Cuban upping ante on VOD

'Redacted' on-demand debut to precede plexes

If Mark Cuban has his way, Brian De Palma’s forthcoming Iraq war movie “Redacted” will be available to digital subscribers two or three weeks before the pic reaches the multiplexes.

The strategy is called Ultra HD Video on Demand. Cuban is offering it to DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Verizon and other cable-network distributors as a snob-appeal add-on to Cuban-financed and -distributed films that show up, for free, on his 24/7 HDNet Movies on the same day the pics open in theaters.

Right now, Cuban said in an email to Daily Variety, HDNet Films “has to get some more tests under our belt” before Ultra HD VOD goes out nationally to all of HDNet’s cable and satellite distributors. Cuban said he’s already participated in a few tests, declining to reveal the identity of the cable operator as proprietary information until the strategy is fully worked out.

But Cuban said the PPV retail price will range between $12.95 and $19.95, depending on the movie. Another possible offering is “Careless,” a caper movie set in 1960 London and starring Demi Moore and Michael Caine, to be released later this year through Cuban’s Magnolia Pictures.

Cable operators signing up for Ultra HD will have the option of allowing subscribers to burn the movie onto a DVD, and the cable ops could also stream it on the Internet or make it available for download from a website to a portable media player. “Since we own these movies,” Cuban said in the email, “the offer will be in standard def,” meaning that people who don’t own high-def TV sets will still be able to buy the pics.

The importance of this strategy can’t be overstated, he said. All of his clients, he continued, have stressed to him “that the ability to watch movies while they are in theaters is at the top of the requests in their research” from consumers. “Because we are the only studio to own a national theater,” he added, “we are in a unique position to do this.” Cuban owns Landmark Cinemas.

Cuban said his goal with Ultra HD is to “tilt the economics” so that each of the movies distributed by Magnolia Pictures makes about the same amount of money in each of the three platforms — theaters, TV and DVD — on which it’s simultaneously released.

But with Ultra HD, which schedules movies in advance of their theatrical release, the TV platform will become first among equals.

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