A long road to profitability for ‘Familiar Strangers’

“Familiar Strangers” is set to debut in Court Square Theater in Downtown Harrisonburg this weekend. Which meant the movie had to get to Court Square Theater. And that somebody had to get it there.
“We’re on the road. We’re nowhere near the end of the road,” producer Barry Sisson said on the phone from a drive to Harrisonburg from his Cavalier Films office in Charlottesville. He wasn’t speaking literally about the drive to deliver the film to Court Square, rather metaphorically about the family comedy’s drive toward profitability.

The movie, which stars Shawn Hatosy, DJ Qualls, Nikki Reed, Cameron Richardson, Ann Dowd and Tom Bower, and was shot primarily in Staunton, Harrisonburg and Augusta and Rockingham counties, is heading for week four of a successful run at The Visulite in Downtown Staunton and has also been featured at theaters in Fairfax, Charlottesville and Richmond, where it will be once again this weekend.

Though it is doing well at the box office, it’s not the theatrical-release process that will ultimately be the gauge for how well it does bottom line. “The theatrical-releasing process is not a profitable venture for a company like ours,” Sisson said. “It costs a lot of money just to get the film ready to be in theaters. We finished shooting the film and editing it on digital, and it cost us a lot of money to get it onto 35-mm film so it’s ready to show in theaters. And then to open you’ve got to pay darn near everybody else in the country who has their hand out,” Sisson said.

The theatrical process is “really part of the marketing of the film so that when the DVD comes out and when the cable channels come looking and that kind of thing there’s some familiarity with the film across the country with both buyers and the audiences,” Sisson said.

So look at the run in theaters almost as the continuation of the investment into the film’s long-term profitability more than anything else. Sisson expects a lull in the theater run after the holidays, and plans to use the break to re-evaluate where to go from this point forward.

“We’re evaluating what to do next,” Sisson said. “It’s expensive, and it’s exhausting. We’re just trying to decide how far we’ll go with it. I think potentially it’s got a long way to go. We certainly haven’t burned through even the start of the potential markets for it. We’re going to use this break to sort of evaluate where we are and decide where we go next and how far we try to take it,” Sisson said.

 

– Story by Chris Graham


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