Today we interview Peter Hamilton, editor and publisher of e-newsletter DocumentaryTelevision.com, whom we (finally!) had the pleasure of meeting in person at the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) in Adelaide last week. He is a well-known expert in the global non-fiction market and is a consultant to many of the top brands in international television. At this year’s AIDC he presented a workshop with Torsten Hoffmann on Giant Screen and 3D as viable opportunities for documentary filmmakers. In this exclusive interview with 3D Content Hub, Peter shares his insights on this unique niche market:
Sure. Since the late 1990s the number of global IMAX screens has risen from 50 to 350. The average screen size is now at about 3,000 square feet with the largest theatres featuring a massive 5,000 sqf (61 x 82 feet). Obviously 3D has always been a very important factor. What many find surprising is the pixels that the IMAX and other Giant Screen systems are capable of displaying. HD has 2 million pixels. 4k Cinema is at almost 9 million pixels. While 35mm film can be up to 20 million pixels. IMAX still trumps with 70 million pixels, almost 10 times more than 4k.
What about the average production budgets and the box office results?
A useful benchmark production budget for an IMAX film is 6 million USD. There are obvious outliers, especially where extensive logistic efforts had to be overcome (Everest) or with high CGI components within the film (Space Station). The box office for some of the most successful IMAX films is in the 80 million USD range to date. Dolphins (2000) generated 54 million USD to date. Everest was released in 1998 and Space Station has been exhibited since 2002. So the shelf lives of these high budget films are very long, compared to the traditional theatrical space.
What percentage of box office revenue typically gets paid out to the producer?
Well that obviously depends on the individual terms between the parties, but a good yardstick is that out of a ticket price of 7.50 USD, the exhibitor takes a 75-80 percent share. The rest goes to the producer/distributor. However, marketing costs are relatively high for Giant Screen releases, particularly for the educational materials required to attract school groups. These costs are shared by the producer and distributor.
Yes, certainly. Besides the large IMAX theatres, many of which exhibit Hollywood blockbusters to draw the crowds into their facilities, there are about 200 what we call ‘institutional’ screens worldwide. These are typically in museums, science centres, and similar venues. There are opportunities in these venues for high quality 4k/3D films. These smaller venues typically pay a fixed fee for a film rather than a share of box office.
A key variable for the success of a Giant Screen film is ‘the poster test’. As visitors enter a museum, they must be grabbed by a poster with a title and artwork that captures their imaginations and drives them to the box office. The poster has to say it all.
Peter Hamilton is a consultant whose impressive list of clients includes Discovery Communications, A+E Networks, Smithsonian Channel, NBC, BBC, Scripps Networks, Weather Channel, ABC Australia, Singapore’s Media Development Authority, and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Foundation. He is the co-executive producer of The Shot Felt Around the World, a bio doc about Jonas Salk and his polio vaccine that will premiere in 2013 on the Smithsonian Channel. Peter Hamilton is the author of several books including the classic Off-Hollywood: The Making and Marketing of Independent Films (David Rosen, co-author, in association with The Sundance Institute and the Independent Feature Project). He is also the editor of the e-newsletter DocumentaryTelevision.com with current information about deals and trends in the factual TV business. To read more on this or subscribe to his e-newsletter visit his website at http://www.documentarytelevision.com/