If you’re planning a theatrical release for your film, you are not alone. Many filmmakers dream of having their movies on the big screen. Yet even if you create an awesome film, having a successful theatrical release is going to take serious planning.
How To Plan Your Theatrical Release
Let’s look at the following steps to increase the opportunity for a successful theatrical release.
1. Pick the right geographical areas: When planning your theatrical release, your goal is to build buzz. In which areas are people most likely to watch your film, get excited and tell their friends? Where are you connected best? Maybe even your small hometown? Added attention can make it easier to host screenings in more distant places or other countries.
2. People love Q&As: Screenings where the cast and crew are present and can interact with a crowd (Q&A panels) are great sellers. Try to travel with your movie as much as possible. This allows for networking, getting direct feedback, making new fans, increasing ticket sales and getting supporters talking about your film.
Consider keeping your film in theaters where you hosted successful screenings. One great deal you can negotiate with theaters is a 1+2 guarantee. It works like this: If you sell out the screening with the Q&A, the cinema will then guarantee to screen the film two more times one week later.
3. Know your costs: Setting up and hosting a screening tour will cost more than you think. Most theaters will not agree to more than a 50% split of all ticket sales. And you will have to deduct the costs for all your digital and print promotional material (posters, leaflets, your DCP copy of the movie et al). You will also have to budget for travel costs and daily allowances for cast and crew.
So do your math accurately. Be sure to count in at least one failed screening for each tour!
4. Theater buy-out vs. revenue split: A cinema working on a split deal tends to put more effort in promoting your screening because they rely on actual ticket sales. But if it makes business sense, you can also “buy-out” a theater in advance. This model is very risky.
5. Find sponsors for your screening tour: You can try to find sponsors for your tour! Suggest that you will be playing a pre-roll clip in the theater before your screening. Ad their logo to your posters (‘presented by’), leaflets and all communications (social media outlets). You can also offer to give away goodies or vouchers and set up branded roll-ups in the theater.
It is key to offer potential sponsors a promotional package. They love to buy “out-of-the-box” offers. To find sponsors, always ask yourself: What do your potential sponsors get out of their money? Which audience will they get access to? What is in it for them?
6. Find partners and local supporters: When crafting your film’s screening tour, take a close look at each hosting city. Is there a local partner you can team up with? Is there local media that might be interested in writing a review? Assuming you have a Facebook fan page for your movie, you can also ask your community for help in each city.
7. Sell merchandise: Be sure to have all your merchandise ready for the tour. People are most ready to buy an hour before and an after the screening event. They want to experience your movie and support the cast and crew. They will love your T-Shirts, DVDs, books and mugs. There are some filmmakers who make more money from merchandise than ticket sales!
Now it’s your turn! When will your movie screen in my town?
Andreas Jaritz is an Austrian filmmaking entrepreneur and co-founder of Nomad Earth Media, writing about Filmmaking Entrepreneurship on Medium and Twitter. Andreas recently published a comprehensive case study about the successful hybrid distribution strategy for the documentary The Old, the Young & the Sea. 11-times internationally awarded, the movie, which he produced and co-directed with Nomad Earth co-founder and director Mario Hainzl, was his debut film.