No one, even major studios, can guarantee what will happen after a motion picture is produced, but there are several strategies that can minimize investment risk and maximize potential profit.

The first and most important is to ensure that the produced film is saleable in other countries. Even low-budget films can sell in foreign territories, but only if they meet certain technical standards for sound and picture and have appropriate accompanying “elements,” such as a PAL transfer (the European standard) and separate music and effects tracks (to allow for language dubbing). It also helps if the movies fall into popular overseas genres, such as action/adventure or science fiction, which tend to be more visual and have universal appeal.

As budgets increase, the most important factor becomes casting “name” actors. Such actors carry a very real value which, as much as anything (and almost independent of the artistic quality of the films), can allow producers to project and realize foreign sales. Such sales are not dependent on theatrical distribution in the U.S., although their value certainly can be increased by publicity and success in America.

Films produced outside the studio system can also realize financial return through sales to cable, video (VHS and DVD), free TV, syndicated TV and other ancillary markets, such as airlines. Again, these sales are enhanced by genres and name actors.

Although highly visible, theatrical release in U.S. multiplexes is often the least profitable area of film distribution, due to the high cost of prints and advertising. This visibility, however, serves to increase value in other markets. For independent productions, film festivals and limited theatrical exposure can serve the same purpose.