A movie called Bass Ackwards which was selected for Sundance this year will be living up to its name:
In an unprecedented distribution maneuver that will bypass theatrical and other traditional windows, the highly anticipated film, Bass Ackwards, which will have its World Premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, will be available nationwide one day after the festival closes. Through this unusual distribution deal with New York based New Video and Zipline Entertainment, Bass Ackwards will be available for purchase and download in tens of millions of homes via major digital retailers, cable VOD and DVD on demand beginning Monday, February 1, 2010. A full retail DVD release in the spring will include in-depth bonus material documenting the unique distribution strategy.
In some ways I love this. It’s a pre-emptive strike at all the distributors who are too scared of the current market to be making deals at Sundance. The movie looks like a labor of love that was shot on the cheap (it’s part of the new NEXT category) and those sort of movies usually have trouble getting big distribution deals. Instead of trying to use Sundance buzz to sell to distribs, filmmaker Linas Philips and his producers, Thomas Woodrow, Mark Duplass and Marian Koltai-Levine, are using the buzz to go straight to audiences.
Here’s why I’m worried:
That’s a graph of American consumer spending on movies in 2008 and 2009 that was in the Wall Street Journal. Which revenue streams would you rather be dipping your movie in? Ain’t VOD.
First of all, let’s concede that — especially for a small film — it costs more in marketing for theatrical than you make back. So, even if you cut off that big candy bar you’re left with two other attainable snack attacks: DVD rental and DVD sales.
Does that mean with this model the producers of Bass Ackwards shouldn’t be waiting till Spring to bring out the DVD?
This could be a model that will work in a few years, when VOD/Digital Download is stronger. I doubt it will work right now, at least not for films that have reasonable budgets they are trying to earn back. Or maybe I underestimate the attention bump Sundance publicity gives.
Either way, it’s a step towards the model of the future: upside-down distribution.