INDUSTRY INSIGHTS: More P&A Does Not Equal More Revenue

By Stacey Parks, founder of Film Specific

There was an article in the Hollywood Reporter about a movie called Transylmania this week that speaks volumes to what most people believe to be true about Prints & Advertising (P&A) spend…. and that is the more you spend, the more you make. Let me make this clear – nothing could be further from the truth!

Just because you spend a million or five or twenty on P&A doesn’t guarantee you’ll even make back a fraction of that in distribution revenue, let alone see any of that make its way to your pocket. In fact, sometimes the inverse is true. I’ve had clients cobble together a few thousand bucks that they spent very wisely, and managed to turn a profit on even a small theatrical release. Conversely, I recently worked with a client whose investors insisted spending $2 million P&A on a $1 million film to ‘make a big splash’. Well guess what? They lost their shirts! 

So what can you do? Well first of all do an honest assessment of your project and decide do you want to put it in theaters in the first place? Realize that a theatrical release is most of the time a break even proposition at best…. so if you’re going to spend the money required to do it, you better have a plan on recouping that money other than quoting unrealistic box office comparables  to your investors that you plan on replicating. (never a good sign)

Also, whatever you do – don’t inflate numbers for your investors and get yourself into a situation like the filmmakers did with Transylmania. I know it’s easy to get distracted by the box office reports of other movies and think that similar revenue is available to you – but if you follow the basic rules of Distribution Economics you’ll see that box office revenue has almost zero correlation to what ends up in your pocket.

And finally, for the love of God… if you DO decide to spend the bucks to do a theatrical release and raise P&A from investors, at least spend the money wisely. And by wisely I mean, hire professionals to help you – including a distributor-for-hire service company to manage the release if you plan on releasing in more than a small handful of theaters. But whether you’re releasing in 2 or 20 or 200 theaters, you’ll want to hire marketing help…. even if it’s just a grassroots social media team. In other words, don’t attempt to spend that P&A budget on your own by buying expensive TV commercials and billboards that you think is going to work, but in reality is a waste of money for a film like yours.