Success stories for video-on-demand
Low-budget supernatural thriller “Dark Mirror” premiered at the New York Latino Film Fest in 2007. Since then, it hasn’t played in a single U.S. theater, but it’s become the top-selling title in IFC’s video-on-demand library, racking up an estimated 110,000-120,000 buys. (Steven Soderbergh’s double-feature “Che” beats it, with 150,000-200,000 purchases, but only because it sells in two parts.) Unspooling in IFC’s Festival Direct program — for films that get zero to little theatrical exposure — “Dark Mirror” was made available for $7 through all the major cable operators starting May 6. Originally slated to end its VOD run on Aug. 4, it was extended due to its popularity. The low-cost all-digital release will see husband-and-wife director Pablo Proenza and producer Erin Ploss-Campoamor, receive a tidy low-six-figure sum when all the accounting is in.
A Cannes ’08 world premiere, James Gray’s 2929-produced “Two Lovers” found little love with theatrical buyers, but as part of 2929 division Magnolia Pictures’ Ultra VOD program, the Joaquin Phoenix/ Gwyneth Paltrow starrer went on to become one of the distrib’s biggest successes. Initially made available Jan. 15, one month prior to the film’s theatrical release, for $10 a view, then for $7 during the film’s theatrical release, and for $5 thereafter, the film grossed $3.2 million theatrically and another “well over seven figures” through VOD, says Magnolia’s Eamonn Bowles. While cable operators will take less than 50% of the gross, according to Bowles, the company’s net VOD proceeds will be in the seven figures, besting the distrib’s theatrical net take on the title. “Two Lovers” also shipped “incredibly well” when it became available on DVD in late June, according to Bowles. He says the VOD run — with free promo ads on cable — actually helped fuel other ancillary outlets rather than cannibalized them.
The controversial 2007 Sundance title starring Dakota Fanning received a limited theatrical release in 2008 through Empire Film Group. Though “Hounddog’s” B.O. came in at less than $200,000, the VOD gross will amount to “numerous six figures,” says Nolan Gallagher, CEO of Gravitas Ventures, an outfit that licenses VOD content to cable operators. But Gallagher emphasizes that the percentage of overages to the filmmaker will be far higher on VOD than theatrical. Made available in May and part of Gravitas’ VOD output deal with Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, “Hounddog” played for a standard 90-day run, priced variously at $3.95 and $4.99, depending on the operator. Though it’s still too soon for producers to see proceeds, Gallagher says, the film should return a five-figure payday to the filmmakers.