How A Free Movie Made $1 Million In 14 Days

from the doing-it-right dept

Sheri Candler points us to a fascinating case study by Peter Broderick, about how the independent documentary film Hungry For Change was able to leverage the use of "free" to make over $1 million in just two weeks. The summary:
The release of HUNGRY FOR CHANGE was unprecedented. The film:
  • premiered online (having never screened publicly before)
  • was available worldwide
  • was absolutely free (for 10 days only)
The results were remarkable:
  • 453,841 views around the world during the 10 day premiere
  • over $1.02 million in sales of DVDs and recipe books in the first 14 days
The full case study is worth reading, but these are some of the key points: The filmmakers, James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch, had done things in the past like allowing free public screenings of an earlier movie they had made. Anyone who registered was able to host their own screening of the film, free of charge. Those who registered got a "screening resource pack" to help facilitate the process. Normally, movies that offer screenings charge for them, but the filmmakers here believed that they would make that up in other ways, and there's evidence to suggest that was true. On top of that, the filmmakers kept their website updated regularly with new content -- making it a good way to continue to connect with fans over the long term, rather than having the movie be a one-off experience.

They also tried different DVD pricing schemes, and found that "free" had pretty cool results, in that it increased both sales and connections with fans:
In December 2010, FOOD MATTERS DVDs were put on sale from the website for one week at half price. This resulted in 4600 sales, the best week in 2.5 years of sales. In October 2011, the filmmakers took a more radical approach with even better results. They allowed all comers to watch FOOD MATTERS for free for 8 days. This stimulated direct and indirect sales of 9800 DVDs, twice as many as were sold when it was offered at half price. Even more impressive, over 37,000 people joined the mailing list during this event.
So, with the new movie, they were even more committed to "free." They decided to release the movie for free, globally, online. The results were really impressive:
Global Reach - The Free Worldwide Online Premiere was an instant hit. On its first day (March 21st) there were 45,211 plays. Tens of thousands of people watched the film each day. The premiere ended with a bang with 58,292 plays on the final day (March 31st). Altogether there were almost half a million views from more than 150 countries across the globe in just 10 days. These are astonishing numbers for an independent film that had never been seen before, had no paid advertising, and was not available through any retail channels.

Subscribers - There were 229,000 sign-ups in 14 days, a significantly greater number than FOOD MATTERS had gained in the previous 4 years. James estimates that less than 30% of the HUNGRY FOR CHANGE sign-ups were FOOD MATTERS subscribers, which means that at least 160,000 were new subscribers, almost doubling James and Laurentine’s already substantial online following.

Revenue - Everyone who viewed HUNGRY FOR CHANGE was given access to three special offers: the DVD for $34.95, the new recipe book for $49.95, or the DVD and the recipe book for $74.95. Each order came with free bonuses and free shipping. In the first 14 days, over 20,800 orders were placed totaling over $1 million in sales. Although most purchasers had already seen the film for free, many wanted to buy a copy for themselves or purchase it as a gift for family or friends.
There's so much in this case study that highlights key points we've made over the years. The filmmakers used the film to connect (and also have used and continue to use their website to further that connection) -- and that clearly drove people to support the film monetarily as well. Even if people didn't necessarily pay immediately, just building that connection to the work and to the filmmakers can end up paying nicely over the long run.

On top of that (as you hopefully know), I love it when content creators come up with creative bundles of offerings. In this case, the idea of doing a cookbook to go with the movie makes a ton of sense, given the topic of the movie. And even if the cookbook might seem "expensive" as a standalone, it sure looks like plenty of people were willing to pay.

Finally, the fact that so many people were willing and happy to pay for the DVD even after watching the film for free online speaks, again, to the ridiculousness of silly movie release windows. For years, we've been arguing that the DVD of the movie you just saw should be available to buy as you leave the theater. People are more than willing to pay for the DVD, even if they already saw the movie. In fact, it seems clear that lots of people want the DVD right after seeing the film. Striking while the iron is hot makes a tremendous amount of sense, but the classic Hollywood response is to worry about piracy, and make fans wait months before the movie is available on DVD... at which point the people have already forgotten about it.

Either way, once again, Broderick's case study of the movie is really a worthwhile read, so go check it out.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 May 2012 @ 4:23pm

    Re:

    Is this the new troll talking point? Getting people to willingly give you their money is now considered "begging"? Sheesh. You guys just seem to be getting beyond desperate lately to try and shoot down anything that involves a creator connecting with fans or offering them something more than just the usual video/album/book.

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