Studios trumpet how much money their films make in theaters on a weekly basis, but they tend to clam up when it comes to discussing the home entertainment business.
That’s slowly changing. Radius-TWC, the indie label behind “Snowpiercer,” has been reporting its digital and on-demand results alongside its box office revenue for over a year. It’s been joined by The Orchard, the studio behind the sex comedy “The Overnight” and the drug war documentary “Cartel Land.”
It reports that since being released a month ago, “The Overnight” had crossed $1 million in gross revenue on digital and cable platforms. The film, which stars Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling as a couple who get ensnared in a weird evening of sexually charged games with their neighbors, has made $1.2 million at the box office.
After a week on digital platforms, “Cartel Land” has generated $258,000. The film, which looks at vigilante groups on both sides of the Rio Grande as they respond to threats from violent cartels, was only available for sale, not rental, and did not appear on cable on-demand services.
Executives at the Orchard say they think it’s imperative that companies reveal how their films are performing on home entertainment platforms. They already shared data about the vampire comedy “What We Do in the Shadows” and think the candor is essential to the health of the business.
“We hear cries of despair from filmmakers and producers who feel they are flying blind and are not aware of how their films are performing in this space,” said Paul Davidson, senior vice president of film and television at the Orchard. “We hope more people join us in releasing this data. All boats rise at the end of the day.”
Digital sales and rentals are also serving as an important cushion at a time when the business for art house films is threatened. Last summer, many films that had been warmly received at the Sundance Film Festival, such as “The D-Train” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” were rejected by audiences. Davidson acknowledges that “The Overnight,” which the Orchard bought for $2 million at the festival, was not the hit the company had hoped for, even though he projects it will make money.
“Perhaps people are not leaving their homes to go see these films on the big screen, but when you look at the life cycle of some of these titles, audiences eventually catch up to them,” said Davidson.
Whereas distributors and theater owners split a film’s box office haul, studios keep between 60% to 70% of its digital and on-demand earnings, Davidson estimates. While art house films can get overshadowed by the latest studio releases when they are in theaters, they seem to benefit from their positioning on iTunes landing pages and other services.
For its first two weeks on iTunes, “The Ovenight” was the fourth-biggest selling title on the service despite the presences of several summer blockbusters. It was also the best-selling indie and the best-selling comedy.
“Cartel Land” made the top ten list on iTunes, debuting as the biggest documentary and indie release.
“Folks should sit up and take notice,” said Davidson. “There’s money to be made in this space.”