In the food chain of the entertainment industry, distributing a film on the internet used to rank just behind bargain theaters in seedy neighborhoods and only slightly in front of that guy selling bootlegs out of his trunk in the CostCo parking lot. But all of that has now changed. In August, the feature film, The Bachelorette starring Kirsten Dunst was released to iTunes as a video on demand offering one month before it was released to theatres nationwide. The result may change the way that films are distributed from this time forward.
Filmmakers vividly understand that the current business model of film distribution stacks the deck against them. Every entity in the process takes a portion of the profits of their labor until in the end there is often little to nothing left for those who conceived the project to begin with. Recent advances in streaming technology offer a growing ray of hope to those who make films for a living. The studio system is also investigating the video on demand distribution method in a proactive attempt to reverse losses in ticket sales, increase profit margins, and meet a rising customer demand for affordable at-home viewing.
This economic exploration does not come without risk, but it is one that seems to have paid off for RADiUS-TWC, the Weinstein Co. multi-platform distribution group behind The Bachelorette. A VOD launch before the theatrical release appears to have helped The Bachelorette rise to the top slot on the iTunes movie charts, the first pre-theatrical release to claim such an achievement. The film was $6.99 to rent in HD and unlike many video on demand projects, had an A-list cast as well as a conventional distribution deal. Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, co-presidents of RADiUS were thrilled at the result as they said, “From day one, our goal has always been to bring content to viewers when, where and how they want to see it.” Apparently many of them wanted to watch it at home.
Another exciting example of the VOD distribution revolution was last year’s Margin Call, starring Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, which was released simultaneously into theaters as well as the internet. The film averaged over $10,000 per screen, which is twice the amount necessary for a film to be considered a big deal. While the internet has traditionally been thought to cannibalize physical ticket sales, it appears that the opposite is, in fact, true and the streaming component of opening week may have actually helped to pack the seats. Many industry experts believe that video on demand customers could definitely boost awareness of films through both word of mouth as well as social media.
A company that has embraced this idea is American film distributors, Magnolia Pictures, who have released many projects using this new model. Projects with A-list actors such as Deadfall with Eric Bana, 2 Days in New York starring Chris Rock, and Orlando Bloom’s The Good Doctor have all been available from the convenience of your living room before they are able to be seen at your local multiplex. Magnolia has proven again and again that VOD releases can make considerably more than conventional means and often to the tune of many millions of dollars.
The good news is that independent filmmakers working without an existing distribution deal don’t need to wait for someone else to prove that the internet market is a viable generator of revenue. With crowdfunding options such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter, filmmakers can now fund their creative endeavors without having to sign away the farm. With successful crowdfunding, movie makers can move forward with production knowing full well that an internet full of viewers are waiting for their projects, with credit cards in hand.
Many online platforms will allow them to benefit from that premise today. The big three players in the video on demand game at the moment are, of course, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. The difficulty with these three platforms deal with the fact that they have very specific hardware requirements as well as the need for onboarding programs that often require third-party involvement. As an example, with the costly services that filmmakers must pay for to get their film onto iTunes, the percentage that they stand to keep is nothing to get terribly excited about.
The only real self-service platform on the market is currently Pivotshare. The company allows filmmakers to create a channel, upload their projects and promote through social media, word of mouth and conventional marketing channels with no starting or monthly fees. Content creators keep more of the revenue that their movies generate compared to the other larger players in the game. The Pivotshare team looks forward to helping filmmakers everywhere easily distribute their films themselves, leaving them more time and money to do what they love. We can’t wait to see what you create next.
To check out an example of Pivotshare’s Video On Demand Platform, click here!