Question by Adah Callaway: What decides if a film gets released in theaters?
Is there extra money involved in the process if a production company wants their film in theaters or what? I ask because of the abundance of films that don’t get to the big screen, some of them very good, and the many that do get a big release – and stink.
Answer by bjdzyak
There is extra expense involved to distribute a feature motion-picture to the general public. The cost of prints and marketing alone can run into the millions of dollars.
Hundreds of movies are released each year so major studios compete for prime release dates that can help crucial opening weekend box-office receipts. Incredible sums of money are spent on marketing to help ensure that interest is high enough to get butts in the seats. If a smaller, less funded, movie tries to compete with the “tent-pole” features that have millions of dollars in advertising funds, it will likely get lost in the shuffle.
As far as what gets released and what doesn’t, in most cases, a studio or production company will not invest its time and money into a project without doing everything it can to improve the odds of making money. They do this by employing A and/or B List Actors and/or top Directors who have proven track records to bring in a quality product. Once those decisions are made, they come with an inherent upfront cost so the choice to spend the money it takes to have a theatrical release is built-in. They HAVE TO have a wide-release in order to earn back the expenses it takes to produce the movie. And because it is a theatrical release, they HAVE TO spend a significant amount of marketing money on top of everything else, so that means the movie has to do that much better to be considered a success.
Smaller films, that may have better stories, can’t compete with this system particularly if they do not have a built-in attraction, like an A-List Actor. People like their movie-stars and are less likely to see a film if it doesn’t have a recognizable name in it. Therefore, movies without movie-stars or large scale action are not likely to be seen in great enough numbers to justify spending the money for a theatrical run.
Also keep in mind that nobody sets out to make a bad movie. Truly. Movies cost far too much money for someone to risk their career just so they can make a “bad” movie. What generally happens is that a good or great script is slowly turned into a “mediocre” project for a variety of reasons. Those factors could be just a lack of adequate budget to get the locations or talent (on screen and off) needed to really do the script justice. Or maybe there is enough money, but someone’s ego gets in the way…perhaps an Actor feels that he/she should have a bigger part or should play the character in a different way than is on the page..or the Director tries to impose his “vision” upon a script when that “vision” is just wrong for that story… or a Studio Executive decides that he needs to justify his job so he begins delivering “notes” that negatively impact the project. Any number of things can conspire to make an otherwise great movie a bad one, BUT nobody ever starts the process with the intention of making a bad movie. By the time the damage is done, it is too late to stop the machine, so a “bad” movie can get a major theatrical release while otherwise “better” ones get lost because they didn’t have the money or talent to begin with.
IATSE Local 600, SOC
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