Getting Into Movie Funding:
Top 5 Independent Films at the Box Office

Jeremy Kopp
Vice President, Media Society
September 25, 2015

When considering investing in independent film, there is no particular formula to follow in order to find the best potential productions with the greatest return. However, there are precautions that should be taken in order to make an educated decision. Spending time doing research to determine the potential of different projects is the first step towards becoming a successful film financier. Here is a guide to the top 5 independent investment movies at the box office last year and why they stood out to the individuals.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

$59M Domestic / $174M Worldwide

Filmmaker Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom) delivered his most commercial effort yet with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson’s paintbrush dazzles the audience with a kaleidoscope of colorful sets and colorful characters. His impeccably detailed production & costume design coupled with a Robert Yeoman’s incredible camera work and featuring an all-star cast lifted this whimsical comedy to hit status and nine Academy Award Nominations.   The Grand Budapest Hotel was an American/German Co-Production and was ultimately distributed by Fox Searchlight.

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Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

$42M Domestic / $103M Worldwide

When one thinks of the intense work of Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros) the last thing you would expect to see is a comedy starring Michael Keaton, but that’s exactly what the filmmaker pulled off with Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). An independent co-production between Fox Searchlight and Worldview Entertainment, Birdman successfully created the frenetic energy of live theater. Emmanuel Lubezki’s (Gravity) brilliant camera work dancing along to Antonio Sanchez’s driving drums score created an immersive experience for the audience. The “meta-ness” of Michael Keaton playing a washed up superhero actor trying to be taken seriously on the stage was genius on so many levels. Birdman took home was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning four, including Best Picture.

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The Theory of Everything

$36M / $121M Worldwide

The Stephen Hawking biopic / love story buoyed by excellent reviews and an Academy Award for Lead Actor for Eddie Redmayne hit box office gold with a world wide haul of over $100M. Shot in October 2013 on a $15M Budget, The Theory of Everything was scooped up by Focus Features in April 2014 for a limited release. After it’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, the film was rolled out as a platform release in the United States reaching 1220 screens.

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Nightcrawler

$32M Domestic / $38M Worldwide

This crime drama from Bold Films featured an eerie performance from Jake Gyllenhaal that was criminally overlooked come Awards Season and gritty cinematography from one of the best in the business Robert Elswitt (There Will Be Blood). Biting social commentary on the media mantra “if it bleeds, it leads” coupled with Michael Mann-influenced trip into Los Angeles’ dark underbelly gave this film almost universal critical praise and guided it to a solid box office for a film that cost just $8M to produce.

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Boyhood

$25M Domestic / $44M Worldwide

One of the most talked about films of the year, Boyhood was a twelve-year odyssey for filmmaker Richard Linklater and his cast. The audience literally saw actor Ellar Coltrane grow from age 7 to 19 over the course of two and a half hours. This method is reminiscent of the Up Documentary Series that has been chronicling the lives of 14 British children every seven years since 1964. Beyond the gimmick, Boyhood delivers as a touching portrait of a boy becoming a young man and the trials & tribulations along the way that we all can relate to.

When considering movie funding, consider the following characteristics: Seasoned producers, directors & cinematographers, recognizable on-screen talent, significant market appeal, distribution strategy and cost-effective budgeting. By utilizing a disciplined approach, you can achieve results.