Yes. Short and short films are the heart of the business. There are only two things a filmmaker can expect to do with short movies: Sell short and earn money. For every dollar you earn from one of these short films, you sell one to another. A long film can earn hundreds over the course of a season. Short films can earn thousands.
Some may argue this is bad for the producers. They have a great product and will only sell it as long as they can sell it and continue to make money.
But that doesn’t fit in with modern film funding models. Films get financed with a combination of ticket sales and a percentage of gross receipts from the theater or the home video market. Even in that first year of a film’s theatrical release there can be significant income from those audiences. The problem is the theater revenue is always growing, which means short films are going to get lower and lower dollar amounts during those initial years.
By the time that film reaches the stage where it can begin to see significant gross receipts from ticket sales, it will already have made over a million dollars. In that same year, the gross revenue will be around $300,000. Once that film has become the second highest grossing film of the year, the gross revenue will grow to a large $3.5 million over three years.
Now, if the short film is only to be sold through Amazon and Netflix, and in theaters, then the gross revenue will only be around $400,000, not $3.5 million as in the picture above. Yet even with the reduced gross revenue, short films still earn significantly more than features. For example, there was an interesting study done on the theatrical box office gross of The Martian (2015). The Martian grossed an estimated $250 million at box office. This is considered a success. But the short film, which sold an additional $200,000 at the box office, is also considered a success in the eyes of the financial machine known commonly as the theatrical industry. In short, the financial benefit to a film that has already been at the top of the box office over a couple of months has to be greater than the $200,000 the short film made in its first month of release.
So, I am sure you are all scratching your heads wondering: what gives?
The answer is that a short film, at the beginning of its run, is considered a “feature” film. That is, it has to be
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