Film distribution has been undergoing a major upheaval over the past several years> The phasing out of physical film prints in favor if digital ones is supposedly a money-saving one for the major studios, while smaller, independent films are finding new income streams by being released through video-on-demand outlets.
The major studios, though, have been reluctant to release films into theaters and on video-on-demand (VOD), not wanting to anger theater chains with a perceived threat to their own income. Universal almost tried it a few years back with Tower Heist but both major chains and indie houses protested, so they cancelled the plan. Since then, a 90-day period between theatrical and VOD release has been the standard for any major studio release.
But next month’s March 14th release of the Kickstarter-funded Veronica Mars will see that barrier finally fall, with the Warner Brothers released film debuting in theaters and on Video On Demand simultaneously.
I am not surprised that Warners is doing this. Veronica Mars will only be appearing on 270 screens when it is released. Two hundred and sixty of those screens are at AMC theaters, and while it is one of the largest chains in the country, it does serve all markets. The nearest one to me is an hour’s drive. And for fans who might have it even worse, VOD is going to be the only option. Two hundred and seventy screens certainly feels like an aggressive release for a indie film and a rather anemic one for a major studio, so to compliment it with VOD seems like a no-brainer.
But this is probably more of an aberration than a harbinger of things to come. Warners Brothers is doing what is called “four-walling” this release, renting the screens from AMC where the film will play. Normally it can cost between $5,000 and $20,000 a week to “four wall” just a single screen, But AMC and Warners are keeping mum on what is being spent this time. However, the studio feels that they should recoup their investment on the move from the Veronica Mars fan base, feeling that fans will watch the film in theaters before renting or purchasing a copy to watch over and over at home. Don’t expect them to be doing this with any of their major releases any time soon.
Via Wall Street Journal.