Arthouse films and the VoD dilemma

January 12th, 2013 - Graham Eley

It is never easy to distinguish between cyclical and structural market changes.  As the economic crisis continues to bite, sellers will inevitably face a reducing international market for arthouse films against the backdrop of lower acquisition budgets.  Theoretically, sales should begin to increase alongside any recovery, whenever that may be, but there is a suspicion within many parts of the arthouse sector that this will not materialise.  It derives from a post modern self-fulfilling prophesy and the reduced influence of auteur theory; manifesting itself at a practical level in the younger generations of cinema-goers being less inclined to follow a particular filmmaker.  Gone are the days, perhaps, where buyers can calculate minimum returns based on the filmmaker’s name other than at the elite end of the market.

 

Attention has now turned to simultaneous  theatrical and video-on-demand releasing as a means to counter the downturn.  On the face of it, this is the worst nightmare for cinephiles who, quite rightly, are quick to protest that feature films are, and should be made for the big screen.  It is one thing, they argue, for multi-platforms to off-set the irretrievable damage that piracy has done to DVD sales but we should retain a robust window system for the primary markets.  Great sentiments, but, to be realistic, filmmakers would prefer some kind of release to none at all.  And, for that matter, it remains to be seen how VoD and theatrical releases will interact with each other.  There is a strong belief amongst some industry insiders that the VoD market acts as an invaluable word of mouth for the theatrical release.  In other words, an appetite for arthouse films may remain but we need to find alternative ways of tapping into the market that does not rely on auteur status.

 

Indie specialist, Magnolia Pictures has been a key pioneer of multi-platform strategies since its day and date theatrical / VoD release of Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble five years ago.  It is now a standard model for Magnolia to screen films on cable TV during the first week of its theatrical release.

 

Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have had well documented success with Magnolia’s  ultra VoD model with their domestic release of J.C. Chandor’s financial crisis thriller,  Margin Call.  It grossed $5.8m theatrically and earned a similar amount from a simultaneous VoD release against an original outlay of approximately $1m for US rights.

 

Another possible trend may emerge from independent exhibitors, who should have their fingers on the pulse, acting as distributors collectively to negotiate directly with the sellers.  There is a real danger here, though, as illustrated by the current UK indie exhibition market, that it can vest too much control with too few, resulting in the exclusion of worthy titles on the ground of personal taste/privilege.ampicillin rash ampicillin toxicity ampicillin injection ampicillin interactions ampicillin for acne ampicillin usage ampicillin capsules

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