Less than two years ago in an article on the state of day-and-date releasing, Indiewire reported, “It’s unlikely that Hollywood studios and theater owners will ever agree to having films stream day-and-date on Netflix or on VOD.” What a difference two years makes. While studios largely continue to resist the day-and-date model, theatrical windows for indies continue to shrink in order to meet audience demand.
Earlier this week on The Daily Rind, a blog from indie distributor The Orchard, Julie Dansker, director, sales and marketing, wrote, “Customers continue to embrace these disruptive trends in the marketplace. While historically, direct-to-digital (DTV) titles may have carried a negative stigma of lower artistic quality, our binge watching, on-demand culture has become increasingly impatient and therefore less sensitive to how long a film might be in a theater or if it even has a theatrical run at all. This new consumer mindset has directly benefited the DTV business.”
She pointed to The Orchard’s recent success with direct-to-digital titles such as “Red Knot,” “Lucky Stiff” and “The Escort.”
Netflix is increasingly betting on its day-and-date release strategy with its new acquisitions, as Deadline reported recently. And in January, Netflix sealed a four-movie deal with Duplass Brothers Productions partners Mark and Jay Duplass. The company will finance four Duplass films that will premiere exclusively on the streaming VOD service after a brief theatrical release window.
This exclusive deal arrives on the heels of Netflix’s two significant announcements from last year: A similarly structured four-picture pact with Adam Sandler, and a partnership with The Weinstein Company to debut the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” sequel day-and-date in August 2015. Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation,” starring Idris Elba, will open in a limited theatrical release via Bleecker Street and on Netflix on October 16.
Meanwhile, with the recent hire of indie producer Ted Hope, Amazon Studios announced ambitious plans to produce original films which will screen in theaters, followed by a launch on Prime Instant Video 30-60 days later. And on iTunes, viewers can watch new indies just out in select theaters, including “6 Years,” “Fort Tilden” and “Tom at the Farm.”
Though big theater chains have long resisted the idea of shortening theatrical windows, some have begin to warm to the idea. AMC Theatres and Cineplex Entertainment recently agreed to shrink the window between the theatrical release and home entertainment debut of two of Paramount’s low-budget horror titles this fall: “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” (October 23) and “Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” (October 30). They’ll shorten the traditional 90-day home entertainment debut window to just 17 days after the number of screens upon which the film is screened drops below 300. In return, AMC and Cineplex, as well as other exhibitors, will receive a percentage of the studio’s digital revenue, including iTunes through 90 days, on top of theatrical earnings.
“Exhibitors want to keep their businesses strong. Filmmakers want us to put a premium on the theatrical experience and optimize consumer access to their creations,” said Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey, at the time.
It’s clear that as viewing habits continue to change and viewers expect to be able to watch films whenever and wherever they want, studios and theaters are adjusting to the new reality.