Skip to Content

How Much Does It Cost to Put a Movie in Theaters?

Do you want to premiere a movie in cinemas and want to know the cost breakdown? If YES, here are factors that affect the cost of putting a movie in theaters.

To release a movie in theatres sounds really easy but behind that awaited release, there is a great work of hundreds of people that make it possible. For the record, it does not cost distributors anything to get films into theatres since they are able to negotiate from the point of having a stream of films on an ongoing basis.

For major releases like Fast and Furious or Spider-man, theatres offer guarantees and other financial incentives for distributors to pick their theatre as opposed to the rival down the street — and then the theatres and distributors work off a split of the box office sales, which over the long haul averages around 55% – 45% in the distributor’s favor.

However, if you are a solitary filmmaker with a single, freshly produced film that you would like to screen in a theatre, there are necessary ways for you to enjoy the impeccable exposure that comes with putting your movie in theatres.

Unless you somehow managed to attract marketable actors to your film, it is unlikely the theatre chain will give your film more than a week-long run and it will be in one of the smaller theatres during one of the year’s shoulder seasons for cinema attendance. There are several steps you can take to increase your chances of a successful theatrical release.

Estimated Cost of Putting a Movie in Theatres

It can be quite expensive as screenings in major theatre chains require a number of requisites to be met. These requisites are what is required to actually put a product into the theatre, and are known as deliverables.

Nonetheless, the prices listed below are approximate and they can be different in each country depending on the negotiation you have with the different parts involved.

  1. P&A (Print and Advertising)

First, you are expected to make a budget of everything that will be involved in the release in movie theatres, how much you will spend on copies, VPF’s, marketing, and advertising.

This is called P&A – a budget of copies and advertising. However, to make sure this P&A works, you have to decide the size of the film and this is defined by the number of copies you will make and the amount of money you will spend on advertising. For instance;

  • 30 dcp’s – $70 each – $2, 100
  • 30 VPF’s – $750 each – $22,500
  • Booker – $3,000
Materials in Theatres
  • 100 posters – $1 each –  $100
  • Google display – $1,000
  • Social media ads –  $1,500
  • YouTube – $800
  • Community manager – $2,000
  • Public relations and communication of the film $3,000
  • Press releases follow up with media, press screening, reviews, articles, etc.

Therefore, the release with 30 copies would cost approximately $36,000

  1. Advertising, TV, and Outdoor

Note that the most expensive thing when you are promoting a film is the advertising, but as experts say, if you don’t invest there will be no profit, so you are expected to have a very good marketing strategy where you put all the media you would like to invest with.

Indeed, television is the queen of all media and although it is said that this is changing, it is still the winner. So, if you want to invest in TV, you are expected to invest at least $150,000 where you include TV spots in prime time (time where you can get better viewership).

Another media outlet that can be as costly as television is outdoor advertising. This refers to all advertising on the street, from buses to those giant ads that are placed in buildings.

However, the cost tends to vary but a billboard in the metro can cost from $170, and a billboard on the street costs (depending on the location) from $1,000 to $15,000. Indeed, people are expected to see the film everywhere, so you must rent spaces in several places in the most important cities where the movie is going to be released.

How to Increase Your Chances for a Successful Theatrical Release

  1. Film Festivals

One of the easiest ways to get your film shown on the big screen is at film festivals. Film festivals run globally all year-round, and you can find them by searching on sites such as Film Freeway. For a good number of film festivals, there is an admission fee.

However, if your film is selected, there are no extra costs for screen hire. A festival screening is your first opportunity to watch your film perform on the big screen and in front of an audience.

Getting your film shown at a festival has additional benefits. Firstly, film distributors do attend festivals looking for films to represent. Also, winning an award at a well-known film festival might encourage a film distributor to take on your film.

  1. Distribution Deals

Have it in mind that one of the major problems that independent filmmakers face is that most big studios have their own distribution companies, so they are guaranteed a distribution deal. Nonetheless, independent filmmakers need to convince a distributor that their film is worth selling.

Note that to get your film picked up for a traditional regional theatrical release, you will need a distribution deal. One way to find a deal is by entering film festivals. You can also contact distributors directly and ask if they would be interested in your film. Some distributors allow you to contact them independently, but likely you will need to invest in a sales agent.

Have it in mind that finding a distributor does not guarantee a theatrical release. Your distributor might choose other distribution options, such as TV broadcast or VOD platforms. Unfortunately, the majority of films made do not get a theatrical release because it is very expensive.

Note that for a distributor to give your film a theatrical release, they will have to invest a lot of money upfront, and you will have to convince your distributor that your project will attract a broad audience and make them their money back. Previously, independent films have had successful theatrical releases if they gain a lot of media attention which can be encouraged through film festival screenings, social media, or by hiring a well-known actor.

  1. Independent Release

Note that before you seek independent release, you should try the traditional methods above. These are your most affordable options as an independent filmmaker. But even if you get a distribution deal, a theatrical release might not be granted. If you still desire to see your film on the big screen, there are two methods to choose from.


The first method is to rent out a movie theatre. However, note that you won’t profit from this method; the cinema receives all of the box office revenue.

Most theatres, especially independents, will allow you to rent out a theatre space. The cost depends on the location, theatre size, and time of day you screen. But for reference, it is usually around $150-$500 per hour. You can search for cinemas to rent on peer space.

Theatrical on Demand

The second method is to use a “Theatrical-On-Demand” platform. There are many services that allow you to host many theatrical showings all across the country by allowing individual people (known as “Theater Captains”) to organize showings of the film at their local theatre.

Note that these types of showings more or less require you to have a large pre-built audience that is very enthusiastic about your film, so much so that they are willing to do a lot of work to bring your movie to their hometown. Although this kind of theatrical release may not be terribly profitable, for the right kind of film, it can serve to increase publicity and excitement at a grass-roots level.


Note that a pacesetter in the movie industry can spend up to $1 million or more dollars to release a film and all this effort and investment is reflected in the box office and in the sales after the release. Howbeit, if you want to win like a pacesetter, you are expected to invest like a pacesetter and marketing is fundamental in this process.