We have a bunch of overseas dates coming up for The Nines (starting with the U.K. on November 30th), but in terms of North America, we’re basically done. There are some one-off screenings on the books, but nothing resembling a true expansion.
We ended up playing in Los Angeles, New York and Austin.
Am I bummed? Yes. Even though I knew 99% of viewers would end up seeing the movie on DVD, I wanted more people to have the chance to see it in a theater.
But I get the economics of it, too: every print, every newspaper ad, every local PR push costs a fortune.1 With the “For Your Consideration” season ramping up, it’s gotten harder and harder to get (and hold onto) screens. And yes, most Sundance movies never get a theatrical release — so for that, I’m grateful.2
My frustration stems largely from seeing how it all played out. It feels like we were one of those movies that basically gets its hand stamped in theaters before coming out on video. And from the distributor’s side, that’s not far from the truth: we didn’t go wider because they didn’t need us to go wider. New York and Los Angeles got us the good reviews they were banking on, so spending more money on the theatrical release wasn’t a priority — either at launch or later on.
When a movie costs $40 million, or $100 million, you have to make a lot of money in theaters. When a movie costs a fraction of that, there’s no pressure, no incentive. So instead of spending millions of dollars on marketing, you spend thousands. I won’t know the final marketing budget on The Nines for many months, but it was probably less than one national TV commercial. 3
But there was still the chance that our limited release would become a platform release, and that we could use the momentum from the opening weeks to shake out money for more prints, more ads, more cities. That didn’t happen. But I’m incredibly grateful to the people who bought tickets for screenings they knew they could never attend. I promise I’ll return the favor, or at least pay it forward.
We’re hard at work on the DVD, which will be coming out in a timely and feature-rich fashion.4 It’s re-ignited my excitement in the process, because the team doing it has the zeal of over-caffeinated movie geeks. They’re going way beyond what’s expected of them, which is perfectly in keeping a tiny-but-ambitious movie like The Nines.
And to re-iterate, if you live somewhere other than the U.S. and Canada, there’s a strong chance The Nines will be playing theaters in your neck of the woods. The U.K. kicks it off in November, with other European dates to follow. (Along with the rest of the world.)
- The Nines will probably be my first movie to show a profit. The marketing costs were low enough (ahem) that there will be actual money on the books at some point, unlike the blockbusters, which are perpetually in the red. ↩
- It was a particularly brutal run at the theaters for this year’s Sundance crop. Waitress did well, and Once found fans, but some of the more seemingly-commercial titles had a hard time connecting. ↩
- I joke that whenever I call our marketing person, I can hear him shaking a shoebox to see how much money is left. ↩
- I don’t know when official the DVD release date is, but once I know, you’ll know. ↩