Variety published an article this week that cited the recent VOD success of Radius-TWC's first ever release BACHELORETTE (see my last post) as well as Lionsgate/Roadside release ARBITRAGE, a movie being cited as the biggest theatrical opening ever ($2M) for a day and date VOD release. The release strategies of these two movies appear to have differences (given the modest theatrical play of 50 screens it could be argued that Radius is using theatrical to fuel VOD via the wider press core and $10 pre-theatrical VOD price point while Roadside/Lionsgate is flipping the equation using VOD to fuel theatrical)--but in many ways it's what these cases have in common that matters more. With the decline of DVD and international revenues, independent film has found itself with a crumbling revenue model. The reality is that movies are expensive to make and often in the case of indies even more expensive to release. And for certain films, it may be worth giving up the potential for scaling a theatrical release to thousands of screens (let's face it, that is one of the trade offs of going out on VOD first) in order to market once and meet the audience on it's own terms. You want to check out the movie in the theater? Great. On your cable system? Sure. Rent it on your iPad? Done.
It can be argued that a theatrical release of an independent film has always been a loss leader for the ancillaries. With BACHELORETTE, it's no different--except that the studio can capitalize on those ancillaries the minute people hear about the movie for the first time. And if ARBITRAGE just proved once again that VOD drives theatrical, conventional wisdom for day and date VOD for a wider theatrical release might be that VOD can also be marketing that pays.
This is far from having played itself out but one thing I know is that these are interesting problems and I'm glad there are smart, film-lovers like the folks at Radius, Lionsgate and Roadside working on them.