The whole debate over simultaneous festival and VOD distribution, has been raging for about a year now. The filmmakers and distributors hope to get films out to the masses alongside a good festival run. The festivals, for the most part, aren’t as keen. They fear cannabilization on their screenings, and I understand the concern. But, for the same reason Cinetic might make a film available on iTunes and Hulu at the same time, I also feel that different audiences want entertainment in different ways. Sure, they could stay at home and watch it, but what if they don’t? IFC and SXSW developed a special promotion around films screening at the festival while making them available via IFC’s VOD platform, on cable systems nationwide. The news was met with some criticism. Sarasota Film Festival programmer Tom Hall, one of the early skeptics of this model, has turned around a bit on how to look at things after an experiment during his recent event:
In the months since the announcement was made, Holly Herrick and I spoke with the team at IFC Films and decided to give it a try; instead of theorizing about how this might work and how it might impact us, we programmed Three Blind Mice, which I saw and loved at Toronto, and which was launched on IFC VOD the same day it screened at SXSW. The film was available for over two weeks on Comcast VOD in the Sarasota market before our festival screenings. No talent from the film attended our festival; the movie was simply screened twice as part of our narrative feature program.
Two things happened as a result; our audiences really liked the movie. More importantly, the film sold well and played to near-capacity audiences both times it screened. What was most interesting to me is that we had been handing out IFC’s Festival Direct marketing materials at our box office during the intervening weeks, and that piece even stated the availability of the film on Comcast VOD. No difference; attendance for and appreciation of Three Blind Mice was as good or better than every other film in the festival.