In Part 1 of this 3 part series on Ride the Divide I looked at the overall strategy that Hunter Weeks and Mike Dion devised for the release of their film. In this post I want to examine how they created an effective and profitable Live Event/Theatrical release for their film. One of their key takeaways from the entire release is how important an event-based strategy is to generate interest in a film and help dent the media landscape with your audience (this is one of my personal mantras).
In keeping with the intelligent audience engagement strategy, Hunter and Mike wanted not only to seek components of a traditional theatrical release for their film, but a robust release incorporating all forms of public exhibition, traditional or not. To date, Ride the Divide has had 101 screening engagements in 68 cities! That’s a 68 city theatrical release – extremely impressive given the fact that they booked the film themselves (and with their audience). In fact 50% of the bookings were done by them, 50% by their audience hosting screenings.
For their bookings: 75% were conventional theaters, 25% were alternative venues. For the audience hosted bookings – this split was 50/50.
Here is some of what they found:
The partnerships paid off: For them it was key to not only have national organizations for awareness – but most importantly for local turnout – they had the support of local groups and commercial entities – e.g. bike shops. In Dallas Tx, for instance Villy Customs brought bikes to the screenings to enhance the experience. They also had bike valets at several locations.
Create an event: As much as they could Hunter and Mike created a sense of an event around their film. In addition to bike themed events, they also enlisted musicians. One of the bigger risks they took was to Four Wall their premiere at the Boulder Theater (who wouldn’t give them a percentage deal) for their opening night May 22nd. I’m not usually in favor of four walls for most films – but at times it can make sense and even make a profit. Hunter and Mike were very nervous about pulling the trigger on this event because of the nut ($4500 see below). But they realized that this was the best-case scenario for their premiere – Boulder being not only a Rocky Mountain community – but also a strong bike community. But it payed off for them. They charged $18 a ticket – making it a premium event by providing a film and a musical event with Gregory Alan Isakov. With 600 people in attendance – that’s a $10,800 one night gross. They paid $3000 to rent the theater plus $1500 for the musician fees and other costs. That’s a $6300 theatrical profit for one night (not including the sweat equity to arrange and market the show). They did other event screenings with musician Dominique Fraissard.
Program on alternative nights.- Echoing the experience of Todd Sklar and his Range Life tours – Hunter and Mike found that the best nights to screen were Wednesday and Thursday with Monday and Tuesday being fine as well. Most of their screenings were 1-3 nights except Denver where the film ran for 3 weeks. They strongly recommend staying away from Friday and Saturday nights because there is too much competition and Sundays “are the worst”.
For their audience hosted screening, they had a 2 prong strategy:
Initially they charged $295 for screening licenses that included the DVD or Blu-ray, posters, postcards – a screening pack. Through this they grossed $13,350 (selling 20 through their online store, 7 through email and phone, and over 30 through a couple of avid evangelists who became bookers in essence).
Then they created a wonderful wood box screening kit for $99 – which 50 % of the proceeds went to Livestrong. The box did not only contain the DVD but a T-shirt by Mighty Karma, a Smartwool Beanie, a book by Tony Hsieh, Livestrong bands, stickers and the DVD or Blu-ray. Note the win win partner relationship – because a large percentage went to charity – other charities donated products which then in turn made the package more valuable. They credit fatcyclist.com’s promotion of the boxes key in their success. In addition, not only did they provide a value – they provided scarcity – numbering the boxes and limiting them to 500. They have sold 200 of these packages so far raising $6500 for Livestrong (and $6500 for themselves).
All together for their theatrical they figured they grossed $65,000 with a 22,000 profit.
In Hollywood terms – its not Avatar – but in independent terms – to be able to make a decent profit on theatrical while engaging partners and creating awareness for the film – is a huge win.
I want to thank and credit Hunter and Mike for being so transparent about their figures – this should provide real help to filmmakers and hopefully encourage others also to be so open . As a community, we should be helping each other strategize new paths.