What MoC's have sold best/worst?

The gossip on MoC. Lists and polls are STRONGLY discouraged.
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The Elegant Dandy Fop
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#51 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Thu Aug 30, 2007 12:15 am

Luke M wrote:I've been a long time lurker of this forum as I've been interested in Criterion titles for a number of years. However, I did not get into the Masters of Cinema until just a couple months ago. I would say less than half the registered users here are even aware of MOC.
For me it's the opposite. This forum introduced me to MOC, which forced me to buy a region free player. I'm a proud owner of several MOC titles.

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#52 Post by 125100 » Tue Sep 11, 2007 4:02 pm

GringoTex wrote:I'm shocked by this. I'm in the U.S. and I still buy every MoC as a matter of principle (except for F for Fake for obvious reasons). I just assumed there were thousands like me out there in the world, especially in the UK!
I'm in the UK and although I have quite a few MoC releases (all of which probably equal Criterion in quality) I think MoC are so similar to Criterion I have to put myself in one camp and simply because I have to import a Criterion that makes them feel more of a premium product, plus I generally find their releases physically more attractive, so if it's not a silent I usually just wait/hope for a Criterion...

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#53 Post by MichaelB » Tue Sep 11, 2007 4:22 pm

125100 wrote:simply because I have to import a Criterion that makes them feel more of a premium product
I'm a fan of Eastern European cinema who's based in the UK. Following your logic, should I therefore favour Facets (imported) over Second Run (domestic)?

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#54 Post by arsonfilms » Tue Sep 11, 2007 5:27 pm

MichaelB wrote:
125100 wrote:simply because I have to import a Criterion that makes them feel more of a premium product
I'm a fan of Eastern European cinema who's based in the UK. Following your logic, should I therefore favour Facets (imported) over Second Run (domestic)?
Are you seriously comparing Criterion and Facets to make your argument? As an American, I could make the statement that I favor MoC over Criterion to back up 125100's argument about the allure of the import. The real comparison though is MoC v. Kino or New Yorker, which has nothing to do with the allure of anything other than acceptable image quality, much like your Facets v. Second Run.

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#55 Post by 125100 » Tue Sep 11, 2007 5:57 pm

MichaelB wrote:I'm a fan of Eastern European cinema who's based in the UK. Following your logic, should I therefore favour Facets (imported) over Second Run (domestic)?
Although I am aware of Second Run I'm not a fan of Eastern European cinema at all so I'm not familiar with Facets and wouldn't like to comment in that particular case, although if your point is that Second Run are better then that's not my argument. Perhaps I should have said Criterion are more exotic?

With regards my "logic" it's purely a prestige thing... Champagne, Italian Sports Cars, Swiss Watches, Belgium Chocolates... all more more desirable than the domestic equivalent (to most people). I'm not MoC bashing I own a few of their releases and they're a fine company, I can't wait for Nosferatu, Tabu, Der Letzte Mann and Woman in the Moon. :)

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#56 Post by Finch » Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:19 pm

Wanted to bump this in light of Nick's comments on the Wishlist thread that the Mizoguchi sets haven't sold as well as Eureka had hoped.

Are you allowed to disclose, Nick, which titles in the last six months have sold well and which films didn't? I recall reading in the Boutique Labels section that La Notte was a success. Since Phantom is scheduled for 2009 I guess it's fair to assume Murnau's films have done well? What about the Visconti titles? It'd be interesting to see how well the more contemporary titles like La Vie De Jesus and Police will perform.

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#57 Post by peerpee » Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:27 pm

Not really at liberty to discuss this sort of thing, but I think it's common knowledge that the obvious ones are the best sellers (NOSFERATU, METROPOLIS) -- and occasionally, there is a surprise, one way or the other. LA NOTTE was a good surprise.

When we get unexpected offers of help from kind folk like Guillermo del Toro (on VAMPYR) it makes a huge, huge difference and allows us to keep experimenting.

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#58 Post by Andrian Film Revival » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:37 am

I do find this thread a bit funny! Quite frankly what difference does it make which have sold well and which haven't... No one has made their millions by selling niche DVDs to cineastes and I doubt Nick and friends got into this venture hoping to retire young with a vault of cash.

Judging by the continued quirky nature of their releases, I'd be surprised if commercial viability even comes up in discussion... Let's pray that this doesn't change anytime soon!

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#59 Post by cgray » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:15 am

Andrian Film Revival wrote:I'd be surprised if commercial viability even comes up in discussion...
Surprise!!

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#60 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:01 pm

Andrian Film Revival wrote:I do find this thread a bit funny! Quite frankly what difference does it make which have sold well and which haven't...
Do let me know if you want personal introductions to people who lost their jobs through miscalculating the appeal of niche-market titles - I know literally dozens, and I myself would have been a victim in the mid-1990s if I hadn't jumped ship first.
Judging by the continued quirky nature of their releases, I'd be surprised if commercial viability even comes up in discussion... Let's pray that this doesn't change anytime soon!
I can't speak for Nick, but commercial viability is always a factor in my own experience of this field, regardless of whether one personally thinks it's a dirty word.

True, in the independent arthouse sector notions of "commercial viability" are somewhat different from those applied by the majors, but when operating on wafer-thin margins you have to be extremely conscious of your break-even point and make sure you don't dip below it too many times - and that any likely losses can be covered by profits from the big hits.

It's still a business at base, even if the profit margins are slim to nonexistent!
Last edited by MichaelB on Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#61 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:06 pm

cf: Tartan

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#62 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:11 pm

colinr0380 wrote:cf: Tartan
Indeed - and if I remember rightly, around 15 years ago the bailiffs were on their way round to knock on their door when The Last Seduction became a surprise smash hit and saved their bacon. And I'm sure they've had other narrow squeaks in the meantime.

You always start in this business with an incredible amount of idealism, which gets very quickly dashed as soon as you go up against commercial reality. I helped book rep cinema programmes for six years, and while I'm sure a very small proportion of our audience would have loved it if we'd shown wall-to-wall Naruse and Erice, a rather larger proportion wanted to see recent American films on a Saturday night - and they were the ones who subsidised the more adventurous stuff.

Even MoC and Second Run have their cash cows - and need them!

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#63 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:05 pm

Nice to hear that La Notte was a success - unfortunately that was one I had to hold off purchasing. Though I did my bit by finally getting around to picking up Second Run's Passenger and Knights of the Teutonic Order in the last couple of months!

I suppose the 'surprise' of Last Seduction also shows that while you can have amazing piece of work that just does not do business that there can be films that you have lower expectations of that do brilliantly.

'Quality' and 'marketability', while both subjective assessments, can also be quite distinct things and it must be difficult, if not impossible, to be at all certain that they will end up coinciding for audiences.

As well as the need for constant turnover of new films meaning you are really at the mercy of what is out there and available to release that might not be of the standard of previous films or capture the zeitgeist to the same extent (as Tartan might have been with their Asian horror films).

I don't feel there is much point in blame though - isn't "nobody knows anything" a motto that can apply as much to distribution as to making films? And, from a purely mercenary point of view, even 'bad choices' for the company still result in films being shown or released on DVD if only for a short time. Sure, I would like a business to remain (more than) viable to ensure future releases but if that meant shying away from Out 1 in order to re-release Metropolis for the nth time then even 'name value' isn't going to be worth much once everyone who wants it has a copy of the latest restoration/Moroder soundtrack version/Blu-Ray/super deluxe film frame edition etc - see Anchor Bay and The Evil Dead!

It is the difficult challenge of trying to get the balance right, to re-release things only when necessary and when the need to upgrade is truly there. Also to understand that profitability and legacy both need to be nurtured, so that even if a company fails, at least it will be fondly remembered. I think MoC are doing a great job on this, in fact are maybe leaning too much towards legacy - not that I'm complaining of course!

Nice to hear about the contact on Vampyr, does that mean Guillermo del Toro was already aware of MoC or that he just heard of the work on Vampyr? Either way hopefully that will inspire a wider audience to check the film out (and maybe pick up Michael while they're at it!)

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#64 Post by Andrian Film Revival » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:22 pm

Of course the business reality is no laughing matter - my point was intended solely in the context of this forum and its readers, given that I can't imagine personally that sales figures would have any influence on whether or not I were to buy a DVD, MoC or otherwise.

As for commercial viability - asking as an ignorant consumer - how can you discuss it seriously in the planning stage of a specific release? Surely any statistical projections can only be made based on historic performance rather than on the quality/viability of specific product in a niche market. After all how can you gauge the market's appetite for a Pialat or a Franju when 99% of consumers have no idea who these film-makers are?

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#65 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:28 pm

Andrian Film Revival wrote:Of course the business reality is no laughing matter - my point was intended solely in the context of this forum and its readers, given that I can't imagine personally that sales figures would have any influence on whether or not I were to buy a DVD, MoC or otherwise.
It has a big impact on what one is ABLE to buy.

If the Naruse set had sold as well as one might think it _should_ have sold, presumably a Box 2 would already be out (or on its way). If the Mizoguchi sets had sold especially well, then more Mizoguchi sets could possibly been on the horizon.

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#66 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:14 pm

Andrian Film Revival wrote:As for commercial viability - asking as an ignorant consumer - how can you discuss it seriously in the planning stage of a specific release?
You discuss it very seriously indeed, because that's when projects get greenlit or otherwise. And the size of the rights-clearance, production and marketing budget is intimately linked to the number of units you realistically think you're going to sell, because otherwise you're not going to be able to pre-calculate a break-even figure that bears much relationship to reality.

True, there's a certain amount of guesswork involved too, but it's of a much more educated variety than you might imagine - not least because in ultra-niche markets you literally can't afford to make too many mistakes.
Surely any statistical projections can only be made based on historic performance rather than on the quality/viability of specific product in a niche market.
Both factors are - or should be - taken into account.
After all how can you gauge the market's appetite for a Pialat or a Franju when 99% of consumers have no idea who these film-makers are?
In cases like this, you look at the performance of similar releases - for instance, if Buñuel or Cocteau haven't taken off in a particular territory, that doesn't bode well for Franju. And you should also consider alternative marketing strategies that don't rely on a knowledge of French auteurs that the audience may not possess in any case.

For instance, in the early 1990s I was involved with a revival of Belle de Jour that rebranded it as an upmarket soft porn film. We gambled that those who knew the film wouldn't care, and those who didn't might find it more attractive than if we'd marketed it as an intellectual arthouse film. And although I suspect most of the posters here would have thoroughly disapproved of both the idea and the poster, the tactic obviously worked, as it broke the house record at both its venues - and its success helped fund other less profitable projects.

akaten

#67 Post by akaten » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:38 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Andrian Film Revival wrote:Of course the business reality is no laughing matter - my point was intended solely in the context of this forum and its readers, given that I can't imagine personally that sales figures would have any influence on whether or not I were to buy a DVD, MoC or otherwise.
It has a big impact on what one is ABLE to buy.

If the Naruse set had sold as well as one might think it _should_ have sold, presumably a Box 2 would already be out (or on its way). If the Mizoguchi sets had sold especially well, then more Mizoguchi sets could possibly been on the horizon.
Indeed, yet its all the more surprising in the case of the Mizoguchi films as they received decent coverage in Sight & Sound, including a feature commending their availability, and prominant displays under the World Cinema sections on the play.com and hmv.co.uk websites that they didn't meet expectations.

That none of this translated into sales good enough to warrant further Mizoguchi is very worrying indeed, poor state of affairs among us so-called cinephiles. Personally I find it puzzling that people wouldn't explore outside of their comfort zone, as I've pretty much bought every MOC release in the last 12 months, a veritable crash course, inspirational cinema the world over that has and continues to have a profound influence on me.
For instance, in the early 1990s I was involved with a revival of Belle de Jour that rebranded it as an upmarket soft porn film. We gambled that those who knew the film wouldn't care, and those who didn't might find it more attractive than if we'd marketed it as an intellectual arthouse film. And although I suspect most of the posters here would have thoroughly disapproved of both the idea and the poster, the tactic obviously worked, as it broke the house record at both its venues - and its success helped fund other less profitable projects.
Without going too far off topic, this approach to essentially rebranding films, though it funded other projects, did it result in people returning to see other selections, or only that one film?

Back to MOC, have stated a couple times, requests for American cinema as I think the label would benefit from the inclusion or another English language feature, possibly a generic piece (ideally a groundbreaking of subversive one) could do well for the label, acquiring the rights to one is another matter entirely of course..
Last edited by akaten on Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#68 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:46 pm

akaten wrote:Indeed, yet its all the more surprising in the case of the Mizoguchi films as they received decent coverage in Sight & Sound
I should also probably mention that independent distributors keep in regular contact with sympathetic journalists and retailers, because such coverage is often vital to the success of a release that can't stretch to a big marketing budget. And if the reviews are less positive or prominent than expected, that can be very damaging indeed.
Without going too far off topic, this approach to essentially rebranding films, though it funded other projects, did it result in people returning to see other selections, or only that one film?
Realistically, the bulk of the Belle de Jour audience wouldn't have come back - and we wouldn't have had much expectation of them coming back, unless we'd already lined up and had started advertising at least one similar feature before the run had ended, which for various reasons wasn't logistically or financially feasible.

But that didn't matter, as the people who ultimately benefited from the better-than-expected performance were our core audience, who got to see more adventurous programming in the following months than they might otherwise have done. (Conversely, of course, a huge flop leads to more conservative programming, which is pretty much unavoidable if you don't have any other source of income and want to stay in business).

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#69 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:06 pm

MichaelB wrote:
akaten wrote:Indeed, yet its all the more surprising in the case of the Mizoguchi films as they received decent coverage in Sight & Sound
I should also probably mention that independent distributors keep in regular contact with sympathetic journalists and retailers, because such coverage is often vital to the success of a release that can't stretch to a big marketing budget. And if the reviews are less positive or prominent than expected, that can be very damaging indeed.
But on the other hand can going too soft in a review lead to negative reactions from an audience that a flaw hasn't been mentioned and associated scepticism that can cause damage to casual audiences perceptions about the rest of the catalogue? To use Tartan again would four star reviews for The Eye or Phone lead disappointed audiences to steer clear of Bangkok Dangerous and Ring assuming that they would be similar in quality? At what point can you not defend a film any more, for as much good will in the world towards the distributor?

This isn't really MoC's problem - for them I guess it is just a more difficult sell to explain to causal audiences that Michael is a rare Dreyer film or Le Silence de la Mer is an uncharacteristic Melville, or to introduce them to Mizoguchi. It is always going to be a difficult task introducing a relatively unknown director or plugging the gaps in a relatively famous directors filmography and then hoping for a large number of sales, as much as doing this is appreciated by cinephiles. Great reviews help but how much are they just playing to the converted?

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#70 Post by MichaelB » Sat Aug 09, 2008 8:18 am

colinr0380 wrote:But on the other hand can going too soft in a review lead to negative reactions from an audience that a flaw hasn't been mentioned and associated scepticism that can cause damage to casual audiences perceptions about the rest of the catalogue? To use Tartan again would four star reviews for The Eye or Phone lead disappointed audiences to steer clear of Bangkok Dangerous and Ring assuming that they would be similar in quality? At what point can you not defend a film any more, for as much good will in the world towards the distributor?
Sorry to take so long to reply to this - I've literally only just spotted it!

It's not exactly a secret that I know Nick, the Second Run guys and the entire BFI DVD Publishing department personally, but I also review their DVDs for Sight & Sound.

(Up to a point, anyway - for obvious reasons, I draw the line at anything I'm personally involved with, which is why Kim Newman reviewed the BFI's Quay and Svankmajer boxes and Michael Atkinson will be reviewing Second Run's Valerie and her week of Wonders.)

But they know full well that if the discs are flawed then I will mention it, and possibly in more detail than I might have done otherwise given that most of my pieces are short capsule reviews so I can't go into the kind of exhaustive detail that online reviewers can indulge in.

For example, I said that the cropped aspect ratio in Second Run's Passenger might be a deal-breaker, that Romeo, Juliet and Darkness was VHS quality, that MoC's Silence had burned-in Japanese subtitles, and that Nuits Rouges was non-anamorphic. I also probably wouldn't have bothered mentioning the very minor picture glitches towards the end of the BFI's Teorema if I hadn't been conscious of the fact that the DVDs producer is a good friend of mine.
Great reviews help but how much are they just playing to the converted?
They can make a big difference. Second Run certainly reckons that my full-page rave of Marketa Lazarová (a film that was to all intents and purposes unknown in the UK this time last year) had a huge impact on sales - but in situations like that where distributor, editor and reviewer are absolutely in sync regarding their opinions of both film and DVD, it's a pleasure to help. Especially given the very real possibility that that might be the highest-profile coverage it gets in print media.

And "the converted" might be aware of the film, but not necessarily that there's a brand new special edition on the horizon. Especially since smaller distributors can't afford big marketing/awareness-raising campaigns.

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#71 Post by Awesome Welles » Sat Aug 09, 2008 10:18 am

MichaelB wrote:Second Run certainly reckons that my full-page rave of Marketa Lazarová (a film that was to all intents and purposes unknown in the UK this time last year) had a huge impact on sales - but in situations like that where distributor, editor and reviewer are absolutely in sync regarding their opinions of both film and DVD, it's a pleasure to help. Especially given the very real possibility that that might be the highest-profile coverage it gets in print media.
I think it certainly did, whilst I haven't had the chance to buy it yet it's definitely one of the main discs on my to buy list. I think the review of yours I saw was actually in Moviemail, it wasn't just that it was a good review but also very well written that really managed to convince me that I must buy it! Unfortunately for many companies with the economic situation at the moment DVDs are unfortunately one of the first things to cut back on. Something I suspect has hurt many in the industry.

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#72 Post by foggy eyes » Sat Aug 09, 2008 10:46 am

MichaelB wrote:And "the converted" might be aware of the film, but not necessarily that there's a brand new special edition on the horizon. Especially since smaller distributors can't afford big marketing/awareness-raising campaigns.
Very true - in my (limited) experience, the more established 'specialists' (in scholarly circles) are quite often among the last to catch up with these types of releases - news spreads through word of mouth eventually, but I'm consistently surprised how many of 'the converted' don't keep their ears to the ground when it comes to DVD releases.

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#73 Post by Zazou dans le Metro » Sat Aug 09, 2008 11:21 am

A propos 'preaching to the converted'. I was just listening to a podcast where Robert Wyatt was being interviewed and, presumably playing devil's avocado, the interviewer put it to him that his project was precisely that.

Charming chap that our Bob is, he came straight back that it was no problem to him because what's nicer than being with friends.

Thought I'd share that little warm glow moment which seems a nice counter balance to the sneering that sometimes accompanies such an accusation.

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#74 Post by MichaelB » Sat Aug 09, 2008 11:39 am

FSimeoni wrote:I think the review of yours I saw was actually in Moviemail
The MovieMail one was commissioned the day after I submitted the Sight & Sound one - I was the only one of their writers with a pre-release copy of the DVD!

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Re: What MoC's have sold best/worst?

#75 Post by Opdef » Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:45 pm

In current order of popularity on Amazon:

Silent Running (2968)
Gospel According to Matthew (3267)
Touch of Evil (4041)
Repo Man (4245)
M (4793)
Sunrise (5320)
Accatone (6202)
la Silence de la mer (6964)
Insect Woman (7260)
City Girl (8907)
Harakiri (9652)
la Signora senza Camelie (10817)
Coeur fidele (11228)
Metropolis (11404)*
Pigs & Battleships (11379)
Burmese Harp (11669)
For All Mankind (12573)
La amiche (12616)
Mad Detective (14558)
Make Way For Tomorrow (15064)
Tokyo Sonata (15237)
Punishment Park (15530)
Une femme mariee (15721)
Vengeance is Mine (17197)
La planete sauvage (19636)
Two Lane Blacktop (20610)
Profound Desires of the Gods (24205)
Ballad of Naramaya (24565)
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (29837)
The World (34236)
Soul Power (63596)

* the DVD is still ranked at an impressive 1828, disappointing for anyone who supports Blu-ray.

It kind of underlines how badly Two Lane Blacktop has done. Good to see the silents holding their own too, though I'd have hoped Coeur fidele would have done better, as my favourite release in the entire series.

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