Since the middle of September, CHALET GIRL has been available for exclusive US Video on Demand download via our US Distributor IFC’s Sundance Now channel. I don’t have (and would probably not be allowed to reveal anyway) the exact figures for downloads since then, but we’re talking in the tens of thousands. At $14 a time, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue, with hardly any cut going to exhibitors. There has been a big online marketing push in the US but, again, that’s pretty smart bang-for-your-buck advertising compared to expensive TV or press ads. And this approach gives us a platform – reviews, awareness, positive word of mouth – to push out into the more mainstream Netflix / Blockbuster / DVD sell-through (sell-thru?) market in the US. All without the need for a costly, loss-leading wide cinema release.
I have no idea what the final figures will be, or what if any will trickle back to the film’s investors, but it seems to me a pretty smart way to ‘monetise’ a small, foreign movie in the US. VoD is the online multiplex, and accordingly the natural home for a multiplex title like CHALET GIRL. Not that I'm saying we wouldn't have loved a 3,000 print release in the US, or a power-platform release like THE KING'S SPEECH. But in the real world, this way makes a lot of sense. (CHALET GIRL is currently out in cinemas in the US, but on a very limited release, and more as a contractual obligation than anything else.)
Screen International writes about this sort of thing in greater depth and with greater intelligence than I could, so you should dig into that title if you want to explore this interesting subject further. A quote from Jeremy Kay’s article about the Toronto Film Festival in the latest monthly edition will suffice for now: “VoD and digital platforms are playing an increasingly important role here and are regarded as a potentially lucrative avenue, with or without theatrical uplift. Magnolia and IFC have established digital pipelines and while they will never say how much their films make on VoD, word is the most successful titles can gross millions of dollars.” This is the future, and it’s happening right now.
In other news, CHALET GIRL has been released into the home entertainment market in the UK by Momentum. New artwork, new DVD with directors’ commentary and a feature on the premiere (hopefully they won’t show the bit where I fell over as I walked onto the stage). This has been another very gratifying experience. We were top 10 in all Film & TV on Amazon for a while, top spot on iTunes, and sold out in my local Morrisons in Warminster. Twitter is all a-twitter again and there is a real feeling that the word of mouth we missed out on with our theatrical release – a combination of a release date move out of half term and the unseasonably warm weather, among other factors – is now beginning to snowball. Hopefully we can stay on shelves long enough to hit the Christmas market and Momentum will finally receive the return on the big marketing push they made for the film’s theatrical release.
To update you on my writing, I’m on the (significant) rewrite to HER ROYAL SPYNESS, and currently writing four new treatments for four different producers. It’s high-investment, low-return work and I wonder if I will ever get paid for any of them, but in my mind it’s the most fun part of the job so I’m happy to wing it for now (but don’t tell everyone). Also, I’ll be appearing at the Screenwriters Festival Pre-Registration Party next Thursday, 27th October at Regent’s College. I hope to see some of you there.
Finally finally, just to plug two great films I’ve seen recently. The first is my friend and sometime writing partner Donald Rice’s film CHEERFUL WEATHER FOR THE WEDDING with CHALET GIRL’s Felicity Jones once again on incredible form. For a low budget film it packs a massive punch, both visually and narratively, and I desperately hope it will get a theatrical release. And from the teeny tiny to the US box office monster, I watched THE HELP last night. As I discussed with some friends afterwards, I felt totally emotionally manipulated, but when it is done so well, and with such charm and grace, you don’t mind. In fact, isn’t that what you go to the movies for?