Comedy earning coin on iTunes ahead of theatrical release
Debuting at No. 1 on iTunes’ movie rentals chart, Radius-TWC’s first pickup, “Bachelorette,” is already generating healthy revenues in advance of next month’s limited theatrical run.Since it became available via cable and digital VOD last Friday, the Leslye Headland-helmed laffer has grossed more than $500,000, a number comparable to what a similar independent title could expect to earn in a weekend in theaters. “This is just the first part of the plan,” said Tom Quinn, co-topper of Radius-TWC, the multiplatform distribution label founded in conjunction with the Weinstein Co. last year. “We’ve always maintained that the VOD launch is sort of a revenue-generating word of mouth screening program.” Quinn and co-head Jason Janego said the digital rollout strategy appeals to the young potential viewers for the “Bridesmaids”-esque comedy, who may be enticed into clicking “rent” for $9.99 when they see the familiar faces of Isla Fisher, Kirsten Dunst and “Bridesmaids” thesp Rebel Wilson. (The film was acquired after playing Sundance this year.) As Hollywood races to craft new distribution strategies, some involving overlapping windows, “Bachelorette” is an example of how some distribs are piecing together multiplatform releases to squeeze the maximum revenue from independent films. A number of early VOD releases, such as 2011’s “Margin Call,” have pulled in close to $5 million from cable and digital rentals, sometimes matching or exceeding the theatrical gross. “Our industry is still learning about what one can do in this space, what VOD means, what a multiplatform release is,” Quinn said. Radius-TWC began with the goal of targeting pics with theatrical rollouts on fewer than 500 screens. “Bachelorette” will launch at 60 locations across 20 markets on Sept. 7. The film is generating VOD revenue without the benefit of the promotion accompanying a bigscreen release. Films are generally not reviewed in mainstream media during early VOD releases, with many publications waiting for a theatrical release to assign reviewers. So Radius-TWC had to get creative in order to raise the pic’s profile before its debut on cable and digital VOD. The team began screening the film aggressively in June, starting with the Provincetown Film Festival, and put promotional materials on comedy website FunnyorDie.com, co-founded by “Bachelorette” production shingle Gary Sanchez. Quinn and Janego also mobilized the cast to promote the film in advance of its digital debut, including interacting with fans directly on Twitter. (The day it became available, Dunst tweeted, “I’m going to have a red carpet in my mom’s living room for the VOD premiere of #’Bachelorette.'”) “We have to work a lot harder to make sure these films find an audience,” Janego said. Radius-TWC also markets its titles through exclusive VOD campaigns that sometimes include promo spots or asking talent to promote a film on a cable operator’s VOD service. Radius-TWC plans to widen the company’s marketing strategy to include talkshows, bicoastal press junkets and magazine spreads. On Tuesday, co-star Wilson appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Relying largely on word of mouth fits with Radius-TWC’s strategy. “This is not a direct-to-VOD label,” Janego said. “We’re looking at films which we believe work theatrically in addition to working in the multiplatform space.” Though pics with successful early VOD bows are often genre or niche fare such as documentaries, “Bachelorette” shows that more mainstream fare can also benefit from an earlier VOD window. “We think this is more in line with what the audience for this movie wants,” Quinn said.