So …it’s that time of year – Bonfire Night has been & gone in the UK; Thanksgiving is almost upon the USA. What’s next? Oh yes – it’s Christmas! The lights may not be up in your home yet but the festive movie season is about to begin.
- The most popular day for Americans to go to the movies is Christmas Day itself.
- It’s one of the busiest times of the year – the combination of Awards Season build-up and family vacation time means a glut of films arriving in cinemas each week.
- Around November 16, studios will start releasing their biggest movies in time for the festive season – this year FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD will see a global roll out which, if audiences respond well, could hold through the Christmas vacation period. Then we have SPIDERMAN, AQUAMAN, BUMBLEBEE and MARY POPPINS RETURNS … but none have a Christmas title or themed story.
Family films, in the indie arena, are tough to get made generally – although there is a huge family audience out there. If you are looking to make a Christmas family film, then it gets even tougher to finance out of the indie sales scene.
Let’s look at some of the reasons for this:
- You’re competing with the studios – they release movies in time for the holidays and have big budgets, lots of spectacle and audience awareness. It’s easy for a smaller movie to get lost in the ‘noise’.
- Are you shooting in the snow; are you planning on having flying reindeer and a Santa who jumps down a chimney; will there be lots of make-up for elves and talking snowmen …. COST. Effects, costume, make-up – all add to your budget.
- If it is a Christmas movie, it has to be released … in time for Christmas! So, again you’re up against a studio release with a large P&A budget. It’s a short and busy release window – November to January.
- Movies aimed at children need to appeal to parents because they choose what their kids will see. Question: How are you going to do that without a Disney logo? Answer: a live action Christmas picture needs to have a) a story and b) cast which appeal to parents. You want Harrison Ford to play Santa or Sir Ian McKellen to be Grandpa … great – but there are COST implications again pushing the budget up.
- Distributor hesitation: not all countries around the world celebrate Christmas – some buyers may not be interested in your movie for their audience. The busiest movie period in France is May 1; in China – it’s Chinese New Year. Budget accordingly.
- Distributors also view the P&A spend on a family film as higher – again they may hesitate to buy if they think the cost will outweigh the benefit from the box office / TV values.
Does this negativity mean you shouldn’t make a Christmas movie (& that I have no festive spirit?!?)
- NO … but be prepared for the pushbacks.
- Christmas is a ‘genre’ that the audience knows and enjoys.
- If you want to make feelgood, festive fare and have a flare for comedy there’s an audience waiting to see it.
- Is there a book or story in the public domain which could be revamped for a modern audience – link your story to an existing brand – help the marketeers.
- Is there an ‘anti Christmas’ movie – i.e. a BAD SANTA which will appeal to an older skewing audience looking for an alternative to traditional tales.
- Make a ‘Winter’ themed movie – set it in the snow; have a festive backdrop but give yourself a wider release window and don’t compete in the crowded studio spot.
- Disney are about to launch their own SVOD platform – this will take a lot of family entertainment away from other platforms. Go and ask Netflix or Amazon if they want original Christmas stories for their audience.