How ‘Skinamarink’ made $1.5 million on a $15,000 budget
A still promo for the film Skinamarink.
Coutesy: Bayview Entertainment
Experimental horror film “Skinamarink” has been all the buzz on social media for months — and now it’s a sleeper hit at the box office.
“Skinamarink,” the first feature from Canadian director Kyle Edward Ball, has pulled in over $1.5 million at the box office in just over a week of release, according to Comscore.
Some film enthusiasts have compared the experimental movie, with its $15,000 budget, to found-footage horror classic “The Blair Witch Project” and David Lynch’s surrealistic 1977 midnight movie “Eraserhead.”
To be sure, “The Blair Witch Project,” which was a trendsetter for movies propelled by internet buzz, grossed $140 million in 1999 on a budget of less than $100,000, but the success of “Skinamarink” is helping define the current era of lucrative scare flicks.
According to data from Comscore, the horror genre generated about $700 million in domestic ticket sales in 2022, less than 10% of the $7.5 billion in total domestic box office sales. Much of these sales come from the most wide-released horror films that had budgets between $16 million and $35 million.
Shudder, a horror-focused streaming service owned and operated by AMC Networks, picked up exclusive rights to the film. The movie will premiere on the platform Feb. 2. “Skinamarink” currently has a “fresh” rating of 71% on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.
“Skinamarink” centers on two children who discover their father has disappeared, along with all the doors and windows of the home. The film makes use of grainy, hard-to-decipher shots of walls, furniture, television screens and ceilings to depict the eeriness of the abandoned, liminal home. It doesn’t show the characters’ faces. Ball told Vulture he intended the film to feel “as if Satan directed a movie and got an AI to edit it. An AI would make weird choices, like, ‘Yeah, I’m just gonna hold on this hallway of nothing for a while.'”
Some observers in the indie film industry saw it as a potential hit early on. Co-executive producer Jonathan Barkan, head of acquisitions at Mutiny Pictures, found the “Skinamarink” trailer on Reddit in late 2021 and took a gamble it would outperform many of its competitors and resonate with viewers.
While horror is seen by some as being a tried and true film genre that will return a profit, Barkan said making money with scary movies isn’t that easy. Independent horror films are released every week, and it’s very difficult to stand out among these releases, he said.
“For being a genre that is already typically a lower-budget genre, you have filmmakers who need to be very creative,” Barkan said. “They need to think, how can we stretch our budget? How can we do something really creative and still get across what we’re trying to convey, which is a sense of fear?”
Going viral with $15,000
Ball previously created and released short films based on people’s childhood nightmares for his Bitesized Nightmares YouTube channel. The channel, with over 11,400 subscribers, has pulled in a few thousand views for three- to five-minute horror shorts, as well as for his half-hour film “Heck.”
Ball used his childhood home in Edmonton, Alberta, as the film’s setting and his childhood toys for props. Ball stretched the $15,000 across equipment, lighting and film-editing software, in addition to film festival costs and legal documentation. He called in favors for casting and equipment, as well, according to Barkan.
There is “really no way to skirt around a certain budget” in all genres, though Ball took some creative alternatives to high-cost filming conventions, according to Josh Doke, an executive producer of “Skinamarink” and creative director at BayView Entertainment, which acquired Mutiny Pictures.
“A lot of filmmakers who are making a film, either for the first time or with a really low budget, they are trying to emulate … a Hollywood style with people in front of the camera who are talking and acting, and they maybe don’t have access to the best actors or the best lighting or the best equipment,” Doke said. “It comes off not looking quite like how they had in their head.”
Still shot from the film “Skinamarink”.
Courtesy: Bayview Entertainment
Ball avoided some costs by not shooting characters head on and instead having them speak off-screen or showing only their backs or feet. “You don’t need George Clooney in front of the camera,” Doke said. Lighting in many shots came only from television sets or a night light.
After acquiring the film, Barkan worked to get it into the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, where he previously served as a jury member. This was the “first domino” in propelling its success, he said.
“It’s a stretch to say that there’s anything new under the sun or really original in our industry, but this really does feel like it’s not only experimental horror but experiential horror,” Doke said. “I think that what it does for people is it puts you right in the middle of a nightmare that you can’t wake up from.”
The world premiere attracted 22 reviews from critics, and it caught the attention of Shudder. This notice led it to film festivals in Europe, one of which saw its entire slate of films leaked.
While the production team tried to keep a lid on the film after it was pirated and file takedowns on illegal sites, clips of the film went viral on TikTok. #Skinamarink now has over 27 million views on the platform.
The film was originally intended for theatrical release around Halloween 2023, but plans were thrown out the window as demand to see the film grew rapidly.
“[Shudder] adapted it to embrace what was happening because there was no way to stop it,” Barkan said. “Rather than try to fight it, they worked with it.”
With internet buzz and illegal downloads surging around Thanksgiving, Doke said the film could not wait another 10 months to release. The movie opened Jan. 13 in North American theaters.
“Initially, we were talking about a fairly limited theatrical release through Shudder and IFC just because with a film of his size, you never know the interest, and getting a big theatrical release is always a challenge,” Doke said. “But the snowball just kept rolling down the hill.”
Still shot from the film “Skinamarink”.
Courtesy: Bayview Entertainment
Shudder and the film’s production team agreed to an all-rights deal, meaning Shudder had not only streaming rights but also exclusives on subscription video and pay-per-view video services. Next, IFC Midnight, also owned by AMC Networks, was brought in to do theatrical showings prior to its exclusive release on Shudder.
“Once we saw the incredible response online, we knew we had to bring this film to as many theaters as possible nationwide,” Arianna Bocco, president of IFC Films and IFC Midnight, said in a statement. “Kyle has made a film for a new generation and has proved yet again what horror films and its community are capable of even with the smallest of budgets.”
What was expected to be 10 to 20 screenings led to 692 theaters predominantly in urban areas. Its first weekend “Skinamarink” grossed nearly $900,000. Last weekend, the film reached over 800 theaters and brought gross box office sales to more than $1.5 million — over 100 times its budget.
“To make a film for $15,000 and then to release it and get this level of attention and this wide of a theatrical release, and to reach this level of box office returns, is an incredibly rare feat,” Doke said.
–CNBC’s Sarah Whitten contributed to this report.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal, CNBC’s parent company, owns Rotten Tomatoes.
Lucid to cut 1,300 workers amid signs of flagging demand for its EVs
Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson poses at the Nasdaq MarketSite as Lucid Motors (Nasdaq: LCID) begins trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange after completing its business combination with Churchill Capital Corp IV in New York City, New York, July 26, 2021.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
Struggling EV maker Lucid said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that it plans to cut about 18% of its workforce, or roughly 1,300 employees, as part of a larger restructuring to reduce costs as it works to ramp up production of its Air luxury sedan.
Lucid said it will incur one-time charges totaling between $24 million and $30 million related to the job cuts, with most of that amount being recognized in the first quarter of 2023.
News of the job cuts was first reported by Insider earlier on Tuesday. Lucid’s shares closed down over 7% on Tuesday following the Insider report.
In a letter to employees, CEO Peter Rawlinson said the job cuts will hit “nearly every organization and level, including executives,” and that affected employees will be notified over the next three days. Severance packages will include continued healthcare coverage paid by Lucid, as well as an acceleration of equity vesting, Rawlinson wrote.
Lucid ended 2022 with about $4.4 billion in cash on hand, enough to last until the first quarter of 2024, CFO Sherry House told CNBC last month ahead of the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report. But there have been signs that demand for the high-priced Air has fallen short of Lucid’s internal expectations, and the company may be struggling to convert early reservations to sold orders.
Lucid said that it had more than 28,000 reservations for the Air as of Feb. 21, its most recent update. But it also said that it plans to build just 10,000 to 14,000 vehicles in 2023, far fewer than the roughly 27,000 that Wall Street analysts had expected.
With Lucid’s factory currently set up to build about 34,000 vehicles per year, the company has warned of continuing losses.
“As we produce vehicles at low volumes on production lines designed for higher volumes, we have and we will continue to experience negative gross profit related to labor and overhead costs,” House said during Lucid’s earnings call on Feb. 22.
Lucid hasn’t yet announced a date for its first-quarter earnings report.
Virgin Orbit extends unpaid pause as Brown deal collapses, ‘dynamic’ talks continue
NEWQUAY, ENGLAND – JANUARY 09: A general view of Cosmic Girl, a Boeing 747-400 aircraft carrying the LauncherOne rocket under its left wing, as final preparations are made at Cornwall Airport Newquay on January 9, 2023 in Newquay, United Kingdom. Virgin Orbit launches its LauncherOne rocket from the spaceport in Cornwall, marking the first ever orbital launch from the UK. The mission has been named Start Me Up after the Rolling Stones hit. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Matthew Horwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Virgin Orbit is again extending its unpaid pause in operations to continue pursuing a lifeline investment, CEO Dan Hart told employees in a company-wide email.
Some of the company’s late-stage deal talks, including with private investor Matthew Brown, collapsed over the weekend, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.
Hart previously planned to update employees on the company’s operational status at an all-hands meeting at 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon, according to an email sent to employees Sunday night. At the last minute, that meeting was rescheduled “for no later than Thursday,” Hart said in the employee memo Monday.
“Our investment discussions have been very dynamic over the past few days, they are ongoing, and not yet at a stage where we can provide a fulsome update,” Hart wrote in the email to employees, which was viewed by CNBC.
Brown told CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange” last week he was in final discussions to invest in the company. A person familiar with the terms told CNBC the investment would have amounted to $200 million and granted Brown a controlling stake. But discussions between Virgin Orbit and the Texas-based investor stalled and broke down late last week, a person familiar told CNBC. As of Saturday those discussions had ended, the person said.
Separately, another person said talks with a different potential buyer broke down on Sunday night.
The people asked to remain anonymous to discuss private negotiations. A representative for Virgin Orbit declined to comment.
Hart promised Virgin Orbit’s over 750 employees “daily” updates this week. Most of the staff remain on an unpaid furlough that Hart announced on Mar. 15. Last week, a “small” team of Virgin Orbit employees returned to work in what Hart described as the “first step” in an “incremental resumption of operations,” with the intention of preparing a rocket for the company’s next launch.
Virgin Orbit’s stock closed at 54 cents a share on Monday, having fallen below $1 a share after the company’s pause in operations.
Virgin Orbit developed a system that uses a modified 747 jet to send satellites into space by dropping a rocket from under the aircraft’s wing mid-flight. But the company’s last mission suffered a mid-flight failure, with an issue during the launch causing the rocket to not reach orbit and crash into the ocean.
The company has been looking for new funds for several months, with majority owner Sir Richard Branson unwilling to fund the company further.
Virgin Orbit was spun out of Branson’s Virgin Galactic in 2017 and counts the billionaire as its largest stakeholder, with 75% ownership. Mubadala, the Emirati sovereign wealth fund, holds the second-largest stake in Virgin Orbit, at 18%.
The company hired bankruptcy firms to draw up contingency plans in the event it is unable to find a buyer or investor. Branson has first priority over Virgin Orbit’s assets, as the company raised $60 million in debt from the investment arm of Virgin Group.
On the same day that Hart told employees that Virgin Orbit was pausing operations, its board of directors approved a “golden parachute” severance plan for top executives, in case they are terminated “following a change in control” of the company.
Historic UAW election picks reform leader who vows more aggressive approach to auto negotiations
Supporters wave signs during an address at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 5, 2012 on the second day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
Mladin Antonov | AFP | Getty Images
DETROIT – United Auto Workers members have ousted their president in the union’s first direct election, ushering in a new era for the prominent organized labor group ahead of negotiations later this year with the Detroit automakers.
The union’s new leader will be Shawn Fain, a member of the “UAW Members United” reform group and local leader for a Stellantis parts plant in Indiana. He came out ahead in a runoff election by hundreds of votes over incumbent Ray Curry, who was appointed president by union leaders in 2021.
Fain, in a statement Saturday, thanked UAW members who voted in the election. He also hailed the election results as a historic change in direction for the embattled union, which he says will take a “more aggressive approach” with its employers.
“This election was not just a race between two candidates, it was a referendum on the direction of the UAW. For too long, the UAW has been controlled by leadership with a top-down, company union philosophy who have been unwilling to confront management, and as a result, we’ve seen nothing but concessions, corruption, and plant closures,” Fain said.
Curry, who previously protested the narrow election results, said in a statement that Fain will be sworn in on Sunday and that Curry is “committed to ensuring that this transition is smooth and without disruptions.”
“I want to express my deep gratitude to all UAW staff, clerical support, leaders and most of all, our union’s active and retired members for the many years of support and solidarity. It has been the honor of my life to serve our great union,” Curry said.
More than 141,500 ballots were cast in the runoff election that also included two other board positions, a 33% increase from last year’s direct election in which neither of the presidential candidates received 50% or more of the votes.
The election was overseen by a federal monitor, who did not immediately confirm the results. The election results had been delayed several weeks due to a run-off election as well as the close final count.
Shawn Fain, candidate for UAW president, is in a run-off election with incumbent Ray Curry for the union’s highest-ranking position.
Jim West for UAW Members United
Fain’s election adds to the UAW’s largest upheaval in leadership in decades, as a majority of the union’ s International Executive Board will be made up of first-time directors who are not part of the “Administration Caucus” that has controlled the union for more than 70 years.
Fain and other members of his leadership slate ran on the promise of “No corruption. No concessions. No tiers.” The last being a reference to a tiered pay system implemented by the automakers during recent negotiations that members have asked to be removed.
The shuffle follows a yearslong federal investigation that uncovered systemic corruption involving bribery, embezzlement, and other crimes among the top ranks of the UAW.
Thirteen UAW officials were convicted as part of the probe, including two past presidents. As part of a settlement with the union in late 2020, a federal monitor was appointed to oversee the union and the organization held a direct election where each member has a vote, doing away with a weighted delegate process.
For investors, UAW negotiations with the Detroit automakers are typically a short-term headwind every four years that result in higher costs. But this year’s negotiations are anticipated to be among the most contentious and important in recent memory.
Fain has said the union will seek benefit gains for members, advocating for the return of a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, as well as raises and job security.
The change in the UAW comes against the backdrop of a broader organized labor movement across the country, a pro-union president and an industry in the transition to all-electric vehicles.
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