Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday has a very good piece in today’s paper about video on demand. Like Ann, I would much rather see a movie in a theater. The experience of taking the actual journey to a special place away from the phone and other distractions of home and sharing those moments in the dark with others who are there at the same moment for the same purpose cannot be replicated by watching in your house while you do laundry and sort the mail. But like Hornaday, I love the availability of small movies by VOD that would not otherwise reach local theaters. As Morgan Spurlock told me when we spoke about his Comic-Con documentary:
With “Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” we had so much press leading up to that film, and the week before the movie opened I was on Conan, Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, all within ten days and then the movie opened on 18 screens. So the majority of the people in the United States couldn’t even see the movie. I’m a film-maker, and I have yet to have a movie show in my own home town in West Virginia where I grew up. There’s got to be a better way—especially when it comes to documentaries.
If you’re not making a big, giant, huge mainstream Hunger-Games-esque film that’s going out on 3000 screens, how do you start to compete with those movies? For me, the best way to compete is by collapsing the window, giving anyone across the country who wants to see this film access to it immediately. You know, there’s a great line in ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” “In today’s world, in today’s media landscape, there is a cultural decay rate of ideas that is about two weeks.” So you basically have two weeks to capitalize on whatever surge you have around your moment, your film, your music, whatever it is, get people to get excited about it, to see it, to consume it, to share it—because really soon, something else will jump in there—there’ll be another movie, there’ll be something else that’s the conversation driver. So, for me this weekend, I just wanted to make sure that anyone who wanted to see this film could see it.
And as Hornaday puts it:
[W]here low-budget independent films huddle for warmth against encroaching extinction, the simultaneous release of films in theaters and on VOD — rather than the traditional months-long window between the two — has proved to be a sustaining, even crucial survival strategy.