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Consider this a little bit of self-promotion, but I am trying to start a film society in the city I live in--Denton, TX. Denton is a not-too-small-but-not-too big college town that is home to two universities, an indie rock festival called 35 Denton, a popular jazz festival, and, in February, the Thin Line Film Festival, which specializes in documentaries. As artsy as Denton is, though, they don't have an art-house venue and they don't have a film society, which is why I'm trying to start something up.

Thankfully, I'm not doing it completely alone. The non-profit organization behind Thin Line has graciously agreed to take the Denton Film Society on as a project of theirs, with me heading it up. That means I'll have access to money that I wouldn't otherwise, and I'll have the local glitz and glamour of the Texas Filmmakers/Thin Line name to back me up a little bit.

Still, I'm on my own when it comes to finding films to screen. I have a very, very tiny budget. The venue we'll be using costs $130.00, and they want me to find films to screen for less than $50.00. Given my inexperience with all of this, I don't even know if that's possible. What might help me when it comes to talking with distributors is that we want our screenings to be free for the public, so it's not like we'll be making any money off of the screening.

So, why am I posting all of this here? Well, I need prayers for one thing. I can't believe this little passion project of mine has gotten as far as it has, but I won't consider it a success until we have our first screening, which I'd like to do this month. Second, I need help finding content. If anyone knows anything about this, I would love to hear some advice or suggestions. I've contacted Criterion/Janus, Kino Lorber, and Swank Motion Pictures, but haven't heard back from any of them yet. I'm worried that when I do their films will be too expensive, so does anyone know of an art-house distributor who might have a good collection of films that could be licensed for little to no money?

Thanks guys!

Edited by andrew_b_welch

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Andrew, I've been in touch with a past A&Fer (Jason Bortz) who may have some info to pass along on this subject. He and his wife run a theatre (stage performances) in Roseville, CA. On dark nights Jason will sometimes run films (this was a former movie house). He's had some experience with bookings. He's going to try and get some info to you on Monday. Don't know if he will post it here, or use me as an intermediary. If you want, you could message me here with an email address that I could pass that on to Jason, and he could get you that info directly.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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Hi Andrew,

Our non-profit has signed up with several motion picture licensing companies; Swank Media, Criterion, Warner Brothers, Breakthru Films, International Shorts and Rainbow Releasing to name a few,

Typically, these organizations charge a flat rate, then an additional percentage aginst the house if the total take surpasses the initial rental fee. This rate varies--Swank charges %50, whereas Warner Brothers charges only %20. Also, some agencies charge per screening, while others take it per date--you can screen multiple times for the same rental rate in this case.

For example, if I rent "It's a Wonderful Life" for $350 for the day from Swank, who asks another %50 against house MINUS THE INITIAL RENTAL FEE, and my total take is $700, it looks like:

$700 (Total Sales)

- %50 = $350 (Half of sales, outstanding due to Swank)

- $350 (Rental fee) = $0 Due to Swank.

If I make $800 in ticket sales:

$800 (Total sales)

- %50 = $400 (Half of sales, oustanding due to Swank)

- $350 (Rental fee) = $50 due to Swank.

In my experience, I've yet to see ANY film rental licensing fee less than $150.

HOWEVER: I run a theatre, which changes the whole game. If you're screening in a cafeteria, or a museum, or a church, different rates apply (and it really has little to do with whether you'er a non-profit--it has more to do with the venue you're screening from).

I would advise really thinking on ticket sale pricing to recoup your rental rates, and see if you can't work out some sort of deal with the venue to mitigate cost there. We never expect to make our money back, but we typically break even with the sale of concessions (which we buy at Costco and sell for $1-$2).

Our venue seats about 200, shown below with the screen dropped.


Edited by Jason Bortz

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