Written by Bianca Garner
DVDs are dead. Don’t believe me? Then think carefully about the last movie you saw. How did you view it? Was it in the cinema? At home on the TV on the catch up service? Or was it on your mobile phone, your I-pod or your tablet?
With the average person spending 8.5 hours staring at a screen it would seem that it makes logical sense for some of that time being spent to watch a film or catch up on the latest episode of House of Cards or getting your Breaking Bad fix. The way we watch our entertainment has drastically changed since the emergence of online streaming.
It’s not hard to see the appeal of video on demand services such as Netflix, I-tunes, blinkbox, Lovefilm, Now TV and more recently Amazon prime instant video, which all offer a wide range of films and television programmes to instantly view with the purchase of a monthly subscription of £5.99. These services can be used from the comfort of your home using your laptop or smart phone.
Increasingly the time frame between films being shown at the cinema to being available on video on demand services have gotten shorter, take for example Netflix which is currently showing Frances Ha which was released on the 6th January this year. Usually the DVD release of a film comes out 90 days after the film’s theatrical release with current VOD services like Netflix having to wait 28 days after the DVD release before being allowed to streaming the film. However it would seem that the cost of the service is what is most appealing when considering that there is no limit for how many films or television shows you can view on sites such as Netflix.
With the ever expanding popularity for video demand services and the decline of cinema attendance many independent film makers have embraced the new media platform, and are now bypassing theatrical release and DVD release in order to have their films only available for their audience from a video on demand website. This may be due to the reason that cinemas’ are increasingly dismissing indie pictures in order to show blockbusters which they know will get a wider audience. Often smaller films struggle to get a wide distribution throughout cinemas and therefore costs are kept low by the film going straight to DVD or online for viewers to download or stream.
In a recent interview actor Tim Roth discussed how his film “Broken” had a limited theatrical release but was also available on demand. He stated that “Our chance of getting into a theatre, especially if you’re a tiny budget film, is near impossible. The idea that you slide into a theatre nowadays, past “Iron Man” or “Despicable Me” or past these big budget movies, is a joke. It’s the hardest thing to do. You have to go the VOD route and with a limited theatrical release, if you’re lucky”
This may seem like the lazy option for indie film-makers, but it is also the most economical option with many uprising film-makers struggling to make a return on their films. Often independent films will make little impact at the box office however by using video on demand services film-makers will feel reassured that their film is out there for an audience to discover and enjoy.
In the past the stigma of having a film going “straight to DVD” would be like a noose around an actor or film-maker’s neck however mainstream actors have become more lenient and relaxed towards VOD. Recently the James Franco film “As I Lay Dying” by passed theatrical release and went straight to VOD, I-tunes and DVD. Other films such as “The Bachelorette” and “The Last days on Mars” were both shown on VOD services before being released in the cinema showing that film-makers are becoming more adventurous with the exhibition and distribution of their films.
However it is not all good news. NATO (the national association of theatre owners) have reacted quite badly with the growing success of video on demand services. NATO have argued that VOD has “fundamentally altered the economic relationship between exhibitors, film-makers and producers and has opened the door to driving out films that need time to develop in the cinema such as independent films and academy award nominated pictures.”
Some may argue that cinema owners and the film studios have killed the cinema by not fully embracing the change in the attitudes of the average film viewer. The increases of ticket prices and commensurable snacks have turned many cinema attendees off with the VOD services being more economical, more convenient and more flexible.
With Netflix financially backing television shows such as “Orange is the New Black” and Amazon producing “The Vikings” it won’t be long until we see new talent emerging from a whole different media platform hopefully through feature length films. Netlix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos has express his keenness to do the same for film in a similar fashion that Netflix has done so for television shows stating that “the model should extend pretty nicely to movies. Meaning, why not premiere movies on Netflix, the same day they’re opening in theatres? And not little movies — there’s a lot of ways, and lot of people to do that [already]. Why not big movies? Why not follow the consumers’ desire to watch things when they want?”
Originally published in 2014.