What Does a Sundance Doc Prize Mean at the Box Office?

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN won the World Audience Prize in 2012.

In the lead-up to Sundance, I got to wondering how its documentary awards correlate to box office success. I looked at winners from the past 10 years in the categories of grand jury prize and audience award for both US and World competitions; and drew theatrical sales data from Box Office Mojo.

My question: how many grossed over $1 million at the box office? 

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Distribution Case Study: OBJECTIFIED

image Gary Hustwit, the director of HELVETICA, kindly visited my NYU class on Thursday to dispense his wisdom about self-distribution. This topic has a rising interest in the film world. But few people have as much real world experience as Hustwit. Next week, PBS’ Independent Lens will show his latest work OBJECTIFIED in an hour-long version (shorter than the theatrical release).

Here are some highlights from his class talk:

* Nine months before the theatrical release of HELVETICA, Hustwit began blogging about the film as a way to gain interest. A small mention on the graphic designer website typophile.com drove the first visitors to helveticafilm.com and eventually Hustwit had collected thousands of email addresses from visitors. He began selling Helvetica posters and t-shirts, grossing $75,000 on merchandise before the film was even released. “The audience wants to see the film as much as you do,” said Hustwit. By selling merchandise, “you make it easy for them to help you.”

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