February 2020 Digest & Coronavirus Cancel Culture

By Rebecca Green

Needless to say, the big news this week is the cancelation of SXSW. I feel terribly for the filmmakers who were about to have their first major festival premiere. There really is no greater feeling than sharing your film for the first time with an audience. However, on the flip side, I wonder if the loss of the festival, and potentially other festivals in the near future, will start to shift the balance of power festivals currently have on distributors. What would a world without film festivals look like? Could distributors actually make decisions about films without the stamp of approval of a festival? I’m not being sarcastic. If you’ve ever tried to sell your film outside of a festival, and I have, the answer from distributors is always, “let’s wait and see what festival it gets into.” How would we sell films if there were no festivals? Would distributors rely more on producers to curate their slate or would they lean on sales agents? Is the festival circuit really that necessary to the distribution process or have distributors become too co-dependent on their curation? 

The only way to find this out is to hear from producers on how they are selling their film without the festival. While there have been many articles written about the cancellation of SXSW with quotes from “industry leaders,” there has not yet been an article from the producer’s perspective (of course there hasn’t, this is why Dear Producer exists). So, if you are a producer who was about to premiere your feature film at SXSW, without distribution already secured, and would like to share your experience with the rest of us, please contact me at hello@dearproducer.com.

Keep Going,
Rebecca

The Paramount Theatre in Austin
Shelley Hiam

HOMEWORK 

Film4, BBC, BFI & Pact Back UK Producers Survey That Reveals Stark Challenges Of Indie Biz
A new survey published today on the state of the UK’s independent production sector has revealed the harsh challenges being faced by the country’s indie producers.

Berlin: 1st European Film Politics Seminar – Protecting Independent Film Production
Leading industry reps gathered on the opening day of Berlin’s European Film Market for what is certain to be a continuing discussion about leveling the playing field for independent producers across Europe and demanding greater engagement in the sector from global players.

Berlin Film Market Adjusts to Major Shifts in Global Business
The days of frenzied film buys may be over, however. The international biz is now adjusting to a new industry ecosystem after streaming platform disruptions, where pre-sales are just part of the equation. Disney Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple Plus all look to be in Berlin, and looking for movies as well as production talks.

Tabitha Jackson Named New Director Of Sundance Film Festival, Looks To “Embrace Change” And “Champion The Independent Voice”
Jackson, who joined the Sundance Institute as the Director of the Documentary Film Program in 2013, will take the torch from John Cooper, who announced he was stepping down from the post last June. 

Why Sundance Is Much Less Relevant Than Journalists Want You To Think
For all of the talk about the annual array of films, very few manage to affect culture much after the festival. Looking back at 2019’s slate of Sundance films reveals that many of those expected to have import did not actually make significant impacts. To illustrate that, consider this list of the most hyped titles from last year’s Sundance.

Disney+ Has 26.5 Million Subscribers
The Disney+ streaming service, which launched in November, has 28.6 million subscribers as of February, the company said Tuesday as it reported fiscal first-quarter earnings after the bell. The sub number is higher than the 20 million-25 million anticipated. 

Tubi Hits 25 Million Monthly Users, With View Time More Than Doubling
Tubi, which bills itself as the “world’s largest” ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) service, said it reached 25 million monthly active users as of December 2019. Total view time on the free platform by the end of last year reached 163 million hours, the company announced in a press release, an increase of 160% over 2018 levels.

Why Comcast Just Bought a Streaming Service You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Sources told CNBC that Comcast paid $100 million for Xumo, which has about 10 million monthly active users. That’s less than the $340 million that Viacom (now ViacomCBS) spent on Pluto TV last year, though Pluto already had 12 million users at that point and is now used by more than 22 million people every month. 

NYU professor Scott Galloway says that Los Angeles is about to become the ‘land of the undead’ as Amazon and other big tech take over the entertainment industry
What happened in retail over the last decade is about to happen in entertainment media. This juggernaut of an industry, with hundreds of billions in value and cultural influence like no other industry in the world, is being featurized as an accessory to sell batteries and toilet paper.

Awash In Content, U.S. Consumers Remain Hungry To Stream More – Report
Through last December, the report found, there were 646,152 unique program titles to choose from across linear and streaming services, a nearly 10% increase over what was available in all of 2018.

‘Parasite’ Distributor Tom Quinn Explains How the Movie Became an Oscar-Winning Hit
The Neon co-founder made time at Sunday’s awards ceremony to explain how the historic winner became a phenomenon.

Former Landmark Theatres Boss Ted Mundorff Heads To ArcLight Cinemas As President & COO
A big seismic shift has just occurred in the exhibition space: ArcLight Cinemas has just hired Ted Mundorff as the chain’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Deadline has just learned. The move brings Mundorff back to the chain where he served as VP and Film Buyer prior to his run at Landmark.

Do-It-Yourself Releasing Platform Tugg Pulls the Plug
Tugg Inc., the 9-year-old do-it-yourself releasing platform, has gone out of business after a deal to sell the company fell through.

We Are Distribution Advocates
In 2019 at Sundance, producer Amy Hobby and producer/distributor Karin Chien reconnected on their passion around independent film distribution. After a year of conversations in New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam and over Skype — they decided to seek out others to join us and take action.

‘Burden’: Inside the Two-Decade Quest to Make a Sundance Winner That Was Almost Forgotten
It took 22 years for Andrew Heckler to make his directorial debut with a moving true-life story, but even after winning audience accolades at Sundance, the film’s journey was hardly over.

Distribution Plan And Story, Not Characters’ Gender Or Race, Key To Box Office Success: Study
An intensive new study commissioned by ReFrame and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is refuting what they call the “myth” that movies with female or underrepresented lead or co-leading characters earn less money at the box office than films with male or white leads/co leads.

EXTRA CREDIT 

Oscar Viewership Hits All-Time Low With 23.6 Million
It was a historic 92nd Academy Awards with a first Best Picture recipient not in the English language in Parasite adding an element of surprise to a largely predictable winners list. There was something historic in the ratings for the 2020 Oscars too  — a historic low.

Vertical Movies, Here We Come: First Up Is Timur Bekmambetov’s $10 Million War Drama
The digital-filmmaking pioneer thinks audiences are ready for the world’s first vertically shot blockbuster.

Subtitles Vs. Dubbing: The Big Business of Translating Foreign Films in a Post-‘Parasite’ World
Each country’s movie-going culture is different, but as the localization market expands with streaming, so does dubbing.

The Smithsonian Has Just Released 2.8 Million Images for Free Download
This week, the Smithsonian is taking a major step forward in democratizing American history. The new initiative Smithsonian Open Access allows for images and data formerly housed in the institution’s private collections to be freely accessible to anyone, unrestricted by copyrights.

From ‘Parasite’ to BTS: Meet the Most Important Mogul in South Korean Entertainment
Miky  Lee built the country’s first movie multiplex, invested in DreamWorks and has since grown a diverse, $4.1 billion entertainment empire that helped launch a generation of filmmakers including Bong  Joon  Ho. Now  she’s coming for Hollywood.

Streaming Hits New Milestone, Accounts for Nearly 80 Percent of US Music Revenue in 2019
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has released a report examining music sales trends for the full 2019 calendar year. The report, as noted by Variety, shows that U.S. revenues of recorded music grew by 13% to $11.1 billion last year. The driver of that growth? Streaming music services.

Quibi: Watch All the Trailers From the New Streaming Service
From shows featuring Idris Elba to Chance the Rapper, IndieWire is keeping track of every new Quibi trailer.

TaleFlick Partners With HarperCollins To Highlight Books for Films
TaleFlick, an online platform that provides writers with a chance to showcase their work to producers and studios, is partnering with HarperCollins Publishers. The collaboration between the companies will allow the publisher to upload thousands of titles across an array of genres, and provide HarperCollins authors the opportunity to have their titles made more accessible to the film industry.