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.