“What We Do in the Shadows,” a satirical vampire documentary from Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords” fame, sunk its teeth into $462,862 in its first week on-demand, Variety has learned exclusively.
Movie distributors frequently cite electronic sales and cable and digital rentals of their films as evidence that the home entertainment business is recovering from the collapse of the DVD market. However, data about this sector of the business is hard to come by, apart from a few public statements about the big numbers put up by films like “Margin Call” and “Arbitrage.”
With the exception of Radius-TWC, the company behind the on-demand breakout “Snowpiercer” which reports on-demand revenue on a weekly basis, most Hollywood players keep those statistics private.
“It’s the right thing to do, and it aligns with how we want to be transparent with the filmmakers we work with,” said Paul Davidson, senior vice president of film and television at the Orchard. “We want to work with more companies or services like Rentrak or Nielsen to share these numbers so we can provide a better overview of what the business is looking like.”
The Orchard made its name in the music industry and only got into the business of distributing films theatrically last year, but it has made a splash at recent festivals such as Sundance, acquiring buzzy films such as the sex comedy “The Overnight,” the Joe Swanberg dramedy “Digging for Fire” and the drug wars documentary “Cartel Land.”
“It makes less sense on extremely limited titles [to release the numbers] but for significant new releases, we will continue to make the numbers public,” said Davidson.
He noted that his company is pitching filmmakers on being more open and honest about the distribution process, giving them access to a dashboard that offers timely reporting on their films’ revenue, promotion and advertising spending, and other accounting rubrics.
“What We Do in the Shadows” was distributed theatrically by Unison Films and Paladin Pictures, racking up a healthy $3.3 million domestically since debuting in February. A lot of the credit for the strong box office and on-demand numbers has to do with Clement’s willingness to hawk the film on Twitter and to do press for the picture, said Davidson.
“Over the three months it was in theaters, they built great word of mouth around the movie,” he said. “They did a lot of great grassroots stuff and platformed it out in a lot of college and university towns.”
Since getting released on-demand and digitally on May 5, the film has been iTunes’ most popular comedy and horror film, its second-biggest indie title and the sixth top rented and sold movie among all releases, putting it in the company of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “American Sniper.”
It benefited from being named the Indie Spotlighted title this month across Time Warner Cable, raising its visibility among cable subscribers.
The film is renting for $5 on average and selling for $13 on average, with a third of all revenue coming from electronic purchases.
“The film is compulsively re-watchable, and we’re seeing a lot of folks want to own it,” said Davidson.