Last week, it was announced that UK distributor Metrodome has gone into administration. It’s sad news for their staff, the filmmakers they worked with, the exhibitors they supplied and for all UK cinema goers who enjoyed films outside of the mainstream.
Since the news was announced, I have been contacted by a number of people who want to get a sense of the numbers behind Metrodome and their effect on the UK exhibition scene.
Metrodome’s balance sheet
For most of this article I’m going to focus on the films Metrodome released, but I thought I should start with a little financial information. In the twelve years for which Metrodome Group Limited filed annual accounts (i.e. 2003 to 2014), the company had revenues of £85,559,000. Despite this large turnover, the combined loss over this period came to £13,148,000.
The huge loss in 2011 (£8.3 million) could be connected to their acquisition of Hollywood Classics in August 2011. That said, the company reported that they paid £1.6 million and so I suspect that there are other financial issues at play (such as writing off assets, etc). Frustratingly, their 2011 accounts are not available on their website, nor on the Companies House site. My limited knowledge of financial reporting combined with the missing document mean I can’t give a satisfactory answer at this stage (if anyone can make more sense of it than me, then please either email me or leave a comment below).
UPDATES: In the comments below, Roly has suggested that “the huge spike in sales in 2010 and the huge increase in losses in 2011 were due to the acquisition of Target Entertainments in August 2010 and its subsequent bankruptcy in 2012“. See more detail in their comment at the bottom of the article. Another contributor (who asked not to be named) suggested that it could be related to the loss they suffered following the demise of Woolworths. Woolworths was a major retailer in UK Home Entertainment, and although they closed their doors in early 2009, it could have taken time for the stock to be dealt with by the liquidators.
Metrodome’s theatrical releases
It’s surprisingly hard to build up an exact list of the films they distributed. I used a variety of sources to create a database of Metrodome films in the UK, but each source gave slightly different answers. For example, for the year 2016, IMDb lists 11 films on theatrical release, Box Office Mojo lists 12 and Rentrak (via the BFI) list 14. However, in the end, I found 225 feature films which Metrodome had brought to UK cinemas since 1995.
Across this time period, they grossed over £28.5 million, although their best years were over a decade ago. Their top grossing year was 2002, when they hauled in £3.4 million, thanks largely to Donnie Darko (£1.6 million) and Last Orders (£0.9 million).
Their top grossing theatrical release was Monster (£2.5 million UK box office), followed by Human Traffic (£2.3 million), Donnie Darko and Last Orders. Despite these big hitters, most of Metrodome’s releases grossed far less.
41% of all their cinema releases grossed under £25,000, and only 5% earned over £0.5 million.
Most of their theatrical releases were very small, with almost half of all their films on appearing on fewer than ten screens.
Between 2012 and 2016, they received almost £1 million from the BFI to support the distribution of ten of their titles.
|The Hard Stop
|We Are the Best!
|Summer In February
|A Royal Affair
|Prints and Advertising Fund
|Prints and Advertising Fund
Metrodome’s Home Entertainment releases
The Metrodome site lists 433 titles they brought to the UK Home Entertainment sector (i.e. DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD).
182 of their releases give their release date as 1st January 2009, which I have taken to be the default on their system rather than a very busy New Year. However, the dates from 2011 seem correct, which reveal that 2012 was their strongest year, with a total of 59 Home Entertainment releases.
Horror is the most popular genre, followed closely by Action.
A tale of two distributors
Looking at the titles Metrodome released, we can see two different strategies at play. In cinemas, they released a large number of high quality, arthouse films…
…whereas their Home Entertainment line-up was a bit more… erm… shlocky.
In the past few years, Metrodome seems to have taken lessons from their Home Entertainment success and started to increase the number of horror releases in their theatrical slate.
As of the time of writing, there is little information about why the company folded so it would be improper to speculate. Right now we can only hope that their titles get transferred to another good distributor and their staff find new jobs quickly.
If, in the fullness of time, more info is released about what caused their demise then I may revisit the topic to look at what the numbers can reveal.
As mentioned above, I used a number of sources to build up a picture of Metrodome’s influence on the UK cinema scene. This was far from straightforward as each source gave a different answer. This could be due to the fact that the kinds of films Metrodome often distributed are also those that typically have poor reporting. I have often heard stories from independent filmmakers that the “official” box office number released by Rentrak under-reported the data for their small release. This is because Rentrak covers a huge number of the UK’s screens but not all. And the ones they miss are usually small and independent cinemas, i.e. those more prone to show indie films.
The genre classification used for the theatrical releases come from IMDb, which assigned up to three genres per film. By contrast, the genre classification used for the Home Entertainment releases was from the Metrodome site, which only assigned one genre per film. Therefore, the two numbers are not directly comparable.
All 2016 figures cover the period from 1st January 2016 until 15th August 2016.