Day and Date Releases Coming Soon
Reuters and The Hollywood Reporter are covering a controversial "day-and-date" film-release strategy. This is the second potential threat to theater owners in which movies hit the big screen and are released on DVD simultaneously. This time, the simultaneous release involves none other than cable giant Comcast. The first major film to be officially released this way, Bubble , grossed $5 million in its opening weekend, including box office receipts, DVD pre-orders and other revenues. This exceeded expected revenues, and seems to point the way for non-blockbuster releases to entertain the idea of "day-and-date" strategies. (though it only took in $72,000 on 32 screens and received an unusually large amount of publicity prior to opening.) The production budget was a "modest" $1.6 million.
Comcast and the Independent Film Channel (IFC) are announcing a deal on Tuesday that couple video-on-demand services with simultaneous theatrical releases of a series of films. This follows an announcement by HDNet to release around 9 indie films in the new schedule format in the near future.
The indie drama "American Gun" will be the first official title to get the "day-and-date" treatment from IFC/Comcast and will appear March 24, 2006 in Comcast's 9 million subscriber network. It will also play at IFC's own IFC Center theater in New York City.
The new on-demand service is called IFC in Theaters and makes individual films available for $5.99 each. Each month IFC plans for viewers to be able to select from up to five independent films which are concurrently playing in theaters.
"The theatrical distribution business for smaller, specialized films has become more challenging, and we saw this as an opportunity to create a national art house to be available to everybody from the outset," IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring said.
According to Reuters and the Hollywood Reporter - While Comcast's sizable market share doesn't extend to Manhattan, IFC in Theaters still will be accessible in markets where its films also will get theatrical exhibition, including Chicago, Denver and Comcast's own home base, Philadelphia. Sehring said entrepreneur Mark Cuban's indie chain Landmark Theatres, which is invested in day-and-date releasing, has signed on for the experiment, while negotiations are continuing with other theater owners.
"A couple of chains have said they won't do day-and-date initially," Sehring said. "I think when they see the numbers and how the films perform, it will bear out our position on them."
The thought proicess behind day-and-date releases is to capture the excitement and publicity surrounding a film's theaterical release and profit from those who woudl prefer to stay home to view it rather than visit the theater. For smaller releases and independent films whose theater releases often don't extend past major cities, this is a boon and a way to bring in additional receipts that would simply not exist otherwise (Comcast is available in 22 major markets).
Other IFC movies that will get day-and-date treatment this year include "I Am a Sex Addict," "Three Times" and "The Russian Dolls" starring Audrey Tautou (star of Amelie). IFC hopes to make as many as 24 films available via day-and-date by next year.
We'll be watching patiently to see how this plays out. If anything it could be a boon to independent filmmakers. With Hollywood taking a veritable "nap" in the originality department - could this be a sign that independent films are poised for a takeover in the home theater?
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