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'Arbitrage' Marks New Trend of Releasing Pay-Per-View Earnings

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood November 2, 2012 at 12:44PM

Richard Gere's Bernie Madoff-esque thriller "Arbitrage" reportedly now holds the record for combined sales for a movie released concurrently in theaters and VOD, grossing more than $7.3 million on the big screen and about $11 million on small screens. It also marks a slowly increasing trend of companies (in this case Roadside Attractions and Lions Gate Entertainment) starting to reveal heretofore hidden pay-per-view sales figures, as VOD becomes more relevant to independent film profit and distribution.
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Richard Gere and Brit Marling in "Arbitrage"
Richard Gere and Brit Marling in "Arbitrage"

Richard Gere's Bernie Madoff-esque thriller "Arbitrage" reportedly now holds the record for combined sales for a movie released concurrently in theaters and VOD, grossing more than $7.3 million on the big screen and about $11 million on small screens. It also marks a slowly increasing trend of companies (in this case Roadside Attractions and Lions Gate Entertainment) starting to reveal heretofore hidden pay-per-view sales figures, as VOD becomes more relevant to independent film profit and distribution.

According to Roadside, "Arbitrage" has surpassed the previous record holder of concurrent theatrical-VOD release, its own "Margin Call," which made about $6 million in VOD, and $5.4 million in theaters. (IFC, Magnolia and other VOD distributors only share numbers with their filmmaker partners.)

Interestingly, reports the LAT, a survey of theater owners playing "Arbitrage" on their screens (many of which were four-walled by Roadside) shows that 90% didn't know the film was also available via VOD. A mistake? Nope, a strategy: Roadside president Howard Cohen tells the LAT's John Horn: "This is a model we have been at the front of -- to make both theatrical and VOD work at the same time."

Distribution companies get a substantially better cut of VOD earnings than theatrical earnings: 70%, as opposed to the 50-50 split between distributors and theaters. And if a film does well in its VOD run, as "Arbitrage" has, it makes sense not to keep the numbers close to the vest. Indeed, touting VOD numbers can be a calling card at film festivals and markets for companies such as Lions Gate, when making new acquisitions.

This article is related to: News, Arbitrage, DVD and VOD, Digital Future, Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate/Roadside


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.