With the vast array of options currently available, the way movies are distributed is changing drastically. As theatrical revenue gets harder and harder to come by, Paramount has come up with a radical endeavor to allow viewers to watch new releases at home much faster than before, and they just signed up a couple of new allies and could indelibly change the way movies hit the open market.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, five more theater chains have signed up for Paramount’s plan, which already has the support of AMC, one of the nation’s biggest conglomeration of theaters, and Canada’s Cineplex. The new partners include National Amusements, Alamo Drafthouse, iPic, Landmark Cinemas out of Canada, and Southern Theatres, based in New Orleans. These are all smaller companies, and big boys like Cinemark and Regal have yet to join the party, but together they represent almost 8000 screens, and this certainly illustrates a changing tide in the industry.
Last month we got news that Paramount had come to a bargain with AMC and Cineplex to let the studio take two of their smaller titles, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, both of which release in roughly 300 theaters this October, and make them available via digital video on demand services just 17 days after they finish their theatrical run.
Most movies are in theaters for a month to six weeks, with the most popular titles lasting as long as ten. What this new approach means is that, instead of waiting a minimum of three months—there’s an industry wide 90-day delay to encourage people to go to the theater—or even longer for a recent movie to hit the home video market, viewers could get them at home in as little as six or seven weeks after they debut. In exchange for permission to release these recent movies more quickly, Paramount will share a portion of the profits from the VOD sales with the participating theaters for up to 90 days after release.
This could be a huge benefit to smaller films. Blockbusters don’t have as much to worry about, but an indie film with a shorter theatrical run wants to capitalize on any momentum they can muster. Sometimes that 90 wait is enough to kill any word of mouth they generate. With less time, more of that remains intact, not to mention that films like this may not open in many markets, and this VOD model gives audiences outside of big cities the opportunity to see more recent releases. If this continues, this is likely where we will see the biggest impact.
Biggies like Regal and Cinemark, and others, have not signed on, though most in the industry have reportedly met with Paramount on the matter. Some seem opposed to this shift, while more appear to be waiting to see how this initial experiment goes before making the decision.
If this initial trial is successful, this could very well change the way the industry views the traditional theatrical release. At this point we don’t know where it will go, but it is definitely something many in the movie distribution game will be keeping an eye on and watching with great curiosity.