EXCLUSIVE: Horror Hit ‘It Follows’ Reveals Challenges of Theatrical vs. VOD

EXCLUSIVE: Horror Hit 'It Follows' Reveals Challenges of Theatrical vs. VOD

Radius/Weinstein is telling exhibitors that they will stick to their original March
27 VOD date for acclaimed indie horror film “It Follows.”  This comes after a frantic post-weekend Monday as the company responded to unexpectedly strong initial showings in New York and Los Angeles ($160,000 for three days). According to multiple sources, Radius told theaters that they were going to expand to about 1,000 theaters on March 27. But by day’s end they had returned to their original VOD plan, possibly in part under pressure from cable companies and other home viewing platforms.

“‘It Follows’ has received the best reviews of any American horror film since the original ‘Evil Dead,'” said Tom Quinn, Co-President of Radius-TWC, an autonomous niche division of the Weinstein Co. which tends to favor digital multi-platform VOD releases. He said that my version of the switchback in plans was “wrong,” but would not specify details, nor did he deny that VOD plans are still set for March 27.

Clearly, release plans were up in the air Monday, with initial indications that the VOD release would be delayed and then later that it was scheduled as planned, although some theatrical dates will expand this coming weekend.

As the frontiers of VOD are more and more a central aspect of specialized film availability, there’s uncertainty about what formula works best for individual releases. Though a Radius spokesman on Saturday emailed that the film was a “clean” theatrical release and later denied it had a confirmed VOD date, multiple published sources listed a late March VOD release.

The film’s initial theaters — four in New York and Los Angeles– routinely play VOD-adjacent films, unlike most major chains. Their booking the original March 22 expansion indicated that they were aware of the anticipated pattern. Significantly, Landmark Theatres, the biggest national specialized circuit, usually critical for independent films, showed no bookings for the film as of the weekend among their upcoming bookings. Landmark has never played a Radius VOD release, including “Snowpiercer,” which like “It Follows,” had a two-week theatrical window before its scheduled home viewing availability.

“Snowpiercer,” despite the lack of Landmark and other top-notch theaters last summer, scored in both theaters and on VOD. The film grossed $4.5 million in theaters, including $2.5 million day and date with home views after two weeks, with the VOD revenue reported by Radius as about $6.5 million for a total of about $11 million. “Snowpiercer,” though, had a muddled backstory and a much more expensive initial commitment from Harvey Weinstein (a coproducer on the Korean film). “It Follows” was an acquisition off its Cannes premiere last May, with the price not reported officially, but according to insiders involved with negotiations at the time likely just under $1 million.

Read: Harvey Weinstein Explains How ‘Snowpiercer’ Became a Game Changer, We Crunch Theater vs. VOD Numbers

These days distributors and theaters are making these booking decisions on a case-by-case basis. Horror films are in demand by VOD customers, especially well-reviewed, top-tier horror such as IFC’s “The Babadook,” which grossed just under a million in theaters despite day-and-date VOD play.

The two-week exclusivity for theaters elevated media interest in “It Follows” and confirmed its real audience and critical appeal. But it remains a low-budget independent film with no stars, little public awareness or wide marketing less than two weeks before a possible wider date. Whatever its original theatrical potential with such a strong response, at this late date it would have been a risk to drop early VOD. Even smart, targeted marketing (including needed TV/cable buys) likely would have cost $7-10 million minimum. Theaters would only pay part of their grosses to Radius, and there was no guarantee on short notice that future bookings would have done enough to cover increased costs.

Sticking to early VOD means that Radius’ costs would be much lower, with Radius retaining a higher share of revenues. So this route guarantees them a profit, with whatever theatrical revenue they take in (possibly in the range of $2 million or more).

This late flurry of activity is not typical of VOD, other than extreme special cases like Sony’s “The Interview” at year’s end. Most VOD dates are set weeks or more in advance, coordinated with whatever theater component they can add. Resistance from major chains remains great, but the fact that Radius could land two of the top-grossing platform theaters in the country — the ArcLight Hollywood and the Angelika in Manhattan (which alone grossed $120,000; two other New York theaters added another $40,000) despite going to VOD after two weeks, suggests that all specialized houses could be tempted to break down and book films on this pattern during a slow post-Oscar season. 

The increasingly important VOD component is evolving in the specialized world. So far in 2015, nearly 60 films have opened in theaters in some fashion no later than the VOD date (out of roughly 140 non-wide release specialized or independent films), an increased share of releases. “It Follows” had a built-in two week delay, but as was expected when TWC developed Radius, they continue to nurture the importance of non-theatrical distribution.  

This Article is related to: News and tagged , , , , ,


Comments

Tom Brueggemann

Frielfilms – I was just quoting Tom Quinn, but It Follows has an 83 Metacritic rating, which is the best for any American horror film in a long time. The Ring was a mediocre 57. GNRLRiles – I wrote a follow up article about the latest change of plans. There are a few AMC theaters tomorrow, VOD has been delayed, apparently around 1,000 theaters will be added next week

frielfilms

"Best reviewed horror movie since the original Evil Dead? What about The Ring or dozens of others since Deads 1981 release?

Daniella Isaacs

Um…. Dixon. “Snowpiercer” was a high-octane action film starring Captain America. If it had come out in the off-season, with the right promotion it could certainly have made what “White House Down” or “Mama” made. I teach at a fairly typical Southwestern university and a colleague who taught it in a dystopian cinema class told me that three quarters of her class had already seen the film (and loved it) by the time she screened it. That screening was less than two months after the Blu-ray dropped. I myself had a student ask me “I missed that when it was in the theater. It was so good!” I told him, “well, you know what, you would have had to drive 140 miles to see it in a theater.” So… I’m sticking with my call.

Gnrlriles

AMC Theatres just tweeted that some of their theaters are carrying "It Follows." So…

Mickey

I’m really glad they are still sticking with the original VOD release. It Follows isnt showing anywhere in MN so I’m behind hyped I can watch really soon.

Jeff York

I live in Chicago and what frustrates me is how movies like this get social media and PR play all over the place, much of it for free, the week before it opens, and then it still only opens in NY and LA. The distributors must think that those of us in the Midwest don’t know about Facebook or Twitter or PR. "It Follows" should have opened wide and on VOD this past weekend everywhere. Capitalize on the PR. And horror almost always reigns so why hold a big one like this back? On the 27th, there will be other films opening whose distributors ensured it was released wide and maximized its audience in a timely fashion. If on "It Follows" had followed such logic.

Steven Millan

This truly stupid move widely shows(and proves) just how out-of-touch The Weinstein Brothers are when it comes to releasing their films,for a much wider release would had both financially strengthen the film’s chances at being a major success(for indie horror cinema)and would have pulled The Weinsteins and their film companies out of the current rut that they’re stuck in,for this move is only going to make things an awful lot worse. BTW:I really hope that someone with big bucks buys the HALLOWEEN franchise from the Weinsteins for the sake of fully salvaging that series.

Dixon Steele

The idea of SNOWPIERCER grossing 75m-80m is ludicrous…

IndieWire

Wow some serious fuccbois just dont want me to see this movie on a big screen

SCOTT

That’s what happens when you sell your soul (film) to the devils (Weinsteins.)

JoeS

As Daniela wrote, how can Indiewire believe that an $11M total gross for SNOWPIERCER be considered "scored"? I’ve seen the film twice with audiences in theaters and it killed. With proper distribution and hype it could have – SHOULD have – had an $11M WEEKEND in theaters, not total gross inluding VOD.

Daniella Isaacs

Once again, Weinstein underestimates one of their own films to the detriment of the theatrical experience. This is the kind of film that with the right hungry distributor could have grossed 60 million dollars easily–just as SNOWPIERCER could have approached 75 or 80 million (and gotten a couple of Oscar nominations to boot). Harvey and company sure know how to squeeze every last penny out of middling Oscar-bait films like THE IMITATION GAME, but they’re not so good with truly challenging work on the one hand (Abbas Kiarostami’s best film sank like a stone under their imprimatur) or genre films on the other–it’s been a long time since the original SCREAM trilogy, after all.

Brian

Aren’t there independent theater owners around the country that would welcome a film like this, that serve audiences that would certainly come out for a film like this? How cool would it be for a single theater in a college town to book this? It would be like minting money. What’s to stop them from booking it?

Bibhuti Bhusan Routray

So much for VoD, PriceWaterhouseCoopers has predicted that VoD will take over US Box Office by 2017. I think that’s the way to go. The content owner or the filmamker or the producer, whoever he is, is the king today. All he’s gonna need is a VoD platform, all for himself. Something we avail at Muvi Studio for FREE. Just pay for the used bandwidth and the platform is for free. If VoD really has to revolutionize the industry, that’s the way to go for content owners.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *