GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – THE 2012 “YEAR-END” REVIEW + CHRISTMAS BONUS!

Merry Christmas and welcome to our 2012 Year-End Review and Christmas Bonus! I know the politically correct salutation is to say “Happy Holidays,” or “Seasons Greetings,” but hot damn, it’s Christmas Day, and this column will have to wait until 2018 to be published on Christmas Day again – so I have to give a shout out to my favorite holiday. Besides, Christmas has a great significance to distribution, because it’s the last day of the year a film can be theatrically released in North America and still qualify for Academy Award consideration.

Christmas for me growing up was a day filled with tearing open presents, watching “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” on TV, and playing in the frigid Kansas snow. Nowadays, Christmas consists of my wife and I watching our daughters Zoe and Lena tear open their presents and then attending the annual Lakers Christmas Day game.

Before I type any more, let me just wish everyone who chooses not to believe in a happy fat man that flies across the world in a single night to deliver presents to millions of people before the sun comes up, a very Happy Holidays! I wish all of you a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and Eid Mubarak! So, whatever you celebrate, or choose not to, I hope you’re having a comfortable day.

As I begin the “Christmas Bonus” portion of this article, I’d like to state that Christmas films are some of the financially riskiest to make, because their earnings window is painfully short. Christmas films usually aren’t released outside of the Thanksgiving to Christmas timeframe, and their box office “punch” usually turns into a “tickle” after the New Year. However, if your Christmas film becomes a beloved holiday favorite, it can play on TV for decades, or even for generations. Having such a fate is quite rare, but when it happens, it creates an evergreen income that’s definitely a gift that keeps on giving!

Here are my five favorite Christmas films, the first four of which happen to be some of the most watched of all time.

1.  A Christmas Story (1983) – Based on Jean Sheppard’s book, “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash,” this incredibly funny film is clearly my favorite Christmas Day film. With a cost of $4 million, “A Christmas Story” was released on November 18, and went on to earn $19,294,144 at the 1983 domestic box office. But, that’s not why this picture is a financial juggernaut. This holiday classic has been playing annually on TV or cable for decades, and TBS has been playing it for 24-hours straight, from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. If you haven’t seen this film yet, you should watch it twice. In fact, “double dog dare” you to!

2.  It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) – Based on Phillip Van Doren Stern’s 1939 short story, “The Greatest Gift,” this Frank Capra classic was released theatrically on December 20, 1946. Starring James Stewart, this $3.18 million budget only made $3,300,000 at the box office. However, the film has played countless times on television for the past 66 years, and it is constantly ranked very high on the AFI Top 100 Films.

3.  Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – Oddly enough, this picture was originally released in the United States on May 2, 1947, seven and a half months before its December 18, 1947 release in Australia. With a $630,000 budget, the picture made $3,150,000 at the box office. Like “It’s A Wonderful Life,” this film has been playing on TV for multiple decades. It is not to be missed!

4.  Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) (TV) – I’m well aware that this is a TV special and not an actual feature film, but hey, it’s Rudy! Originally aired on December 6, 1964 on NBC as part of the General Electric Fantasy Hour, this touching 47-minute classic aired on NBC from 1964-1971, and then moved to CBS. It has been airing on CBS since 1972, and continues to air today.

5.  Bad Santa (2003) – While I doubt that this crass, “R” rated Billy Bob Thornton starrer will ever become a holiday classic, it is damn funny. Released on November 26, 2003, this surprisingly successful picture earned $76,057,639 based on a $23 million dollar budget.

That concludes our “Christmas Bonus.” Now, let’s move into our 2012 Year-End Review. Below I’ve listed links to at least one article per month, from January through December. While the international film sales world viewed 2012 as a slight step-up from 2008-2011, it mainly saw this year as a set-up for 2013, which should be the best year since 2007. So, without further ado, here’s what 2012 looked like:

January – Non Exclusive Contracts Are Non Starters

February – And The Best Picture Goes To Another Small Film

March – Act of Starless Films

April – Going Bionic Turns 100!

May – Obliterating Your Career Roadblocks

June – Filmmakers vs. Distributors, Part 1

              Filmmakers vs. Distributors, Part 2

July – The Alternative Platform Society

August – Distributing Without Distributors

September – The September 11 Special Edition

October – Branding Yourself

                     Branding Your Film

November – The Turkey Trot At The Box Office

December – Things To Do Before 2013, Part 1

                          Things To Do Before 2013, Part 2

I truly enjoyed writing all of the “Going Bionic” articles throughout 2012, but my clear favorite was “The September 11 Special Edition.”

As we enjoy the last week of 2012, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for lending me your eyes this year, and I’d be honored to borrow them again next year.  I hope all of you have a wonderful week, and I’ll check in with you again on New Year’s Day, 2013! As always, I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal




Posted on December 25, 2012 in Features, Going Bionic by
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