Peter Broderick’s latest Distribution Bulletin sparked lots of soul-searching about the state of the documentary sector.
Peter is a highly regarded, veteran distribution strategist, senior consultant, and friend of this masthead.
He writes that this year’s “Sundance revealed that the Golden Age of major sales and numerous acquisitions is over for documentary filmmakers.”
He explains that during Sundance there was a grand total of a single sale among 24 main competition docs.
There were zero sales of US docs and one major deal among World docs:
- That was for The Eternal Memory.
- The rumored sales price was $3 million.
- The buyer: MTV Documentary Films.
The streamers sat on their checkbooks:
“Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, and Hulu didn’t buy a single doc in Park City or in the following months. This was a sharp contrast with their acquisitions at recent Sundance festivals, some of which were at breathtaking prices.”
Recognizing the indisputable evidence of a serious decline in the feature documentary ecosystem, Peter sees a silver lining.
- Don’t miss my recent coverage of the extreme odds against getting your documentary into Sundance.
- Read my post Sundance 2023: $852 Million Spent on Docs That Were Not Selected
Takeaways: The Billion Dollar Correction!
- If we combine Peter Broderick’s data and my own back-of-envelope calculations, documentary producers spent nearly a billion dollars on films that were either submitted and not accepted by Sundance 2023, or were accepted and did not earn a distribution offer.
- That’s an unsustainable economy!
- There are alternative distribution models, as Peter recommends in his newsletter and practice, and that we also advise clients.
- Read Deadline’s coverage of The Eternal Memory.