Making the trek to the theater is still an old pastime of many movie fans, but in recent years the multiplex has lost a bit of its luster. Rising ticket prices, expensive concessions, and people on cell phones are just a few of the reasons why some are hesitant to go out and see a new release.
The increasing presence of streaming services like Netflix have something to do with it too, as they allow viewers to watch thousands of titles from the comfort of their own living room. Obviously, that does not include the most recent productions playing at your local theater - but that may be changing in the future.
THR is reporting that theater chains National Amusements, Southern Theatres, Alama Draft House Cinema, and Canada's Landmark Cinemas are among those teaming up with Paramount to take part in a radical new VOD release strategy. The plan is for the studio to put out their low-budget films Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (both expected to play in around 300 theaters) on digital and on-demand services just 17 days after their theatrical premieres. As per the agreement, Paramount will split the revenue from the VOD rentals between the participating theaters for 90 days.
If successful, this could drastically change the industry moving forward - especially when it comes to how "smaller" films are distributed. In an effort to encourage people to go to the movies, there is a standard 90-day delay between a film's theatrical release and when it can first be made available on home media. For indies and similar fare, this can be damaging, as they rely more on word-of-mouth than their tentpole counterparts to attract a larger audience. By the time those three months are up, the buzz surrounding a less high-profile work can cool; this would allow more people to see these films quickly.
It's worth pointing out that even though some of the larger chains like Regal and Cinemark are sitting on the sidelines, Paramount still has a strong number of supporters. There are seven participating groups that account for 30 percent of the U.S. and Canada marketshare, with a combined 670 locations and 8,000 screens. Should this prove to be a viable enterprise, that may encourage the bigger companies to join their competition so they don't miss out on extra money.
Monitoring this for the future, it will be interesting to see if studios decide to distribute their awards contenders like this. The 2015 Academy Awards telecast took a major ratings hit, in large part due to the fact that many of the Best Picture nominees were "smaller" movies that played in a limited number of theaters. There's enough proof out there that illustrates why VOD is the best method for these types of projects, and this seems like an ideal way to capitalize on the demand to see Oscar hopefuls during the awards season.
One thing's for sure, though. You can forget about seeing the latest exploits of Mission: Impossible's Ethan Hunt and his tentpole brethren on your big screen TV right away. This experiment applies only to low-budget films, as blockbusters have no trouble bringing people in and having long, fruitful theatrical runs. Word of this development makes Steven Spielberg and George Lucas seem prophetic, as their vision of Hollywood's future seems to be coming true before our eyes. But if more people get to see a film they'd otherwise have no chance to, it's all for the better.
Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension will hit theaters October 23, 2015; Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse on October 30, 2015 before it becomes available on VOD.