The Going Rate: Distribution abroad

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It's never easy for indie producers and distributors, but rarely have things been as dicey as they are now. For one thing, attendance is declining at the same time as an influx of hedge fund money has created a glut of product. As indie producer and former studio boss Bill Mechanic put it recently: "We simply have too many insignificant movies clogging our distribution channels even as vibrant markets such as DVD and TV seemingly have evaporated in front of our eyes."

Not only is it harder than ever to secure screens in the U.S. without the backing of a Hollywood behemoth, but the situation abroad is even trickier.

Folks in places as far-flung as France, India and Korea tend to prefer homegrown fare (and if they don't, government regulation helps nudge them in that direction). Or they flock to American tentpole franchises and animated blockbusters -- everything from "Transformers" and "X-Men: Wolverine" to "Up" and "Ice Age" -- which the Hollywood majors are increasingly betting the house on.

In addition, the Tinseltown titans have set up shop in key territories abroad to co-produce local fare with well-connected partners in those places, further limiting the screens for unaligned indie fare.

Our Going Rate chart suggests the percentage of an American film's budget that can be made up in foreign sales for all rights in key territories. Obviously there are disparities, and for a pic that, for whatever reason, is really hot, competitive bidding can drive the price up. Still, for most sellers it's a slog.

-- Elizabeth Guider
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