THE WINNING FORMULAS OF CULT FILM BUSINESS

By Shailik Bhaumik
Image (above) from David Lynch’s ‘”Eraserhead”

“If you build the guts to do something, anything, then you better save enough to face the consequences.”

                                                                                                                                                      ― Criss Jami, Killosophy

It’snot easy to make a Cult movie these days. It requires huge courage and guts. Cinema is always a risky business and making cult cinema is perhaps the most risky business in the world as its consumer’s choice is completely uncertain. But on the other hand, few cult movies also have proven that they could be most profitable in terms of return on investment (ROI).   So the cult movie could be at a same time fortune maker or disastrous to an investor. The fact is that there is no market expert, consultant or risk analyst firm in this business. So, investing on cult movies always discourages investors. But the market research says that Cult movie market has expanded 38% in the last ten years and it’s expanding continuously. Let’s analyze the case history of few box-office bombs that went on to become cult classics.

DONNIE DARKO (2001):

“Donnie Darko” may have helped launch the career of Jake Gyllenhaal, but it was a huge flop when it came out in theaters. The Indie film, which cost an estimated $4.5 million to make, debuted with $110,494 on its opening weekend. It didn’t help that the film — which features a plane crash — opened not long after the Sept. 11 attacks. The movie wasn’t released internationally for another year. Theatrically, “Donnie Darko” made $1.2 million at the box office. After its DVD release in 2002, it played as a midnight movie for over two years at New York’s Pioneer Theater and became enough of a cult classic to release a “director’s cut.” Finally Donnie Darko has earned $ 7.3 million worldwide.

FIGHT CLUB (1999):

When “Fight Club” first hit theaters in 1999, it didn’t just perform poorly — the film made just $37 million domestically — it also received very mixed reviews. Entertainment Weekly gave it a “D,” calling it a “dumb and brutal shock show.” Rosie O’Donnell hated it so much that she went as far to ruin the film’s twist ending on national television. It wasn’t until the DVD release that the film took off (it sold over 6 million copies) allowing a wider audience to catch the hidden details that made it a dark classic. The film, which cost an estimated $63 million to make, finally earned $100.9 million worldwide.

THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998):

Budget: $ 15 million | Box office collection: $46.2 million

Not many box office bombs can say they’ve created both an annual fan festival and religion, but “The Big Lebowski” is not your average box office bomb. Released in 1998 during the immensely successful premiere of “Titanic,” the film starring Jeff Bridges debuted to $5.5 million opening weekend, though it cost $15 million to make. The movie received mixed reviews, with Variety calling it “hollow and without resonance.” Others, like Roger Ebert, found it “weirdly engaging” like the Dude himself. The film eventually pulled in $17 million in theaters, but it wasn’t until years later that fans used the internet and social media to re-evaluate the film and turn it into a cult sensation.

BLADE RUNNER (1982):

1982’s “Blade Runner” had the misfortune of premiering the week after “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” which went on to be the highest-grossing movie of the year. Production problems, including Harrison Ford’s forced explanatory voice-over hurt the film’s initial box-office showing. The movie, which cost an estimated $28 million, made $34 million at theaters. But “Blade Runner” withstood the test of time by re-releasing different versions of the film. Now, a sequel, with Ford himself, is in the works. So even if a film doesn’t sell many tickets at the box office, it can still go on to become a beloved cult classic and can earn good revenue. As I said there is no market expert or consultant in this business who can guide filmmakers to select the right strategy for their projects. But there is good news for risk taking filmmakers. After an extensive research on the cult film market for years, The Cult Critic film magazine and HLC Studios have jointly come up with the solution. They have derived some winning formulas of cult film business and launched an innovative project ‘THE CULT CRITIC COLLECTION (TCCC)’.

TCCC is an innovative marketing & distribution platform which focuses on licensing critical classic and contemporary cult films and selling them to cinephiles. The project is an initiative of the CULT CRITIC film magazine to discover, showcase and distribute Independent Art-house Cult Cinemas throughout the world. TCCC project is not a film festival. It’s a complete promotion and distribution solution for the selected films. The selected films will be awarded with the prestigious Cult Classic Medal of Honor & Badge and will be listed in the GOLDEN COLLECTION OF CULT CLASSIC, a hard copy film encyclopedia which will be published annually and will be circulated to all the reputed academic organizations of the world. Not only that the program will provide the film Cult Classic prestige, market it and make it go viral.

MISSION OF TCCC PROJECT:

The Mission of this project is to discover exceptional art-house cult cinema from all over the world, awarding them the prestigious Cult Classic Medal of Honor & Badge and market them worldwide. The project has been initiated to provide a supportive platform for the exceptionally talented independent cult filmmakers who have taken the risk of making offbeat films and help them to market and distribute their films. Another important aspect of this project is to introduce more people to cult cinema and develop a permanent audience base. We believe that a story driven by a genuine expression can stimulate new thoughts that have the power to promote the fundamental principles of humanism; expand creative frontiers; stimulate new levels of compassion, and even lead to social change. TCCC project is a venture dedicated to the discovery and development of new Artists and Audiences.

SELECTION PROCESS:

The call for entry will remain open throughout the year. Submitters may submit their films through the Cult Critic website and other submission platforms. A cross-cultural and worldwide judge’s panel (from Asia, Europe and America) will minutely review all submitted films and publish a list of selected films at the end of the month. This is not an elimination process, it’s a selection process so there may be multiple films awarded in a month or may not be a single film.

PRESTIGE, AWARD, DISTRIBUTION AND MORE:

Unlike other films, Cult Classic receptions inhabit an alternative network of cultural valuation and distinction. This alternative network of valuation exists parallel to – and occasionally within circuits of institutionalized prestige, awards and criticism.Cult Critic is a division of the Human Lab Corporation, a leading multinational film production and distribution company. In this project, we will be providing numbers of incentives for the selected films, and present promotional strategies for them and their directors.

  1. First, the selected films will be awarded with the beautiful Cult Classic Medal of Honor and prestigious ‘CULT CLASSIC’ badge, which the filmmaker can use in their posters / banners for promotional purpose. The filmmaker will also be awarded with the certificate of recognition, the gown, hood and mortarboard cap.
  2. Detailed review of the film and an exclusive interview of the director will be published in Cult Critic film magazines and its affiliated international journals. A report on ‘Making of …’ the film will also be published in reputed international film magazines.
  3. The film will be listed in the GOLDEN COLLECTION OF CULT CLASSICS, a hard copy film encyclopedia which will be annually published and circulated to all the reputed academic institutions of the world.
  4. The director’s name will be listed in the prestigious CULT CRITIC: HALL OF FAME DIRECTORS GALLERY and remain forever for his achievement and contribution in the motion pictures.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  5. The Film will be promoted through audio visual, printed and digital media and the name of the film will be virally spread through Cult Critic and it’s affiliates’ social media pages.
  6. The film will receive Theatrical, Digital & DVD / Blue-Ray distribution opportunity from HLC Pictures and its distribution partners.
  7. There will be a glamorous red carpet premiere with press conferences and gala parties at Kolkata in the presence of international movie celebrities. The participants will have excellent opportunities to exchange their ideas, ideologies and cultural innuendoes. The winners will have a chance to meet with the audience and participate in Q&A after the screening.
  8. The Movie inspired T-shirts, Clothing, and Poster with Director’s signature, lifestyle and decorative goods; Luxury products will be manufactured and kept available in the Cult Critics’ ‘STORE’ for online selling.

The Director or the Producer of the film will receive 70% of the revenue earned from the distribution and franchise of the movie. And finally The Cult Critic Collection project will take you global with its innovative marketing strategy and promotional plans and help you to secure your position in the highly competitive film industry.So making cult film is not a risky business anymore. For more details about TCCC project, please email TCCC team at info@hlc-cultcritic.com   

                                                                                                                                                                               

Shailik Bhaumik is an award-winning filmmaker and entrepreneur. Known for his feature film “Dasein”, Shailik is the founder and Chairman of Human Lab Corporation, a Multinational Film Company whose mission it is to help Independent Filmmakers survive and thrive in this highly competitive industry. Shailik oversees worldwide operations including production, distribution, and marketing for HLC’s live-action films, as well as films released under the HLC banner.