Sundance Insights Special

Sundance Post-Covid: What works, what doesn’t?

With the 2023 Sundance Film Festival commencing on January 19th, we decided to take a deep dive into the streaming performance of the top Sundance 2022 titles to see how their festival presence/participation and release strategies translated.

In addition, we forecast the performance of several 2023 titles, including the highly anticipated title EILEEN which is scheduled to premiere at Sundance on January 21st.  

Does theatrical performance translate to stronger OTT?

Since streaming (VOD/SVOD) became one of the main revenue streams for Sundance titles over the last few years, we analyze consumption to see how audiences engaged with the major Sundance 2022 titles.  To do so, we used our proprietary OTT viewership proxy system that aggregates upwards of 100m transactions per day from P2P transactions around the globe. 

We took the top 2022 titles in competition and pulled their 1st seven days of release on OTT to showcase a directly comparable metric:

In reviewing the data, we see that BREAKING and WATCHER opened well on OTT and managed good holds through Day 7.  The interesting part is that both were initially released theatrically on 750-900 screens with cume DBO revenue in the US$2m – US$3m range.  This may help to explain their higher opening market share in comparison to their competitors and playability over their first week of release. 

These top two features would have benefited from marketing campaigns for their theatrical release, as well as reviews and word of mouth. Other titles that were released straight to OTT and/or had more limited theatrical releases had less impactful openings with steeper drops as their opening week on OTT progressed. 

While CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH did take home an “Audience Award” and garnered rave reviews for its filmmaker and star Cooper Raiff, it performed noticeably less on OTT than the other four analyzed titles. This, in part, may be understandable once one takes note of the genres and target audiences of all five films. WATCHER, BREAKING, DUAL and NANNY all incorporated aspects of the horror and psychological thriller genres, which historically perform rather well on OTT in comparison to independent romantic efforts.    

Now on to Sundance 2023.

Will William Oldroyd build on the success of LADY MACBETH?

We ran the 2023 premiere title EILEEN through our predictive tool, which takes into consideration 19 material input attributes to determine a full-performance waterfall, P&L and ROI.  Estimating a budget of US$8m for the William Oldroyd helmed follow-up to LADY MACBETH, we also took into account a proposed theatrical release strategy of 900 screens with Anne Hathaway in the lead.

The Cinelytic platform predicts a DBO of over US$5m and domestic gross revenues (BO, HV, TV) that total approximately US$11.5m.  As noted in the visualization below, the mix of release strategy and revenues by media and associated costs would net a break-even ROI for this project:

The premiere at Sundance next Saturday might provide the energy and impetus needed for a strong domestic sale by Endeavor Content.  

In looking at a film like EILEEN and the 2022 titles we expect that a potential domestic theatrical release would help propel its life on OTT when it releases later in the year, thereby helping its bottom line and pushing it beyond a break-even ROI scenario.

We additionally ran analyses for other market highlight titles including CAT PERSON, MAGAZINE DREAMS, FLORA AND SON, ALL DIRT ROADS TASTE OF SALT, EARTH MAMA, and others both premiering and in competition. 


All to say, buyers, sellers, and fans alike are excited for a return to a live and in-person Sundance Film Festival. There are plenty of titles holding premieres and in competition to keep audiences busy over ten days. As the festival and market progress and films find distribution, key buying decisions will have to take into consideration whether a theatrical release is merited, and if not, then what can one do to create the necessary awareness for an effective opening on OTT.