At least some good news! VOD Rides to the Rescue of Indie Film
The indie film industry has found a life preserver — and it’s not floating in movie theaters.
In fact, it’s the very model studios have been unsuccessfully trying to push past theater owners lately: debuting movies on video-on-demand simultaneously — or even in advance of — theatrical release.
“In reality, for most independent movies, VOD will be far and away the largest source of revenue in the future,” Magnolia Pictures co-owner Mark Cuban told TheWrap. “More than theatrical and far more than streaming.”
For many smaller indies, the future is already here.
Without early VOD releasing, such recent indie films as Kevin Spacey’s financial crisis drama “Margin Call” — expected to double its $4 million domestic box office through on-demand rentals — would face a tough road to profitability.
Likewise, Lars von Trier’s latest, “Melancholia” — which is on pace to gross $2 million via VOD vs. between $2 to $3 million in domestic art houses — is connecting with home audiences in a way that the polarizing film might not have been able to otherwise.
Also read: Lionsgate’s ‘Abduction’ Miracle: Early VOD With Theater Owners’ Blessing
The platform is allowing companies such as IFC, Magnolia and Roadside Attractions to recoup most of their investment without having to orchestrate expensive print campaigns and costly national rollouts for movies that may not play well in Middle America.
“It’s the most stable releasing period we’ve ever had,” Eamonn Bowles, president and co-founder of Magnolia Pictures, told TheWrap. “Platform releasing, where you opened in a couple of theaters and hoped to expand later, was a recipe for disaster. The paradigm was broken, so we had no choice but to hit on something that made sense.”
Also read: NATO to Hollywood: Give Us DirecTV’s Premium VOD Numbers
But not everyone in the indie film world agrees that VOD is a savior.
“It’s much more complicated situation than what Mark Cuban is trying to sell,” Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, told TheWrap. “If your movie can play through all the windows that start with the theatical release, nine times out of 10 it will be much more successful than the VOD/theater box office.”
He calculated that “Margin Call,” for example, would have made millions more through television deals and wider theatrical release than it is currently making through on-demand.
Just a few years ago, with a number of high-profile art house distributors such as Miramax and Warner Independent Pictures shutting off the lights, it seemed like independent film might be dying.
Today, independent film companies are feeling better about not just the prospects for on demand, but are also bullish about the new licensing fees being paid by streaming companies like Hulu and Netflix.
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