Researching and defending comparable films is always a challenge. It’s a tall order to find similar films that accurately reflect the genre, milieu, tone, themes, sensibilities and aim for the same target audiences while at the same time have near enough budgets and caliber of cast – yet only include those that are “current” enough to be somewhat relevant to wildly fluctuating economic conditions.
Add to that finding yellow needles in any haystack: ultra-low or low budget films the average investor or potential partner will actually have seen or at least be familiar with. It’s a tough list to compile that can’t be ripped to shreds from every angle.
Even though, we did our best due diligence to offer up four selected “comps” that we felt were at least reasonably defendable on all fronts.
The Casts are Comparable
Once was all unknowns. Winter’s Bone starred Jennifer Lawrence before she was Jennifer Lawrence (exactly the kind of break-out role we are hoping will attract the next Jennifer Lawrence). They were all R- or NC-17-rated. The budgets range from $150,000 – $9.4MM with an average budget of $1.6MM (we are half to a third that, depending on where we end up).
Most of these Films are Less than Five Years Old
- The oldest film referenced was released just eight years ago
- Their box offices delivered between $6.5 – $14MM (with a mean of $11.4MM)
- Their widest release benchmarks ranged from 150 to 567 theaters
- Their theatrical runs spanned from 16 to 45 weeks
Budget “Sweet Spot” (and “Bear Load”)
One of the most prudent uses of comparable projects in an industry with so many wild variables is to reverse engineer a prudent proposed budget – based on the best educated guesses for proposed box office and other ancillary income – and to use this to project equity investor waterfalls (and cast and crew bonuses). While we concede (with the rest of the industry) that there are infinite unpredictable factors – we’re shooting for a constantly moving target in a rapidly changing industry – you have to start somewhere. Thus, the best way we have found to do this is to “show your work,” be transparent and honest and fully disclose sources, assumptions, formulas, calculations – and ultimate intentions – and to move forward in good faith, of course honoring our fiduciary responsibility to equity capital investors – but also to all the project’s stake holders.
As such, we adjusted the lows and the highs and used an average to develop our working projections. If our budget is too lean, we won’t be able to afford any stars, so we won’t gain the distribution interest or marketing traction necessary to create comparable profitable momentum. On the other hand, it’s all too easy (and foolhardy) to throw excessive money at talent (and music, stunts, special effects and marketing), betting the store that you’ll hit some magic tipping point – but that unnecessary overspend risk also dilutes the promise of profit in the most likely box office ranges. So there is a “sweet spot” (or specific target amounts) for each and every project – between what it requires and what it promises – thus almost its “bear load,” if you will.
Thus, we believe with lots of creative strategizing (see below), the most fiscally prudent yet cinematically rich price point for Once Again‘s hard cost could be achieved at the SAG Modified Low Budget limit of $700,000 (or actually up to $1,050,000 if we capitalize on all the diversity incentives – which we will do our best to). It is possible that our budget might inch up towards $1.25M, if we activate all the deferments and box office bonuses (but that’d be a lovely problem to have to recalculate because at that point, everyone should be making money). This “sweet spot” budget range would allow us to invest in at least one marquee value talent, ideally supported by a strong ensemble.
Once Again is set in the authentic gritty to glamorous world of rock ‘n roll with its default themes of fame and addiction using a non-linear, surreal storytelling device to tell the heart of the story: a wistful time travel fantasy romance.
Rock n Roll: Almost Famous has the same accurate, high energy portrayal of an up and coming rock band and their on-the-road lifestyle, neither over glamorizing nor demonizing it – just striking a balance, exhibiting a genuine love and respect from “in the trenches” insight. Music movies often treat drumming as almost a competitive extreme sport such as the wildly successful Whiplash (perhaps our best comp across the board) and Drumline.
Time Travel Movies:
While we won’t have a budget anywhere near most epic, science fiction, action/adventure spectacles, Looper’s (20-something saving his 40-something future version of himself) and Jumper’s teen lead share some storytelling device overlap with Once Again as does the timeless destiny of love theme expressed in The Time Traveler’s Wife.
While not “technically” time travel movies, Once Again overlaps with non-linear films such as 500 Days of Summer which was a much sweeter, younger, lighter love story without the destiny element and Charlie Kaufman’s brilliant, surreal Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with which we hope to share the same desperate hope of crawling back through memories to salvage an unraveled love affair.
While wildly different genres, the helplessly relentless drive of Groundhog Day’s coming back over and over again to move through the stages of grief, love and social connection until you get it right is thematically on point. Memento shares trying to piece life back together (albeit his is backwards) while Slumdog Millionaire shares the gritty re-examination of how a boy so young might know more than he appears thanks to his tragic past.
Addiction and Love:
Once Again deals authentically with the realities and consequences of addiction. Sandra Bullock’s character goes through the 12 steps in 28 Days, addiction ruins a family in When a Man Loves a Woman and in the gritty, dark, bittersweet Seven Pounds, Will Smith plays a character trying to make amends for his past and achieve redemption before he, himself, goes. Leaving Las Vegas was a huge hit with Nicholas Cage as the Protagonist who spiraled hopelessly into self-destruction. Once Again‘s Hero goes back and fixes it.
Creatively Comparable Film Stats
We are not using any of the following comps for our financial projections because their budgets were astronomical compared to ours or are simply too old to still be relevant but a quick survey of the following serve as good creative comps and marketing touch points – bread crumbs of genre success that went before us.
Budget = $20M
U.S. B.O. = $56M
P/D: Fox 2000 Pictures
Widest Release: 1,836
20 weeks in theaters
A band director recruits a Harlem street drummer to play at a Southern university.
In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits – someone like Joe – who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by sending back Joe’s future self for assassination.
Budget = $30M
W.W. B.O. = $176M
D: Sony Pictures Releasing
Widest Release: 2,992
14 weeks in theaters
A teenager with teleportation abilities suddenly finds himself in the middle of an ancient war between those like him and their sworn annihilators.
Budget = $85M
W.W. B.O. = $222M
P/D: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Widest Release: 3,428
21 weeks in theaters
A romantic drama about a Chicago librarian with a gene that causes him to involuntarily time travel, and the complications it creates for his marriage.
Budget = $39M
W.W. B.O. = $65M
P/D: New Line Cinema
Widest Release: 2,988
16 weeks in theaters
When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.
Budget = $20M
U.S. B.O. = $49M
P/D: Focus Features
Widest Release: 1,353
14 weeks in theaters
For more information, Visit: Once Again