Why Audiences, And Actors, Should Embrace Video On Demand
The indie comedy Drinking Buddies has been available on demand for a month before its theatrical release this Friday, and one of its stars would not have it any other way.
Average evening in our apartment:
One of us: I want to go see a movie but I can't deal with the outside world. I just came dangerously close to committing manslaughter.
The other: Jesus.
One: How do you turn on the TV? This remote is like a goddamn rubik's cube.
The other: Were you always like this?
One: I KNOW. I'M BRAIN DAMAGED. IT WAS MADNESS OUT THERE.
The other: Here, just pick a movie to watch on demand.
One: Those movies are OUT? Wait, I just saw that trailer on BuzzFeed. There's tons of nudity and the actors learned SWEDISH. It's on TV already? But how?! This is wonderful news. How do you press play?
This conversation is happening right now in living rooms across the nation. Movie-loving people are discovering that somehow, while we were complaining about high ticket/candy/parking/babysitter prices, the cineplex crept into our homes, giving us more selection, for less money. We decide what time to watch, and what to eat while doing so. Best of all, we can't get arrested for indecent exposure. Naked breakfast showing of Lovelace? Don't mind if I do.
So why is there still a collective skepticism when it comes to films released on VOD and iTunes before a theatrical run?
There is no shortage of evidence outlining the benefits of this model, both as a profitable marketing campaign, and way to bring less commercial (better) films to everywhere between New York and Los Angeles. An Entertainment Weekly article from August 2012 says that, "Not only does VOD service over-busy cinephiles, it finally allows heartland audiences that have historically been underserved with independent film a chance to be the first to see the buzziest festival movies."
And yet, despite the evidence that this is a positive shift, we the people still hang onto the negative stigma of the dreaded straight-to-DVD punishment of the past.
I have received several of the following texts in slightly different wording: "Heyyyy I saw BUTTER and it was so gooood! Why did go straight to TV?? (sad face, head-scratching emoji)." I hold back from responding that in fact it did go to theaters, but probably made four cents because it was up against some ginormous 3D blockbuster guaranteed to induce epilepsy. Whereas on Netflix, millions of people have had the chance to see me strip and carve The Scarlet Letter out of, yes, butter.
It is understandable that change comes with the requisite amount of resistance, but when will we stop turning our noses up at this new way method of distribution, as it directly benefits the consumer?
For instance, our new film, Drinking Buddies — a simple story of ambiguously romantic friendships — has been released by Magnolia on VOD a month before a limited theatrical run. This means it can be enjoyed in whatever way you please: on your iPad under your desk at school; on your phone under the covers; or probably on your wrist watch, for all I know about technology. In my completely subjective opinion, it is a film best enjoyed with friends, and possibly beer, but the fabulous fact is that it is entirely up to you to decide how it is best, or most conveniently, ingested.
The point is, people will have the opportunity to see it, which wouldn't be the case if it were competing with summer tent poles at the multiplex. With this new model, Drinking Buddies can be seen by our friends in Kansas who otherwise would only hear about it long after its release.
There is also the compelling argument that this will allow for better films to be made. If the industry embraces this new model, distributors can buy riskier films, without having to worry about an expensive theatrical marketing campaign for a limited release. That means better stuff gets produced, and, so long as we reject the assumption that small-screen premiere equals failure, we can just sit back and press play.