Indies see hopeful signs in VOD debuts

by mattdentler
June 7, 2009 6:40 AM
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Over at Variety, Dave McNary has the latest article examining the growing trend of specialty VOD releases. McNary chats with IFC and Magnolia about the increasing trend, and growing business, found in the realm of straight-to-VOD or day-and-date for VOD/theatrical. Currently, IFC has the titles Summer Hours and Pontypool available on cable VOD. Magnolia has Surveillance and The Girlfriend Experience. From McNary's article:

Pessimists see trouble ahead with collapsing traditional distribution windows in this way. Optimists note that while the films and their grosses are relatively modest, the implications are huge for specialty films and indies -- and even small-scale studio offerings fighting to hold onto screens in an increasingly competitive market.

"The guy in Lincoln, Nebraska who reads about a movie in the New York Times is now getting immediate access to it," says Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles. "He doesn't have to wait for a theatrical release or remember months later what the title was so he can get the DVD at the videostore. So your geographic footprint is much wider."

Auds outside of the handful of cities that play foreign films are particularly benefiting from VOD premieres. And with auds increasingly reluctant to pay $10 and up per ticket for specialty films, the VOD fees of $4-$10 per household are starting to look pretty attractive to viewers.

IFC, the biggest buyer at this year's Cannes film fest, and Magnolia, the frontrunners of releasing pics on VOD, think there's plenty of potential in the delivery method, saying pics will soon be making two and three times their theatrical takings via VOD.

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  • Joseph B. | June 8, 2009 3:36 AMReply

    I've been curious how the VOD scheme is working so far. Bottom line... I want it to be successful because I greatly enjoy the offerings. I'll still go see select indie releases at the Angelica here in Dallas, but for $6 (cheaper than the average matinee showing even), avoidance of traffic and gas, and the comforts of my own home and big screen TV, I'll gladly watch "Summer Hours" and others over the theater anyday.

  • Anon | June 7, 2009 11:05 AMReply

    The VOD angle is great for distributors like IFC and Cinetic, because it's one more venue that they can take their cut and filmmakers have little ability to take their content direct to the MSOs.

    Case in point:

    $5.99 IFC title =

    $3.00 remitted back to IFC (50% goes to the MSO)

    if you're doing a 50/50 deal, that's a whopping $1.50 you get remitted. Of course, IFC will charge back set-up, encoding and other fees totalling $3-5K, so you need to sell 3-5K views just to break even. Ask the majority of the filmmakers from Festival Select how well their titles did - we're talking checks of a few hundred bucks. For most indies the economics of VOD = peanuts.

    There have been a few successes like SHROOMS, but even these small successes are fostering distrib attention which is going to flood VOD platforms with tons of indie content, further diluting the ability of those lucky enough to make it in to make any money. iTunes was a cash cow when there were only 250-300 movies in it - your title would simply turn more due to fewer choices - now that they're past 5,000 titles avail, it's much more difficult to garner meaningful revenue. Expect the same as this VOD trend takes hold.

    I dream of a day where lecherous middlemen like "distributors" go the way of the dodo. They don't want the world, they just want your half.

  • Bob Bryan | June 7, 2009 7:26 AMReply

    If this VOD / POV reality truly digs-in and explodes on the internet / cable universe, as it's potential suggests. Indie filmmakers will have a great opportunity to impact audiences everywhere by being available to them.

    For the first time we can have our work placed in venues where the audience has the power to pick & choose films / docs, not just limited to "big box office winners" or fickle theatrical mavens choices. The price is right too!

    As an truly independent filmmaker (recent winner of The IndieFest Award and The EMPixx Award) I personally believe this revolution is happening NOW, as we speak and I am making all my doc films available online. ( and urge all indie filmmakers to explore these options too.

    Long live the evolution of POV, VOD and indie filmmaking.

    Bob Bryan, filmmaker
    The Graffiti Verite' Documentary Series 1-7