Transmission  and their massive success with the movie “Lion”

Transmission and their massive success with the movie “Lion”

Transmission, an Australian Film Distributor, has had massive success in the cinema domestically with the release of Lion.

Now grossing over $25 million Box Office in Australia, it will be one of the top 5 all time Australian Films at the domestic Box Office. In the US, Lion has grossed $125 Million at the box office and been nominated for numerous Oscars and Golden Globe Rewards including Best Picture.  What an achievement for Australia?

If you have not seen Lion, do yourself a favour and see it before it leaves the cinemas. If not, see it when it comes out on ancillary markets such as VOD or DVD or Pay TV.

I was very keen to attend the SPA  (Screen Producers) meeting with the heads of Transmission Richard Payton and Andrew Mackie and find out their take on Film Sales and Distribution.  The breakfast meeting happened at Fox Studios on Tuesday 4th April.

Transmission is an Australian Domestic Distribution company that releases quality films from around the world. They release on average 15 movies per year.

On a good year they will release 4 – 5 Australian Films on the domestic market. This year, Lion has now become their biggest success.

Their take on the market place is that the margin for error has narrowed substantially. Ten years ago they could take a chance on an arthouse title that may or may not make money. Today they have to “think with the head instead of thinking with the heart” when it comes to acquisitions.

The reason for this is the demise of the Blockbuster DVD rentals that was a safety net income ten years ago. VOD has not replaced yet the lost income from DVD.
With Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, the market has substantially changed with subscription websites selling a multitude of product for a small monthly fee.

Netflix never has theatrical releases for movies. You may see some amazing original shows on Netflix but none of them ever have a movie in the cinema before release, spearheading the TV release. This is something that Netflix should change.

Amazon Prime are looking at a theatrical release model which then would lead into series on Amazon Prime.

What can the Australian Producer anticipate when proposing a film project or completed film to Transmission for financing? Approaching Transmission with a developed script must have the following. You must have a fully developed script with an exceptionally successful producer with track record of past hit films.

They only work on four Australian projects per year and they usually get in very early even before the film is shot. For them, a strong producer with credible high profile track record is exceptionally important.

They work in tandem with a sister company called See Saw Films, headed by Emile Sherman and Ian Canning. Former Titles include The Kings Speech and Tracks.

So Transmission is virtually a closed shop for the emerging producer/director. Both Andrew and Richard wished that it was a different market, but financial reality of the current market has made them ultra cautious and anti risk. They would rather go with what is guaranteed to either break even to make a ton of money movies. Taking risks for them means losing money. Most businesses hate to lose money. Australian Films are a tough sell.

On the positive side, if your film is simply an amazing feature film that has intense buzz, it is always worthwhile making sure that all the Australian Distributors see the film. You never know. If your film is something special, there is a chance that a film distributor might take the chance and release the film theatrically.  Optimism is the king of opportunity.

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