Commentary

VOD Gets Positive Bump From Smaller Indie Movies

More good news for TV distributors: Theatrical movies released in theaters on or about the same time as on video-on-demand are doing decent business in both arenas.

But to really work, the movies need to be small-ish independents running under the radar.

The Weinstein Company’s “Snowpiercer” has scored some $3.8 million in revenues from video-on-demand -- about the same amount as from theaters.

Another theatrical movie that hit video-on-demand recently, “Arbitrage,” took in $14 million in VOD, while “Margin Call” made $8 million. Critics may point out that, sans VOD offerings, some of that money or more could have been made at theater box offices.

Those looking for same-time VOD/theatrical results are not aiming for those big $100 million-plus theatrical box office paydays. For many big-time movie studio films, these kinds of VOD revenues are akin to their craft services budgets.

Big theatrical exhibitors might not be too concerned about VOD revenues because they take in the bulk of their box office revenues from those wider-release movies.  Still, the results with smaller indie films could be a hint of things to come, and one can imagine big major theatrical movie marketers eyeing this carefully.  

Independent movie makers like Weinstein are getting the benefit of bigger home TV screens, with better quality HDTV and even better 4K in some cases. Also, more niche movies are catering to older adults who may not be able to get out of the house.

These film distributors working both sides of the fence say these initial experiments in sharing distribution windows are profitable.

Going forward, if the trend continues, marketing simultaneous VOD/theatrical releases may get a bit more complicated. Few indie movies have the big budgets for TV advertising. Most are dependent on good reviews in the press and some key targeted digital messaging.

Combination VOD/theatrical releases would need to have media plans that include lower out-of-pocket standard digital media platforms as well as newer platforms like electronic program guides, connected TV services, and other TV set software platforms.

TV distributors looking to increase the value of their now more-digital TV offerings and pay TV services should be pleased. All this works well with TV networks’ bullish projections on VOD overall -- especially when it comes to ad-supported shows with commercials that viewers can’t skip through. Newer smart TV sets will also push more VOD activity.

Right now the drama around the changes in the movie business -- especially from theater exhibitors -- is low. That means the drama on the screen -- any screen -- can continue.

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