In advance of next month's theatrical run, Radius-TWC's first pickup, Bachelorette debuted at #1 in the iTunes charts and is already generating healthy revenues (a reported $500K in the first three days). While it's admittedly a bit early for analysis, this is a great bit of news as the industry tries to understand the power and potential of VOD. This development is significant for many reasons... To name a few:
(1) No P&A. The movie is grabbing attention and earning revenue (of the low fixed cost digital variety, by the way) without the benefit of a studio-sized P&A spend. Radius-TWC has maintained itself as a multi-platform--as opposed to direct to VOD--arm. To that end, if the theatrical works, this strategy will be seen as further proof for a model we all want to work... and the pre-theatrical VOD window may start to catch on as "marketing that pays."
(2) Pricing is king. Some are skeptical of the $9.99 "Ultra VOD" pricing model given that studio fare typically rents for $3.99 in the VOD window ("why rent a small movie for $10 when you can rent The Avengers for less than half the price?"). But on the flip side, there are those that maintain that great content in an early window deserves a premium price. There is also the argument that $10 is still a deal given the cost and effort required to get to the theater. In this case, the price point doesn't appear to be scaring audiences away... a glimmer of hope for those hoping VOD is the savior of independent film.
(3) Female-driven comedy continues to connect. While some are pointing out that a few of our biggest comedic stars appear to be falling from the sky, audiences continue to be interested in hilarious women in interesting roles.
(4) iTunes/VOD is a discovery platform. Without the ability to outspend studios, smaller films depend, in part, on editorial support from distribution partners to get discovered. The combination of a strong PR presence (see: free marketing) and iTunes' support (the film has masthead placement alongside the likes of Battleship and The Dictator) seems to have been enough to allow audiences to connect the dots and discover this film.
(5) No one knows anything (except maybe Tom and Jason). While Radius-TWC co-Presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego are not new to multi-platform distribution (they developed and perfected the model at Magnolia), parts of the industry seem to be catching up to the idea that the marketing and distribution for an independent film can be as special, unique and tailored as the content itself. The early success of Bachelorette might just advance the argument in favor of flexibility and experimentation as opposed to restricted windows and pricing.