Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
EXCLUSIVE: Days after John Sloss began reporting real-time VOD grosses for the Disney-shot indie Escape From Tomorrow and challenged his peers to do the same, RADiUS-TWC co-heads Tom Quinn and Jason Janego have become the latest distributors to go the transparency route. Quinn and Janego have told me that their Keanu Reeves-directed martial arts film Man Of Tai Chi has grossed $1.5 million across digital, satellite and cable platforms ahead of today’s theatrical rollout.
The film began its Ultra-VOD window September 27, and Quinn and Janego were pleased with the results, while noting the film was not available on all satellite services or in hotels. “I’m pleased with that number out of the gate,” Quinn said. “I’m happy we’re able to make this film as widely available theatrically as possible and without VOD frankly we couldn’t do that. It just wouldn’t make sense financially.”
Sloss issued that rallying cry through his distribution label Producers Distribution Agency last weekend, with the idea that transparency can only help win converts to multi-platform releasing, which has become the life blood for an increasing number of prestige films.
“We’ve always lobbied for a more consistent system of reporting VOD publicly and have done what we can to encourage providers, reporters and folks like Rentrak to participate,” said Quinn. “While it hasn’t happened yet, I think we’re right on the cusp of having a weekly top 100 encompassing all on-demand performers. Seeing a few numbers here and there is a good start, but seeing them comparatively across a whole range of titles, and not just multi-platform launches, would be the ultimate goal. It’s the only way to truly give VOD context.” Quinn noted that Man Of Tai Chi hit No. 7 on Xbox, No. 10 on iTunes, and No. 15 on Cable VOD, saying it beat comparable titles such as Olympus Has Fallen, Pain & Gain, Oblivion and After Earth. “As I always say: a screen is a screen is a screen,” said Quinn. “At some point there’ll be one chart tallying units/admissions regardless of platform.”
Like Sloss, Quinn pointed out that for every dollar spent in the VOD/digital space, the percentage return is higher than theaters provide in the traditional revenue split system. VOD has anywhere from a 50%-75% return compared with 35%-50% for theatrical. Additionally, the spend for P&A ahead of a VOD release is far lower.
“The exclusive Ultra VOD window can be revenue driven word of mouth marketing leading up to a theatrical release,” said Quinn. “The caveat is that the genre audience is probably more apt to see a movie like this at home, but some avid fans will double dip. Overall on the theatrical side, there are very few successes for genre films like this. Ong-Bak and The Raid are frankly some of the very few bright spots over the last decade. On an indie-level-size release, 600 prints and under, they’re predominantly viewed in the home entertainment window: on VOD and DVD.” Quinn added that he believes The Raid might have performed even better overall had it received a multi-platform window.
“With our VOD gross we’re on target to match the same bottom line return in our first window (pre-DVD launch) as The Raid: Redemption, which grossed $4.1 million in a traditional theatrical window,” said Quinn. “Another parallel comp would be Ong-Bak, which grossed $4.5 million at the box office. Both are foreign-language action films and considered solid successes in the genre.”