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The Sky is Falling… Sort Of

December 17th, 2008

The news from the business side of the film world is decidedly mixed this quarter, and while there are some bright spots, the outlook for documentaries going through traditional distribution pipelines is even bleaker than it had been.

 

THE BAD NEWS:

Indie distributors are dying– the Yari Film Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this past week and has suspended operations of its distribution practice. Meanwhile, Peace Arch, First Look and the Weinstein Companies have all announced layoffs.

 

THE GOOD NEWS:

People are going to see “specialty” films – this past weekend saw record attendance for independent film (depending on how one defines “indie”), with huge per-screen averages for Doubt, The Reader, Che and Wendy and Lucy, while Milk, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire all expanded from a handful of theaters to much larger rollouts.

Blu-Ray is catching on – The Dark Knight became the first Blu-Ray title to sell 1 million units in its first week in release; Netflix reports higher-than-expected demand from subscribers for Blu-Ray rentals.

 

Another bright spot: Image Entertainment, a significant DVD distribution company that had been reported to be in trouble and openly shopping around for a buyer for almost two years, announced this past week that it is having its best year ever, and expects to report record profits in FY2009!

 THE FUN NEWS:

First, thanks to everyone who attended the first-ever Meet Up event hosted by Docupyx and its parent company, Pyxix. We had a good crowd for the “Connecting Artist with Audience” Meetup, and look forward to hosting more Meetups in 2009!

 

Speaking of Meetup events, I attended the weekly Stranger Than Fiction screening event in New York last night, and it was the best experience I have had as a fan of documentary films outside of major world film festivals. A full house with an engaged audience roughly divided between people passionate about making documentary films and people passionate about the subject matter of Tuesday’s film (The Garden, by Scott Hamilton Kennedy). Well-done post-screening Q & A with the director, and a truly fun reception two blocks away at the 99 Below bar.

This group meets and screens great documentary films every Tuesday night at the IFC Center. It is run by people with deep roots in documentary film and terrific connections throughout the industry, which brings the experience to a higher plane. Check ‘em out at www.stfdocs.com!

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