Whether looking for the building blocks of a franchise, discovering future auteurs or unearthing a festival gem, this is where it all begins. Acquisitions seek out and bring together a distributor’s slate of films, often helping directly develop titles on their eventful path to release.
Finding the moment – the rights to distribute (and in some cases produce) a film are acquired at various stages of development: at script; before principal shooting begins; during post-production; or as a completed project. Competition can be fierce, and it pays to be on-board early, particularly when optioning existing properties such as plays, best-selling books or comics.
Sizing up – the timing of an acquisition is often dependent on the potential/budget of a picture and the relative size of the distributor. A studio might look to acquire rights across multiple countries, brokering a deal with many moving parts. A smaller independent operator may have a foothold in just one territory and more limited funds, but an advantage in fleet of foot decision making.
Ways and means – films are acquired through a wide array of channels: first look deals with producers/directors; agreements with sales agents; content flow through parent studios; one-off deals for single pictures; output deals with production companies/studios; or bidding wars at film festivals. Content is king, and distributors will keenly vie for the films they believe will fare best.
Gut feeling – whilst historical box office and audience data has come increasingly to the fore in most aspects of the film business, gut feeling still plays a huge part in landing the right films. Not all pictures come neatly packaged with star casts, named directors, prescient topics or based on a best-seller. Sometimes you just know what you have your eye on is something special that audiences will love.