Steven Soderbergh’s new movie debuts online. Shhh, it’s a secret

GirlfriendExperience The release of a new film from Steven Soderbergh should be a fairly big deal. As should the not-quite-original but still very rare decision to premiere a film online several weeks before it hits theaters.

Yet there’s no apparent promotion going on around “The Girlfriend Experience,” Soderbergh’s tittilating new feature about a high-end call girl involved with politicians that is became available to rent at Amazon.com last Thursday, three weeks before it’s in theaters. I only found out about it through a Gizmodo link.

It seems like a pretty big deal that this is the only place you can find the film. Yet there’s just one small link to it very far down Amazon’s video-on-demand section page (and nothing on the main home page). And with the exception of the words “pre-theatrical rental” in the title bar, the film page doesn’t even mention that the movie isn’t out in theaters (it even incorrectly states that the movie was released on Jan. 1).

Combine that with a higher-than-average $9.99 price to rent it for three days (understandable since it’s pre-release, but still higher than most of us are used to paying to rent a film for our computers or, if we have the right device, televisions) and it’s no surprise that the film is only #61 on Amazon’s charts and has exactly zero customer reviews.

It’s hard to understand what distributor Magnolia Films is thinking here. If you’re going to break the rules, piss of a bunch of big theater chains, and try to reshape the way entertainment is distributed, why not make a stink about it? There’s nothing worse than rebelling in a way that people don’t notice, or even care.

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  1. Johnny K says:

    addendum: This move might not be an attempt to shake up the industry as much as an easy way to make the film available to the myriad rottentomatoes critics and bloggers, who don’t need to be advertised to.

  2. Johnny K says:

    “Good reviews” used to be made of acclaim by a few key newspapers, but in the age of metacritic you need to have the favor of a large number of smaller critics and bloggers. These “Buzz-makers”, who will seek out the movie themselves, will help promote the film through their writing, giving Magnolia more bang for their buck when funding theatrical P&A.
    Indies have often relied on word-of-mouth and a long theatrical run in order to break even, since the P&A budgets are smaller. Theoretically, a distrib that can fuel more buzz in advance of release could generate the same amount of money in a shorter run. Or spend the same amount on a shorter but wider release.
    Just a thought.

  3. Jay says:

    It’s also on “On Demand” on Time Warner Cable. i watched it last weekend, good flick.

  4. C Farland says:

    Sasha Grey’s followers on Twitter were alerted on April 30th – the day the film became available on cable VOD. Look out! Advertising and publicity methods are shifting along with distribution.

  5. Dentler says:

    This is the way Magnolia releases many of its films now, with a simultaneous cable VOD and Amazon VOD preview period a few weeks ahead of theaters. This was the case with TWO LOVERS, THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD, and MUTANT CHRONICLES prior to THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. And, like they are on cable VOD, the films are priced at a premium because of the advanced availability. Many of the ads for GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE do promote that it is currently available on VOD.

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