How Hollywood is Using NFTs to Fund, Distribute, and Merchandise Films

by Jim Donnelly | February 28, 2022

How Hollywood is using NFTs to fund, distribute, and merchandise films

If you could help finance the production of your favorite actor or director’s film by purchasing a non-fungible token (NFT), would you?

That’s one of the questions searing through the minds of many a Hollywood executive as the industry ponders the value of NFTs, which have made big inroads in other creative mediums, for filmmaking. 

Here at MASV we’ve already explored how NFT filmmaking has become the next big thing in the indie scene. Filmmakers can use NFTs to sell authentic digital pieces of content related to their work that, in theory, can generate more revenue than traditional methods — especially for independent filmmakers.

Some say NFTs are “the next great revenue stream for filmmakers,” and that they’re essentially a “revolution” for creatives looking to monetize their content.

The sheer hype around these one-of-a-kind digital assets — which recorded a trading volume of more than $23B across all mediums and industries in 2021 — has only added to this sense of excitement.

Indeed, several studios and filmmakers have now gotten on the NFT bandwagon by tethering them to their latest film release — although in an interesting variety of ways. Several different types of NFT engagements in the film industry have cropped up over the past 12 months or so, including (click to jump to section):

Let’s explore some of the different NFT-related initiatives out there right now, what they mean for the creatives and studios involved, and what these developments could mean for the wider industry.

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Type 1: Releasing the film as an NFT

While this approach seems to have the most long-term potential, the storage limitations of legacy blockchain technology meant that releasing full-length feature films as NFTs — or really anything other than short video clips — simply wasn’t possible until recently.

The technology has evolved since then, however, and last September Enderby Entertainment’s Zero Contact (starring Anthony Hopkins) became the first Hollywood feature film released as an NFT. The studio launched the film and related merchandise on its own blockchain platform geared to the film industry, Vuele.io.

The platform provider, CurrencyWorks, said a handful of NFT versions of the film were sold for a total of $90,000. CurrencyWorks says it also receives a royalty every time any of these NFTs are bought or sold.

While a nearly six-figure return is certainly not a bad result, it’s next to nothing compared to what some of the art world’s most expensive NFTs have garnered — or what top films gross at the box office, for that matter. 

Kevin Smith’s most recent film, Kilroy Was Here, was also auctioned as an NFT — but with a catch. As we mentioned in our previous post, Smith had announced that the lucky buyer would also secure the rights to exhibit, distribute, and stream the film (we can’t find any word on the actual sale price, though).

Type 2: Funding film production via NFT

While releasing a full-length film as an NFT is still pretty uncommon, selling NFTs to help finance film production has become more popular among both established executives looking to challenge traditional fundraising models and indie filmmakers who simply need capital.
We mentioned in our previous post how The Forest Road Company recently set up a $20M NFT fund to help indie producers monetize their content, and similar things are now happening in other quarters of the film industry:

  • Niels Juul, executive producer of The Irishman and other Hollywood films, founded NFT Studios with a goal of producing “the first feature film intended to be solely funded by minting NFT tokens.” Many of the NFTs come with investor-style perks such as premiere and set access
  • Julie Pacino (Al’s daughter) raised nearly $80,000 to self-fund her film I Live Here Now, currently in pre-production, by selling NFTs of her photography
  • New NFT platforms aimed at the film industry, such as First Flights, allow filmmakers to raise money for their films through the purchase individual crypto tokens (investors are then rewarded through film-related NFTs and other perks)

Although traditional fundraising for big-ticket film releases is still the norm, Juul says the ability to fund studio releases through NFTs has helped “democratize” filmmaking. He adds that NFT-based fundraising helps filmmakers find “an engaged audience that are also our investors in the movie at the same time.”

Julie Pacino used NFTs to fund I Live Here Now

Film still from I Live Here Now by Julie Pacino

Type 3: NFT merchandise sales

The most popular method of monetizing new film releases via NFT is almost certainly through merchandise sales, usually (but not always) after a film has been released. 

Quentin Tarantino got into the NFT merchandising game last year, with several uncut scenes from Pulp Fiction auctioned off (the collectibles also included the original handwritten scripts, and audio commentary from the award-winning director himself about each scene – pretty cool, if you ask us).

And while the first of Tarantino’s NFTs sold for a respectable $1.1M price tag, the resulting lawsuit from film studio Miramax (alleging IP violations and attempting to stop the sale) may be a harbinger of thorny legal issues to come between creatives and studios around NFTs.

The Matrix has also expanded to the blockchain, with studio Warner Bros. releasing a series of NFTs inspired by the films in anticipation of the release of The Matrix: Resurrections last year. Other major films, including Dune, have done the same. Even Bollywood studios have gotten into the act, with the makers of Ranveer Singh’s 83 launching a series of digital collectibles late last year.

Some industry watchers also speculate that “unlockable” NFT content, similar to bonus content on DVDs, could drive the next phase of NFT merchandising by making NFTs “dynamic assets with mysterious rewards.”

NFTs for The Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix: Resurrections NFT Avatar

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