With movie cinemas around the world closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak, film studios are being left with two options.
Delay the release of the film for later in the year (or even next year) to ensure it is given the best chance of succeeding at the box office, or forgo the traditional route and release new titles onto streaming platforms with a premium price tag.
The latter approach is known as PVOD – Premium Video On Demand. Through delivering movies to home audiences within weeks of their release, as opposed to months, PVOD serves as a way to give consumers unprecedented access to cinematic titles.
So far this year, titles such as Birds of Prey, Bloodshot, Dolittle, The Gentlemen, and The Way Back have all been fast-tracked onto streaming services such as Amazon Prime.
NBCUniversal has even opted to release Trolls: World Tour in cinemas and on VOD concurrently, as a way to subsidise lost box office revenue.
Most of these titles cost between $20 and $30 – about the same as a box office ticket.
It is understood film studios usually pocket around 80 per cent of PVOD income, with the rest going to the streaming platform.
Speaking with B&T, Swinburne University senior lecturer in cinema and media studies Dr Liam Burke explained that although COVID-19 has accelerated the trend, it has been heading this way for some time.
“There has been a gradual shift over the past decade to digital distribution,” he said.
Burke pointed to Netflix releasing critically-acclaimed films such as The Irishman and Marriage Story within weeks of their theatrical release last year.
“They are Netflix movies that had a very short window in cinemas before they ended up on the streaming service.
“So I think [PVOD] is part of that trajectory and that trend obviously has been exacerbated or sped it up for a finite period of time.
“Whether at the end of this there is a larger desire to embrace the theatrical experience once more and get back out to the world or whether we’ve become more accustomed to watching things at home – it’s probably too early to tell.”
While some movies have opted for the PVOD option, there are a host of titles that have instead been delayed.
These include, Marvel’s , new James Bond title No Time to Die, Mulan, F9 and A Quiet Place Part 2.
Burke explained the decision on whether to delay or release straight to a streaming service is usually dependant on the budget a film has.
“Most big budget films have been postponed,” he said. “These films rely on a fairly successful theatrical release.
“But more modestly budgeted dramas, thrillers, horrors, science fiction films, will probably still be released during this time, but released directly to streaming services where they would have made the majority of their income anyway.”
Amazon declined to comment on the story.
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