By Daniel Howat
If there’s one thing you can always count on from Steven Soderbergh, it’s that he always does his own thing. The Oscar-winning director of “Traffic” and the “Ocean’s Eleven” series announced his retirement back in 2011, but it didn’t last too long. Soderbergh is back this year with “Logan Lucky.”
With this new release, the recent retiree decided he wants to buck the system with a new method of distribution, one that gives him full creative control of both the film and the marketing. According to the New York Times, Soderbergh wanted to raise his own funds to produce the film, approximately $29 million, which he accomplished by selling distribution rights overseas. The cast, including Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, and Adam Driver, agreed to work for scale and a share of the profits, helping to lower the budget.
Now that he had creative control over production, he had to look to distribution and marketing in North America. He had no interest in giving major studios a slice of the profits, as one normally would, saying “you’re way too far away from your money.” Eventually, Soderbergh partnered with Dan Fellman, a former Warner Bros. executive. By selling nontheatrical rights, such as the streaming rights that went to Amazon, they were able to raise $20 million to market the film. For distribution, they partnered with Bleeker Street Media in a deal that netted Soderbergh complete approval on everything. In return, Bleeker Street receives less than $1 million upfront, with a percentage of ticket sales if the film meets certain box office expectations, among other things. Interestingly, Bleeker Street also received the rights to distribute a possible sequel to “Logan Lucky.”
So far, the marketing campaign seems to be a success, as the trailer (directly approved by Soderbergh) received highly positive reactions. They plan on only having modest marketing prior to the film’s release, but will ramp things up just before “Logan Lucky” hits theaters. The plan seems to be low-risk with a director like Soderbergh. With relatively little being spent on production, marketing, and distribution, the film doesn’t have to be an enormous hit at the box office to break even. And with such strong marketing and word of mouth so far, “Logan Lucky” is poised do very well for an independent film. Though, one could argue that if Soderbergh had gone with a more traditional distribution model, the power of a studio could propel it to major financial success.
Do you think this plan will pay off? Or did Soderbergh lose his touch in retirement? We’ll see very soon, as “Logan Lucky” arrives in theaters on August 18th. You can read Matt’s advanced review here.
You can follow Daniel and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @howatdk