03/Feb/2015 // 800 Viewers
After the $40 million digital release of "The Interview,"
video-on-demand may seem like all the rage. Particularly for independent
films, VOD is seen by some as a better pathway to moviegoers than
trying to lure them to theaters.
But many of the breakout hits at this year's Sundance Film
Festival are still opting for a traditional theatrical rollout, even if
filmmakers, stars and distributors see the tides changing down the line.
For many distributors, the classic theatrical window simply still works.
Magnolia Pictures President Eamonn Bowles is looking at a
possible summertime theatrical release for Sean Baker's "Tangerine," the
iPhone-shot film starring newcomers Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki
Rodriguez that follows a transgender prostitute and her friend over one
Christmas Eve in Los Angeles.
Day-and-date, in which a film is released simultaneously in
theaters and on video-on-demand, doesn't make sense for "Tangerine,"
"If there's a film with a big star or a large amount of awareness
or a genre that's familiar to people, those can be better day-and-date
or VOD candidates. But for a film like this, where there are really no
stars in it? You have to establish its credentials prior to going on
VOD," he said.
Bowles hopes a theatrical rollout will help "get the reviews and
the features and people gushing about it to establish its credibility
Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, is also
planning a traditional rollout for Sundance acquisitions "The Diary of a
Teenage Girl," the '70s coming-of-age story with Kristin Wiig,
Alexander Skarsgard and newcomer Bel Powley, and "Grandma," starring
Lily Tomlin, but for different reasons.
"For the movies we're pursuing, the VOD model doesn't really
work," said Barker. "Can you imagine if we'd done day-and-date with
'Whiplash' as opposed to staying on the screen for five months? Staying
on the screen for five months is what gives it that word-of-mouth that
gets it the best picture nomination."
The raised profile that comes with an Oscar nomination can also mean increased ticket sales and revenue streams down the line.
"When the Academy Award nominations were announced, our box
office gross was $6.7 million," said Barker of "Whiplash," which
premiered at Sundance in 2014.
they were announced, the box office has boomed. This week alone, we're
going to do $1.2 million or more in the box office and that is going to
happen every week until and through the Oscars ... that would not be
achievable if we did the VOD model," he said.
Although Barker said Sony Pictures Classics has yet to have a
film that is day-and-date, "we will eventually have one. It just doesn't
seem to fit with the movies we've either acquired or made."
Jeff Deutchman, vice president of acquisitions for Alchemy, believes there isn't a one-size-fits-all distribution model.
"We think that you have to see a movie and figure out what the
best release strategy is," he said. Alchemy acquired "Strangerland,"
starring Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Hugo Weaving for a
day-and-date release later this year.
"It's a beautiful film that is going to be polarizing in a good way," Deutchman said.
In other words, some people will want the theatrical experience
for "Strangerland," and some will want to watch it in their living room.
He thinks that although most filmmakers likely want a theatrical
release, they're also amenable to hearing all options, thanks in part to
"blockbuster success stories" like "The Interview," "Snowpiercer" and
"Equally encouraging are some of the smaller success stories that
have come out this year, with movies like 'The Babadook' and 'Elsa
& Fred,' smaller films that both overperformed theatrically and on
VOD," Deutchman said.
The actors in Sundance films tended to think more about the consumer experience.
"I am all about VOD. I'm a new mom. I don't leave my apartment,"
said Cobie Smulders, who has roles in both "Results," a rom-com about
personal trainers (also a Magnolia acquisition), and "Unexpected." She
did acknowledge, though, that nothing compares to collectively
experiencing a film in a theater.
"I think eventually everything will be released simultaneously on
VOD and in theaters at the same time. I think we're headed in that
direction. We're already there with a lot of films," added Brooklyn
Decker, who has a bit part in "Results."
Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler says filmmakers should be looking for alternative ways to release their movies.
"The Internet is becoming more and more legitimized. A premiere
with Vimeo or going straight to Netflix can have real meaning. I think
those are very positive things," Strickler said.