't include me. At least it makes a little sense if you are doing slow roll outs. That, after all, is what a marketing plan is.

I have no idea what they are talking about on a blockbuster movie, unless they have some contractual obligation to spend $X on marketing in each territory and you'd throw that off somehow.

This may be where you need a booker whose job it is to be a bigger pain than you have the time or desire to be.

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Lyle Romer
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1400
From: Davie, FL, USA
Registered: May 2002


 - posted 05-26-2015 03:12 PM      Profile for Lyle Romer   Email Lyle Romer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I agree with Bobby. It would seem to be anti-competitive not to allow you to book. I could see them requiring a guarantee to ensure they profit on the incremental expense of the "print" but I think you would have a case against them for not being willing to book you at all.

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Louis Bornwasser
Film God

Posts: 4441
From: prospect ky usa
Registered: Mar 2005


 - posted 05-26-2015 03:43 PM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Good! Big guys get great discounts: you don't. They do bring in a lot of cash, though. Logically, "I want it all and I want it now" should be what distribs want.

Anything that gets in the way of lots of money now is a bad deal for your suppliers.

For 30 years, I have watched smaller operations get hurt. Logically, the big guys pay the freight, but the little guys provide the profit. It really does take everybody to make the money work correctly.

I feel your pain, but I am not optomistic about anything changing soon. Too bad beause it hurts the supplier, too.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12767
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-26-2015 07:16 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've never been told we're not in the marketing plan, but I think it just depends on how wide a net they are casting. If they're making 5000 prints, then anybody can get a movie, even a theater that's only open on weekends. But if they're only making 1000, then only the top grossers will get it.

The cost of making the additional cheap digital copies doesn't seem to enter into their thinking; they decide (and nobody seems to know who "they" is) how many prints they will produce based on some mystical marketing genius's predictions and then that's how many prints there are.

I think the whole thing is tied to antiquated studio booking software programs which dictate that once a movie is released, they can't change the number of prints they have for fear of upsetting the calculations. Or something like that.

The problem is, since nobody knows who "they" is, we can never find out the true answer, we can only make guesses.

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Sally Strasser
Film Handler

Posts: 16
From: Tupper Lake, NY
Registered: Nov 1999


 - posted 05-26-2015 08:37 PM      Profile for Sally Strasser   Email Sally Strasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I do a better job at booking my own theater...I used to work for some of the big boys and know some of the people at the studios. In fact some of the other small theaters around me use bookers and I get more product than they do, pretty often.

I'm sure there's some sort of antiquated system out there with these guys that make the print count in each territory a solid figure...but why would they withhold product from theaters who will go on to the next best new release, knowing they will bring in more money than an old film? Just doesn't seem logical to me.

Or maybe they're justifying their positions in some way? Distribution people are worried for their jobs...many reorganizations lately with people missing each iteration.

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2253
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 05-26-2015 11:47 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
One of the things I find really frustrating about this is the studios all but force us to take crap movies we know our audience doesn't want to see, but we can't even beg a copy of the more intellectual movies that better fit our demographic. This makes it virtually impossible to even develop the audience for those movies.

One of our theatres is in a large senior community, and sometimes they have a hard time getting a Meryl Streep movie, but will have the latest Adam Sandler comedy all but forced on them. Explain the logic in that.

I don't understand the math or logic of how some of these studio decisions are made.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 8146
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-27-2015 08:02 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
How do distributors force a theatre to play a particular title? Is it done just by not making other titles available, or is through some sort of under-the-table notion that a theatre must play <stinker> in order to also play <blockbuster>? (I thought that the latter was supposed to be illegal....)

I am admittedly somewhat ignorant about booking first-run titles. I book repertory films for a local performing-arts house, but the hardest part about that is finding out who owns what. After that point, assuming that a print is available (and, these days, there may only be one), playing a particular title is just a matter of writing a check. Some distributors are better than others (thank you, Park Circus, Universal, and Library of Congress), but pretty much everything worth showing is available somewhere.

Could the "not in our marketing plan" issue relate at all to the idea that the distributor is not interested in paying for co-op advertising in some markets and that, somehow, this gets (mis-)translated into "your theatre cannot play this title"?

The first theatre where I worked (in the late '90s) was an art house in a small market that played late-run but current films, and I always thought that it was pretty lousy that the big guys always got all sorts of promotional material dumped on them, yet we were lucky to get posters (let alone trailers) for some titles.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10973
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 05-27-2015 09:06 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have a feeling a some of this "not on the marketing plan" baloney has to do with what Mike mentioned: an antiquated system. I remember when our local Carmike 8-plex was first built nearly 20 years ago it took at least a couple of years for them to get their records straight. Some thought another Carmike location, a 3-plex converted into a dollar theater, was still Carmike's first run location in Lawton.

I don't know how many forms and other pieces of time wasting red tape people in distribution offices have to fill out to get a movie booked into a certain theater. I'll bet it's more involved than performing a couple button clicks on a computer.

Contrast that with booking a movie across hundreds of screens in a major theater chain. They probably have custom software and scripts that do place a movie on lots of screens with a single click.

quote: Scott Norwood
Could the "not in our marketing plan" issue relate at all to the idea that the distributor is not interested in paying for co-op advertising in some markets and that, somehow, this gets (mis-)translated into "your theatre cannot play this title"?
I think that's an interesting point. But what kind of local advertising do movie distributors even co-op anymore? Newspaper advertising is all but dead in most small to medium sized markets. It's all on the Internet at movie theater web sites, movie interest web sites and ticket services like Fandango. Distributors basically aren't spending squat on local advertising in many of these markets. They really don't have to do so. That kind of removes another excuse.

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2253
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 05-27-2015 06:46 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Scott, you are basically correct. Although it's never explicitly stated, it's always implied that if you don't take this film, then that film won't be available. Sony is one of the worst on this issue.

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Frank B. McLaughlin
Film Handler

Posts: 76
From: Denver, CO
Registered: Dec 2011


 - posted 05-28-2015 08:14 AM      Profile for Frank B. McLaughlin   Author's Homepage   Email Frank B. McLaughlin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There is also the possibility that in the contracts between producers, distributors, and marketing there are a number of clauses in which an average gross per screen will be achieved. This triggers percentages of payments or distribution of revenue. True, an antiquated system dating to the 35mm days, bottom line the small houses drag the averages down.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 8146
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-28-2015 08:39 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Bobby--major film releases definitely get newspaper, TV, and radio advertising in my market, although I am not sure how much, if any, of this advertising is "co-op."

Justin -- thanks for the explanation.

Frank--interesting point, except that single-screen houses almost invariably have higher per-screen-average grosses than multiplexes. Maybe not in small towns, though.

I can understand how a distributor would need to set a minimum guarantee for a particular film in order to cover the cost of making the print/DCP and taking the booking, but that should be fairly small now for D-cinema houses, and it also seems that they should be willing to take bookings from any venue in a non-clearance area that is willing to pay that guarantee.

This industry is weird.

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Melanie Loggins
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 154
From: Wayne, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2011


 - posted 05-28-2015 10:29 AM      Profile for Melanie Loggins   Author's Homepage   Email Melanie Loggins   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This is a fascinating thread to me, as I was told there "weren't enough prints" of Pitch Perfect 4 days after I was told there would be terms soon.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10973
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 05-28-2015 12:41 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Scott Norwood
Bobby--major film releases definitely get newspaper, TV, and radio advertising in my market, although I am not sure how much, if any, of this advertising is "co-op."
Boston is a major market, the 10th largest metropolitan statistical area in the US. The Boston Herald has circulation numbers significant enough to take seriously for a movie poster/stack ad placement. Local TV and radio has enough "reach" there for movie ad buys.

When you start getting down to smaller markets, such as Oklahoma City or even smaller ones like Lawton the newspaper ads get a whole lot smaller, if there are any ads at all. The only TV ads are ones carried on national networks; no local spots are placed. Same for radio. The Lawton Constitution used to carry movie poster style ads for big releases in the 1980's and 1990's. Theater directory ads were substantial. The same ads got microscopic in size during the 2000's and have all but disappeared in the last couple or so years. The Internet has really taken over movie advertising in a big way, but not "big" in terms of ad size.

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