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in Filmmaking
on Feb 4, 2005

Anne Thompson, whose “Risky Business” ran in Filmmaker for the past year, recently moved over to The Hollywood Reporter where her identifiable and accessible brand of smart industry reporting has already garnered a number of scoops and interesting pieces. Her latest is an intriguing piece on indie mogul Bob Yari, which implies that the producer is holding off on a deal for Mike Mills’ well-reviewed Sundance entry Thumbsucker so he can self-distribute it through a new distribution venture.

Writes Thompson:

Yari isn’t thrilled by how his films have performed so far. Most distributors, he finds, use the domestic release as a test run that determines how much to spend on the video. “The more a distributor is invested in a project,” he says, “the more attention they pay to it. We want to make a strong deal on ‘Thumbsucker.’ This is not one that we can let go very easily. It’s not just another film a distributor takes a shot at.”

As Yari realizes, if he creates his own distribution outfit, then he will get to keep the pot of gold that goes to the distributor when a movie hits big. He is currently finalizing a new video label to go out through a studio, which he plans to announce in a few weeks, and then, says Yari, “the next step for us is domestic theatrical, having the ability to release a film on 400-500 screens.”

The piece goes on to quote Newmarket’s Bob Berney, who opines that distribution “isn’t as easy as it looks.” That is undoubtedly true, but producers who also have deep pockets at some point realize the obvious — with the exception of the distributor’s initial minimum guarantee (often incorrectly dubbed the “sale price”), producers and equity investors are usually dead last in a film’s revenue stream. At a certain point, seeing all the percentages going to producers’ reps, sales agents, theatrical distributors, video distributors, TV sellers, etc. before a film can inch toward recoupment, most sane producers have to wonder if they shouldn’t try doing it themselves… It’s just that few of them have the capital to do it. Here’s hoping that Yari pulls it off.

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