Docs That Rock

Young@Heart and short@dollars

As readers know from an earlier post, I really dig the doc Young@Heart, a film about the elderly chorus who sing alt rock standards. It’s one of the top five highest grossing docs of the year with more than a $3 million take at the box office. But according to the Los Angeles Times, it hasn’t really scored for Fox Searchlight, which paid $1.5 million for the film. The piece quotes an exec who says the art-house audience ignored the film, maybe due to ageism.

The film is shown as just one example about how the doc market is crappy this year with no Michael Moore or Al Gore blockbuster to break sales records. Quote the piece:

After the success of crossover hits such as “Bend It Like Beckham,” “March of the Penguins” and “Juno,” millions of dollars flooded into independent film production, creating not only hundreds more movies but also higher expectations for their box-office performance. Marketing costs for specialized films consequently are soaring, up from $17.8 million per film in 2006 to a whopping $25.7 million last year.
As companies once content with art-house singles started swinging for wide-release home runs, the audience followed their lead: If a new film didn’t have a must-see buzz surrounding it, moviegoers would just wait for it to arrive in their Netflix mailers.

Hmmm…on one hand, there are no hundred million dollar docs. But creatively, particularly for music films, its been a vibrant year with many more solid films on the horizon. Anyhow, you can make the case that in today’s narrowcast world, the big screen may not be the best point of distribution for these docs. What’s wrong with Netflix mailers anyhow? The vibrant and growing Netflix and Internet distribution channels are likely to ensure these films reach their audience (and earn dollars.) Seems like another distorted perspective from a film snob, who say if it fails in the big screen, it doesn’t matter.


Fox Searchlight will try to prove ’em wrong when Young@Heart is released on DVD on September 16. As a runup to the release, Rhino will digitally distribute the film’s soundtrack on August 19. Here is the chorus in action performing Walk on the Wild Side.


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June 24, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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