Jury's out on 'Piranha 3DD' experiment

The Weinstein Co.’s quiet rollout of “Piranha 3DD,” the first title under new banner Radius TWC, may have made a smaller splash than its predecessor’s $10.1 million bow in 2010, but the whole story hasn’t been told yet.

TWC head of distribution Erik Lomis said the banner is a solution for monetizing smaller-budget features in light of skyrocketing marketing costs. As a result, films under the banner open in select markets with day-and-date national rollouts on VOD. And while this strategy isn’t new, it is rare for genre films and even rarer for a distributor as big as TWC, not to mention a 3D title that can be streamed in the stereoscopic format.

“Piranha 3DD” opened in 86 theaters for a three-day take of $179,000, or a per screen average of $2,000, or half that of the original. “Piranha 3D” went on to gross $83 million worldwide.

However, while complete VOD numbers on the film will not be available for about two weeks, Lomis said early indications have been encouraging. “Theatrical’s only one piece of the puzzle. We didn’t do that well theatrically, and I don’t think we were expecting to do that well,” he said. “The theatrical performance this weekend was in line with our expectations.”

In all, the release amounts to an experiment in the viability of a new distribution model that emphasizes audience engagement over B.O. totals, but on a scale that doesn’t send exhibitors up in arms like Universal’s flirtation with early VOD on “Tower Heist.” As to whether the model will work for the fledgling banner, the jury’s out.

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