A Look Inside Angel Studios’ Pay-It-Forward Hit

Entertainment

EXCLUSIVE: Sound of Freedom distributor Angel Studios says nearly 84% of the tickets furnished by “pay-it-forward” buyers who wanted other patrons to see the movie for free were ultimately redeemed.

With Jim Caviezel starring as real-life anti-child-trafficking activist Tim Ballard, the film became a left-field box office smash in 2023, outdoing mega-budget Hollywood titles like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Its global cume was $249.5 million, including $184.2 million in North America.

Angel CEO Neal Harmon spoke to Deadline about the company’s origins and financial model. He shared statistics about Sound of Freedom during the course of that conversation. (Read the report below.)

In addition to off-screen controversy about Ballard and the overlap between supporters of the film and believers in QAnon conspiracy theories, Angel’s “pay-it-forward” model also created confusion in the marketplace. Photos circulating on social media upon the film’s release last July showed largely empty auditoriums, casting doubt on the authenticity of the film’s reported grosses.

Almost $26.1 million in tickets were reserved for patrons under the “pay-it-forward” setup reinforced by an on-screen appeal by Caviezel during the end credits, according to the company report. Of that $26.1 million, $21.8 million in tickets were redeemed.

Harmon told Deadline moviegoers were given a period of 24 to 48 hours during which they would need to redeem the free ticket offer. If they failed to do so, he said, the grosses did not count toward the film’s gross.

Angel says it spent $6.4 million to market the availability of the free tickets, as well as $1.1 million on third-party fees to facilitate the plan. In all, the number of tickets given away totaled 1,827,634 seats. Harmon said major theater circuits including AMC, Regal and Cinemark had verified the seat stat. “Our people wanted this message to spread, and they were willing to do that to the tune of more than 10% of the box office,” the exec said.

As to the widely shared photos of empty theaters on social media, Harmon said they “tie back to one person,” whom he did not name. “Somebody can go into a theater and take a photo before people show up.”

In an interview arranged by representatives of Angel Studios, Elizabeth Frank, EVP of Worldwide Programming for AMC Theatres, said the distributor is “unencumbered by traditional business practices.” The company’s “fresh perspective and focus on consumers” helps explain why it has brought “projects we normally wouldn’t be seeing in theaters” to the marketplace, she said.

AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron pushed back last year against claims of empty theaters. “More than ONE MILLION people have watched Sound of Freedom at AMC Theatres,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter. “More than at any other theatre chain on the planet. Yet people falsely claim otherwise. It is so bizarre.”

With the supply of wide releases severely restricted by the 2023 Hollywood strikes (this past weekend’s Dune extravaganza notwithstanding), Frank concedes that AMC “has a lot to do to rebuild habitual moviegoing,” so newer entrants like Utah-based Angel offer signs of hope. The company plans to release six films this year, including the biopic Cabrini on Friday. Its use of direct marketing, community engagement and the pay-it-forward setup is “incrementally additive” to AMC’s efforts, Frank said. “It’s revitalizing for us. It’s pulling in people.”

Here are the full financials:

Sound of Freedom
Theater Access Costs $129,557,374 (52% of total box office revenue)
Tax Withholding $18,962,401 (8%)
P&A and Distribution Costs $47,584,354 (19%)
Payment to Filmmakers $35,578,712 (14%)
Angel Studios $17,804,356 (7%)
Total Box Office $249,487,197 (100%)
Global Pay-it-Forward Receipts $26,075,511
Pay-it-Forward Ticket Redemptions* -$21,794,657
Marketing Costs to Pay It Forward -$6,417,669
Third Party Ticketing Fees -$1,125,854
Total Pay-it-Forward Cash Flow -$3,262,668
Total Tickets Paid Forward Globally 1,827,634
* included in total box office
Angel Studios

Read original article here.

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