Is Film Distribution About to Change for Good?
Imagine being able to see brand-new movies in the comfort of your own home without having to go to the movie theater. While you wouldn’t have the big screen, you’d be able to curl up on the couch with whatever food you want and pause the movie with impunity for refills or bathroom breaks.
This could be the potential direction the film industry heads next – and it’s been a long time coming.
Last year, director David Cross brought Hits, his first feature film, to the Sundance Movie festival and received plenty of offers to distribute it to theaters. However, Cross had different plans for sharing his movie with the world. He plans to distribute it via Bundles – the name given to a legitimate form of Torrent. This helps cut down on distribution costs while getting more money directly to the artists, rather than through the studios and then eventually getting back to the creative team.
We’ve already seen some success with this sort of idea. After Sony was hacked, there was plenty of controversy surrounding the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy The Interview, leading to it being pulled from most theaters shortly before its release. However, it was eventually made available online to rent or purchase, earning $31 million in sales already. Ignoring the remaining controversy surrounding the movie, it’s clear that going straight to the viewers can definitely work.
Even though Cross received many offers to distribute Hits, he wasn’t happy with any of them and decided to try out new method. The movie will be available for download as a Bundle. Viewers will be left with a pay-what-you-want system, leaving it up to the honor system to decide how much they think the movie is worth.
While Cross does want to have his film available online, he does also want it to be played in theaters. His current Kickstarter for the project is essentially a way to raise money so he can offer a pay-what-you-want system for the movie tickets as well. With incentives such as CDs from Cross’ personal collection, signed copies of his books, and clothes worn by celebrities, the campaign is certainly unique.
Allowing people to have the choice to watch movies online instead of going to theaters will definitely change the industry. At this point, most people have access to computers and have the ability to download movies within an hour. People value convenience, and what’s more convenient than having a new movie literally at your fingertips?
There’s a decent chance that Cross’ project won’t be a huge success; his film received several tepid reviews and is under-the-radar for the typical movie-goer. However, his idea is not without merit – after all, judging by the sales seen from The Interview, people will watch new movies online when given the option. Regardless, Cross is going against the norm and doing something revolutionary. Not only is he giving people the chance to download the film right away, he’s also allowing them to choose how much they’re willing to pay for it.
Is this going to turn the world of film distribution on its head? Time will tell – but it’s definitely a good start.