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TOPIC: Costs/Requirements for old movies?

Costs/Requirements for old movies? 12 Feb 2004 18:19 #7543

  • MS
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Well, I'm brand new here. I'm also brand new to the thought of showing films. I have been checking out the old posts and the archives and I just haven't quite found the answers I'm looking for yet. My thoughts weren't geared towards building a new multi-million $ building and taking over a market. I feel that I may be in an area where there is a market for older movies. So the questions arise...

#1 Is it possible to project movies onto a screen from DVD? If so, is there a limit to the size screen it could be projected to? (My first impulse is that there isn't a limit, depending on how nice the projector is, but I just want to verify.)

#2 Do you have to have some sort of license for this? Do you have to get an approval from each company that owns the rights for the film?

#3 Would they require a fee for that? Any idea how much? For a film that is 5 years old? 10 years?

If this has already been answered, feel free to just give me the link to it. Thanks in advance!
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 12 Feb 2004 18:45 #7544

  • crshedd
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you can get public showing rights for movies from a couple of different companies. swank motion pictures ( www.swank.com ) has been a real pleasure to work with. dvd is available thru them but this means the movie has already hit the video stores. public viewing rights will run from as low as $100 up to $400 depending on title and studio. if you are in the east call ann at 1.800.876.3344.

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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 13 Feb 2004 00:49 #7545

  • RoxyVaudeville
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I hope you will give this a great deal more thought and a lot more research.

First of all, old movies (those already out of general release) are actually more expensive then new current films, when you consider the audience that will patronize them. While payment is made on current releases on a percentage basis only, out of release films always have a minimum rental of at least several hundred dollars with a percentage attached just in case you do well with one. Why do they require the flat payment... because they know that if they charged a percentage only, most of the time they wouldn't get hardly anything as they know there is NO commercial market for those films any longer. Most classic films today are run as a special event for some special group, seldom for the general movie going public. There are very few rep houses left that show only classic films. Video has killed that market.

It's one thing to show an occasional film in an established theatre, but the thought of building a new multi-million dollar facility to commercially show classic movies outside of NY or LA is probably insane. I wouldn't even do it there.

There just isn't a large enough market for those films to ever make it pay. My prediction would be that your theatre would be bankrupt within 6 months, if not sooner.
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 13 Feb 2004 02:09 #7546

  • CharlieBo
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I totally agree with Roxy.The 'repertory' market ,which once flourished,is dead.Classic film are more expensive,and shipping costs are usually much higher,because of limited prints.Do NOT open a theatre with the idea of classics.
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 13 Feb 2004 08:38 #7547

  • MS
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You guys are giving great advice, thanks!

I understand what you are saying, but I haven't found the answers I'm looking for yet. Let me rephrase my questions in a very simple form...

Is it possible to charge money to show movies from DVDs that you own?
"Possible" meaning you CAN obtain permission from whoever owns the rights and/or pay a fee for that permission. If so, any idea what that fee would be?
"Show movies" meaning you are projecting them onto a screen in a theatre.

I may be on to a concept that will work in my market, but before I can even begin to determine whether that will be profitable or not, I need the above answered. So whether or not showing old movies is a profitable biz or not, is not really the question at this point.
I did look at swank.com, but it looks like they are only a licensing agent for schools, hospitals, buses, etc.

Can anyone help me with clarification? Thanks for your time, I really appreciate it!
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 13 Feb 2004 10:01 #7548

  • Ken Layton
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Is it possible to charge money to show movies from DVDs that you own?

Absolutely NOT! You would be committing copyright infringement by making a 'public performance' of something that's licensed for private home use only.

"Show movies" meaning you are projecting them onto a screen in a theatre.

"Show movies" implies you are projecting conventional motion picture film. Don't you mean "show videos of movies"? To me if someone advertised a movie showing and when I got there it turned out to be a DVD, I'd be pissed, as I could just stay home and watch a DVD.


I did look at swank.com, but it looks like they are only a licensing agent for schools, hospitals, buses, etc.

Swank has special rates/terms for other uses (including theatrical)not shown on the website, but you actually have to talk to a live person. In the late 1980's we rented 16mm prints for THEATRICAL use from them.

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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 13 Feb 2004 10:16 #7549

  • jimor
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When you buy a DVD, you do NOT "own" it in the usual sense of the word. You buy with the DVD the right to view/show it to yourself and a few NON-PAYING friends. It remains an intelluctual property of those who produced/copyrighted it. If you charge admission or show it to a large public group, you violate the copyright laws under which it was produced and sold. 'Sold' in this case means with an implied 'limited license' limited to the viewings mentioned above. You do NOT, for example, get any license to alter or expand the title in any way without explicit written permission of the copyright owner -- something that is almost never given. Those titles that are in 'archival' source catalogs and are listed as In The PUBLIC DOMAIN, are out of copyright, and can be shown as you please, BUT all sources from which you could rent the film/dvd will absolutely make you sign a contract that makes it clear that THEY limit you to showing it only under their terms, which MAY allow commercial showings IF you abide by their terms and pay their fees -- and return any rented prints to them. Soooo, you can't just go to the store and buy some title and put it in a machine and project it onto a screen without getting into some very hot water should the copyright owner find out. To learn more about the copyright law and the procedure to learn who owns a title or if a title is really in the public domain, go to the Copyright Clearance Office of the Library of Congress at: www.loc.gov .

As to projecting DVDs, some posts here mention the availability of commercial machines to do just that, but John Pytlak and other experts here make it clear that so far the available resolution (detail of the image) is not equal to 35mm film, and one would have to have a small screen to make good use of the medium.

I must agree with the others, it is a VERY risky business, sad to say, of building/starting a cinema even using current films, much less so-called classics. Best Wishes in any case, from a Movie Palaces buff who very much wished that we could bring back the REAL movie going experience. Jim
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 13 Feb 2004 10:51 #7550

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i show 'non-theatrical' movies about every two weeks. i rent the high school auditorium and get my movies from swank. they consider me a 'parks and rec' client so get my availability there. i use 16mm. i show movies that are 1-2 months from street date-ie, when they come out on video (for example-february 21 i will be showing 'somethings got to give'). even then, i can only get away with about a $5 admission. classics would be hard to justify more than that.

roxy is right about the flat fee plus percentage. i pay usually about $325 flat fee (i always include a cartoon!). i then must double the flat fee and share any ticket sales over that amount 50/50 with the studio-all this handled thru swank. they don't care if admission is free or $12.

jimor is right also. you cannot show personally owned dvds, they are sold for 'home use only'. video stores (i own one) can rent those dvds without the special licensing because they are rented for 'home use only'.

as one who is exploring theater possibilities in my rural area, i wish you luck in your aspirations!

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jeff spicoli
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 13 Feb 2004 18:40 #7551

  • Ken Layton
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The Walt Disney Company is particularlly aggressive when it comes to copyright infringement. Try showing a Disney DVD in a theater and you'd be in jail pronto.
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 15 Feb 2004 10:21 #7552

  • crshedd
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boy, ken, are you right!

i am trying to put together a 'movies on the green' program for next summer. i hope to show old family classics on wednesday night (we don't have a theater and wednesday is a slow video night). swank told me if i showed a disney film and over 250 people showed up disney would expect me to close down!

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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 15 Feb 2004 11:26 #7553

  • Ken Layton
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A former theater owner ran a 16mm print of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" in a theater once and Disney filed an injunction to prohibit the showing. Well the owner poo-pooed Disney and ran it anyway. Disney took him to court and won a big $$$ judgment against the owner for copyright infringement plus was cutoff from ALL 35mm Disney product at that theater. That really hurt business. The owner also had to agree to NEVER again rent a Disney 16mm film. There have been many cases that Disney has gone after theater owners (and other people) for 'unauthorized' showings. Disney won their cases EVERY time.
In the 1980's Disney was going after 16mm film showings, but nowadays they are going after people showing videos.
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 16 Feb 2004 08:46 #7554

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Thanks again everyone for the information! It has all been very helpful! I understand more about the whole DVD situation now.

So, if I am confined to film only, are older films still available to be rented to theatres? Someone told me that most of the film companies (paramount, universal, etc.) have an archives department. Is this true? And do they rent these films out for theatrical showings?

-Mark
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 16 Feb 2004 09:07 #7555

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Yes, most studios do have film 'Archives' and one might think them anxious to profit from them, but that it not always the case. The studios (or the conglomerates that own them) are always interested primarily in profit, so they will sell the limited rights to a title, first, to a videos distributor who is willing to take on the total cost of reproduction and marketing. Secondarily, they give a limited license to a films distributor who deals with institutions or some theatres, where the distributor is willing to take on the very considerable job of paying for dup prints = sometimes thousands of dollars EACH. If a title's owner thinks that a film will do better be being out of circulation for a while, he will withold it from release in the hopes that it will become a more marketable item as desire for it grows.

So, if you don't find a title in Swank, or some other dealer's catalog, it is probably not available from the owner. Sometimes a title is tied up in legal battles as to which of several heirs of the producer/owner has the right to sell/market the title. In the case of fine film of the 50s, "THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY", for example, John Wayne's son Patrick is said to have control of the film and for some reason will not release it to anyone. In this way a great many titles just disappear! Best Wishes, Jim
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 16 Feb 2004 09:57 #7556

  • Ken Layton
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I'll add to what jimor said: sometimes a film is tied up with legal problems because of music rights. There are a limited number of 'available' classic films. That's sad because there are plenty of classic movies I'd like to see on the theater screen myself.
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Re: Costs/Requirements for old movies? 16 Feb 2004 10:52 #7557

  • Larry Thomas
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And in many instances, the studio archives will not rent their new or rare prints to theatres with platter systems, only reel-to-reel with 20 min. changeovers.
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