The numbers are fuzzy when it comes to VOD receipts, but if it wasn’t profitable for someone, people would stop trying to push it, right? VOD is a wonderful gift for film lovers, giving more obscure fare that might not otherwise escape the big cities a chance to reach people and convert new movie fans. And it looks like the format just found a big-time participant, as The Weinstein Company has entered the fray with their own VOD shingle.
The Weinsteins have never been shy about festival acquisitions, and back in the days of Miramax, they would simply pick up more movies than they could ever distribute. It was more than a year after the film was nominated for Best Foreign Film that they even got around to releasing “Hero,” and that was a box-office success. More often than not, Miramax would snap up films at festivals and then simply sit on them, uncertain about taking the marketing risk on a questionable property. Essentially, shoot first, discuss marketing later.
This new VOD strategy suggests the Weinsteins will find a way to mine an audience for some of their pictures that seem like performers but die with critics. The recent Madonna stinker “W.E.” drew its share of boos, enough to remove the film from the Oscar conversation, suggesting it could be one of the early VOD Weinstein options: a way for them to cut their losses and avoid the expenditure of a vanity Oscar campaign (films with a VOD release before theatrical are ineligible for Academy Awards). All of this likely means we’ll finally see the long-shelved Weinstein stinker “Shanghai,” one of the bigger embarrassments from the young studio that, at one point, also looked like a potential Oscar player. And for the bigger movies, the Weinsteins will be able to utilize a smaller theatrical strategy for films that could be Oscar-friendly, but not broadly appealing.
What’s interesting is that this is a major step-up for Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, who pioneered Magnet‘s VOD release strategy. Magnet, which has done a great job bringing pretty off-center material to audiences at home, is strictly a genre arm, and while there’s no doubt the Weinsteins have experience with that material through Dimension, this announcement comes with the acknowledgement that the studio is currently scouring the Toronto Film Festival for possible Weinstein VOD entries. In other words, they’ve just moved from shlock to boutique, and we wonder exactly what types of film will emerged on VOD through this unusual marriage.