Self-Distribution Case Study: "Burn"

The following information was compiled by cross-referencing  several articles and resources on the success of the self-distribution of the film "Burn." Watch the film here.

BURN (2012)
by Tom Putnam & Brenna Sanchez

A documentary about Detroit told through the eyes of firefighters charged with the thankless task of saving a city that many have written off as dead.

Production Budget
• $225,000 (estimated)
• $119,500 from Kickstarter

Marketing/Distro Budget:(undisclosed)
≈$0 (all from sponsorships)

Source of Funds: 
Grants, Donations, Kickstarter campaign

Marketing Strategy: 
• grassroots
• market to firehouses and firefighters across the country (underserved population)
• brand it as an action film – to carry over to the main public, not just firefighters 

Shooting "Burn"

Shooting "Burn"

Distribution Strategy: 
• 2 people organizing their own theater screenings, no experience, no P&A budget
• ITVS funded “research and development” sizzle reel for Burn series, but decided to pass
• July 2010 post trailer on YouTube and Vimeo to get over 300,000 views
• created website for fans and donations
• September 2010 $25,000 grant from Cinereach
• GM donated $100,000 
• plus $300,000 in donations from website ???
• December 2010 – January 2012 – funds allowed them to shoot the film for 1 year
• editing started April 2011
• Premiered 2012 Tribeca FF, winner “Audience Award”
• hired two sales agents to help sell the film at Tribeca, but terrible offers
• decided to self-distribute
• first screening at firefighters convention: 400 seat theater, 4 screenings, 2 days, sold out 1600 tickets x $20 = $32,000 gross x 40% = $12,800 net
• sold t-shirts, posters, and outtake DVDs at the screening, merchandise sold out, bar sold out
• Fall 2012 3 months – 35 city DIY theatrical release sponsored by MSA (firefighting equipment)
• $375,000 Gross from 35 city DIY theatrical release screenings on Mondays & Tuesdays (four-walled, paying rental fee and keeping ticket sales)
• hired Richard Abramowitz to handle traditional theater release
• Traditional theater release in NY & LA FAILED MISERABLY ($60,000 to hire distributor and publicists)
• Then their distributor got them into 4 AMC theaters for traditional week-long runs in Chicago, DC, and 2 in Detroit
• hired a booker to book theater release for them, but fired them because the filmmakers found that they did a better job of selling the film
• by May 2013 – 300 screenings in over 170 cities
• 40% of ticket buyers bought an extra $25 worth of merchandise
• June 2013 DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital release
• first week of digital release: #1 doc, #1 indie, and #9 action film on iTunes

Still from "Burn"

Still from "Burn"

• 1,758 backers on Kickstarter
• 63,000 Facebook Likes
• 6,300 Twitter followers
• 60,000 Trailer Views on YouTube
• 292,000 Trailer Views on Vimeo
• 2,400 YouTube subscribers

Gross Profit: 
• $1.1 million Box Office U.S. 
• $??? DVD release 
• $??? Digital Release

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