Specialty Box Office: Foreign and Independent Films Enter the Spotlight
Currently, there is a lot of speculation about the state of the specialty film market. Experts seem to agree that this area is struggling because too few films are currently available. Another issue facing most indie films is that their box office in limited release is often impacted by the fact that these films are simultaneously available on demand. Now, Landmark Theaters is finding new ways to bring in audiences with showings of Magic Mike’s Last Dance. Landmark’s president, Kevin Holloway, thinks that the best way to celebrate new films is to offer audiences more than just a movie—just as they did in Scottsdale Arizona on February 9 and 10 when the theater offered an immersive experience for $65 that allowed guests to attend a pre-screening party. This event was fully equipped with a DJ, dancers, and bar full of “Mike-tails.” Landmark hosted similar event-style screenings for Cocaine Bear with selfies and powdered donuts for patrons to enjoy. International cinema also shows a lot of promise for the specialty box office. In the first few weeks of 2023, several foreign films made a splash, including Pathaan from India, K-pop concert doc BTS: Yet to Come to Cinemas, and Chinese sci-fi actioner The Wandering Earth II. Five years ago, the international film Parasite won the Best Film Oscar, and ever since, foreign films have been stronger performers domestically. Currently nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar, RRR has been continuously bringing in large audiences with extravagant screenings. While smaller theaters and art house cinemas still struggle to get the word out about the movies they are showing, theater marketing departments and film distributors are working together to better publicize screenings of independent films.
VFX Seeks Unionization: Workers Discuss Conditions in New IATSE Survey
This Wednesday, IATSE published the results of their survey of VFX professionals across Hollywood, revealing that two out of three believe they are working under unfair conditions. This survey was released amidst these workers’ continuing effort to unionize—an effort that began in 2013. Currently, nine out of 10 of workers believe there is no current way to negotiate for their rights. Regarding working conditions, the survey mentioned healthcare, as only 12% of VFX workers have portable care available to them. 43% do not have any healthcare at all. As for retirement benefits, less than half of vendor-side workers and 15% of client-side workers have them available. VFX workers often work long days, potentially skipping meals, and a majority of those who completed the survey complained about not receiving overtime hours. The lack of resources and training for VFX workers was a key factor in this survey as well. The range of salaries is also large, starting at around $15 an hour and reaching a high of $71.43 an hour. With these working conditions, some complain that a career in VFX is not sustainable and that workers can sometimes only survive for about five years before burning out. Ben Speight, an organizer with IATSE International and the Animation Guild, says, “We believe that in 2023 there will be an opportunity to move a supermajority of workers at major studios or VFX houses to actually win union recognition.” It is hoped that a union will be formed this year, but the date is loose and depends on other industry factors, including the pending WGA writers' strike.
Biggest Edition Ever: London TV Screenings (LTS) Connects Hundreds of Buyers
Every year, distributors gather in London to showcase their upcoming catalog of content to potential buyers. This international event brings together large names from across the globe. 2022’s screenings had strong participation, but the 2023 edition is even stronger. With 25 distributors and over 400 buyers, this may be the biggest edition of the London TV Screenings yet. The event runs for a week, from February 27 to March 3. With the large audience in attendance, London TV may even rival MipTV in Cannes. The event began in 1976 as a BBC showcase but has since spread to new locations and included rival distributors as it evolved into an opportunity to present to an entire group of buyers at once. It was not until the pandemic that the screenings became formally known as the London TV Screenings (LTS). Rachel Glaister, executive VP of brands and press at All3Media Intl., noted that several London-based distributors are opting to skip MipTV altogether. LTS, which is free to attend, has become a favorable option, as companies are becoming more aware of costs. Banijay Rights CEO Cathy Payne says, “LTS is a little different to Cannes. We focus; we talk a little more behind the scenes on the program with buyers; we don’t have press or competitors there.” The event is expertly curated as well, with professional hosts that offer buyers in-depth of projects early in the commissioning process.
One Year In: PBS’ New DEI Team Boosts Diverse Documentary Content
In their second annual DEI report, public broadcaster PBS shared the work of its DEI team, including the DEI Office and employee resource groups, which were built out in fiscal year 2022. Their workforce, which totals 551 staffers, has reached a six-year diversity high, with 44% BIPOC—37% higher than the average broadcaster. This diversity is represented across the organization, including the 27-member board, which is comprised of 13 women and 10 people of color. The six-year high also applies to the demographics of its hiring, which the company also tracked in its DEI report. In addition, 58% of all documentary content produced in the last fiscal quarter is considered diverse in one of three ways: the content featured BIPOC talent, was created / produced by BIPOC talent, or explored a “diversity-related topic” (which PBS defines as “diverse history, current events or protagonists”). A total of 554 hours of documentary content was aired in primetime, and 54% of that content demonstrated diverse criteria. The digital platform featured more diverse content, which is common among media companies. 68% of all 25 PBS digitals were led by BIPOC creators and 73% featured BIPOC talent. The public broadcaster has a strong reach among children, and according to Nielsen, the station also reaches more diverse children. Along with the increased attention to diverse content, PBS is also investing in creating accessible content with better captioning, subtitling, and secondary audio options.
California's Tax Credit: New Way To Enforce the Diversity Requirement
With the state’s tax program diversity requirements now in place, the governor's office is proposing new ways to enforce these efforts. The five-year extension of the state’s credit details that every production that receives the incentive is required to fill out a diversity “workplan” in which they commit to hiring crew reflective of the state’s demographics. Under the recent proposal, productions that don’t meet the diversity hiring goals laid out will lose 4% of their tax credit. This program, which was originally created in 2009 to keep productions in the state, has changed in the last few years based on increased attention over the lack of diversity in Hollwood. Another similar effort was made in 2021, when the $150-million-dollar program for the construction of soundstages included a provision that gave a 4% bonus to productions that met diversity goals. The CA incentive program will expire in 2025, so lawmakers are currently working on an extension through 2030, which aims to adopt the diversity bonus model that was part of the soundstage credit. But the latest version of the bill in February does not include a bonus; instead, it sticks to the 4% penalty, which is smaller than the bonus would be. The bill is still in the works and has not yet faced objections from the Motion Picture Association. Other changes to the bill, including making the credit refundable, are still being discussed.
High five! Another Friday Five is going live next week—same time, same place. We know what caught our eyes, but we’re all ears. Tell us what you’d like to learn more about in our upcoming editions by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Be sure to tag #FridayFive in your comments.
Want an even more convenient way to stay in the know? Get Friday Five sent right to your inbox each week by signing up for our direct newsletter below.
See you next Friday at 10 a.m. (PT).