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TOPIC: Question on licensing and Rentals

Question on licensing and Rentals 18 May 2009 18:15 #31546

  • utoben
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Hello Everyone,

I have been scanning through the forum for several days now and am finding it difficult to find the "exact" answer to my question. As someone stated there are billions of posts and threads on here.

Here is my situation. I have been wanting to open a classic movie theatre in my cities downtown area. I have already done the research on attendance and demographics, and everything has been in my favor. I live in an old german town filled with old german people, so when you talk about opening a theatre that plays only the classics. It is pretty much a no brainer.

I already have a building. I partnered with our local theatre that is set up beautifully for this sort of thing. They will manage concessions, ticketing, marketing, everything basically. All I have to do is run the actual film rental and projection aspect.

I am wondering if you all could give me a practical guide on how to apply for a license, how and where to rent these classic films (do you have to go straight to the distributer such as MGM or is there a site that rents them), What is a good reliable projector (in your opinion) that would be good to purchase?

I used to run live events, so I know how ticketing, concessions, and management. Now I just need the general knowledge on how to get a film playing in my location. Like I said I am only looking for classic films. Casablanca, the Quiet man, the African Queen, Philadelphia, Good classic Westerns, and War flicks.

Thanks for the help in advance this has been a dream of mine for the past few years, and I am finally going to make it happen, with your help of course :)
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 18 May 2009 20:49 #31547

  • revrobor
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To obtain films for public performance you will need to go directly to the classic divisions of the distributors. You will find a list of distributors on this site. Warner Brothers handles the classics for several companies including themselves and MGM. A couple of years ago I obtained a copy of "Singing In The Rain" (MGM) from them. To get good prints you will need to make sure your booth is a two projector change-over system as they will not allow the best prints to be spliced for a platter system.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 18 May 2009 21:31 #31548

  • trackfood
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Are you doing this to make a profit, or for fun? Because all money comes from concessions, and if someone else is running concessions, its all theirs.I hope it is for fun, and you have lots of money to spend. What kind of deal do you have with the local "theatre", who doesn't seem to be interested in running these "Classics" themselves? FYI- As many people who initially say they would like to see the classics in a theatre, Classic movies just do not do well in most cases.
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 19 May 2009 00:26 #31549

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Revrobor: Thanks for the help this is really good information and I am trying to collect all the info I can.

Trackfood: It is a performing arts theatre that they hold film screenings in so it is set up for films already. They were never interested in organizing films to be shown until I came along. Also I said they were managing concessions not taking ALL the profit (I am not an idiot). I am sure you had some unseen well meaning behind your post, but all in all it was highly pessimistic, and had absolutely nothing to do with my questions. You made a grand assumption based off the little info you read from my post. The only goal I can think of that you were trying to achieve by posting something like this, is to dampen my spirits. I have worked in the film industry for several years now, so don't think I am that naive. I am just here to expand my knowledge base on an issue I know very little about (which is film licensing and rental).

Sorry for the rant I am just a passionate person.

How do I go about getting licensed to show films, or do I work that out individually with say warner brothers?
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 19 May 2009 00:44 #31550

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When you rent the film from the distributors you are granted permission for a public performance. I disagree with the previous poster. Classic films will do well in most situations if promoted well. Be sure to contact senior groups, college film classes, film clubs, assisted living facilities, retirement homes, etc. I have a business plan for a mini-cinema in an area of 200,000 and classics will be included as part of my fare.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
Last Edit: 19 May 2009 00:46 by revrobor.
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 19 May 2009 12:00 #31551

  • Larry Thomas
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Bob is correct. I have several accounts who run classics either on a regular basis, or scheduled yearly series, and they generally do very good biz.

You will need to contact all the major distributors and fill out their paperwork for credit approval. And if you're going to book yourself, you'll need to do a lot of research. For example: SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was made by MGM, but is now owned by Warner Bros.; THE AFRICAN QUEEN is now owned by Paramount, but there are no useable 35mm prints available; etc. The classic film game is like a big checkerboard, and they move every which way.
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 19 May 2009 12:49 #31552

  • utoben
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Larry Thomas wrote:
if you're going to book yourself, you'll need to do a lot of research.

So, in your opinion is it better to work with a booker? What kind of fees does that entail, or what is the average cost of a booker?

Thanks.
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 19 May 2009 21:11 #31555

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I wasn't trying to burst your bubble, however, many people come here thinking they have a great idea of getting rich off the $7.00 ticket price they're going to get at the box office, then getting more money at the concession stand. So, I was simply adding my 2 cents worth into the mix of the little info I was given. I have over 20 years of theatre experience, and I have seen VERY few Classic cinemas work well. It doesn't mean yours won't, just in my experience it is very hard. Basically, because you have to build your own audience, build your own buzz, (there is no multi-million dollar advertising budget from the distributers), its very difficult. Many people also don't want to pay for something they can buy at the dvd store and watch on their home theatre system, cheaper... I'm glad you have some experience, and wish you well. As previously stated, you will need to contact each studio to set up accounts, and some of them have "classics divisions", and others you will need to search for who owns the rights to the films now. I would never want to crush anyone's dream, as one day I want to strike out on my own with a 2nd run theatre, which many also say won't work...
Good Luck
Last Edit: 19 May 2009 21:15 by trackfood. Reason: typo
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 19 May 2009 21:20 #31556

  • revrobor
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utoben wrote:
Larry Thomas wrote:
if you're going to book yourself, you'll need to do a lot of research.

So, in your opinion is it better to work with a booker? What kind of fees does that entail, or what is the average cost of a booker?

Thanks.

The last house I managed where I ran classics was booked by Frank Rash of Theatre Booking Service. He booked the place exactly the way I wanted an kept me booked at least a full month in advance. He charged me only $150 a month. Well worth it to not have to deal with the distributors.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 20 May 2009 05:07 #31558

  • Alan_G
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One more benefit of using a booking agent, especially early on, is that he (or she) will also serve as a go between for all the licensing agreements you'll need to put in place with the distributors.


Alan G
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 20 May 2009 08:53 #31559

  • dsschoenborn
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Not knowing how the theatre is set up or size you can run these from DVD and for the most part put on a great evening of fun and nostalgia, which I assume is your point. You still need to do all the licensing stuff but you would not have the expense of shipping and a projectionist etc.
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 20 May 2009 10:44 #31560

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Trackfood: No harm no foul. I am by no means planning on striking it rich with this deal (I still have my day job) :) Thanks for the info

dsschoenborn: I think we are going to hold a trial month. We will show four films on a DVD and see how that plays out. You are correct, the main draw to the theatre will be the nostalgia and social aspect. My bet is that 80% of the audience will not be able to tell the difference (or care). After this period we can asses whether to continue at all, and if so, is it worth it to go a full 35mm route. The digital/DVD aspect will be a lot easier for me since this is where most of my experience lies. It is not a very big theatre.

revrobor: $150 a month is not all that bad especially if the booker does everything they say they will. I think if we go the 35mm route it will be a definite must to have a booker. It should make things run smoother.

What is the average cost to get licensed to show a film theatrically?

Thanks for the info everyone. If you have any more words of wisdom I would love to hear them. This theatre I want to start is a purely social attraction. This theatre is a vintage performing arts theatre, so it has a certain aura around it that I am sure you are all familiar with. We want to have ushers in period outfits, we will have vintage news reels playing before the feature, along with the classic loony toones sketch. Maybe even a short skit from the local stage theatre. It will be a night of going back in time and seeing the films as they were meant to be seen.
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 20 May 2009 11:41 #31561

  • Ken Layton
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If you are using video projection/DVD's then you should be certain to make it clear in your advertising that it's a video presentation.
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 20 May 2009 12:08 #31562

  • dsschoenborn
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Remeber you still have to get permision and pay the film companies for the public performance rights even when it is from DVD. You probably will still pay their $250 flat or minimun % which ever is higher when using the DVD. So you will still need to call the distributors for your license.

Sounds like you have a good plan to make some fun evenings. I would bet this would make a great event. May be not even a weekly occurance but monthly to keep it unique.
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Re:Question on licensing and Rentals 20 May 2009 14:14 #31563

  • utoben
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Yeah We are planning for it to be a once or twice monthly event.

So you say it is Either a flat $250 or whatever Percentage they call for. Is that pretty standard across the board for all distributers?
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