Is 2008 the Year of VOD?


For all of you too lazy to drive to the video store or too impatient to wait for your DVDs in the mail, 2008 is shaping up to be a banner year for you. The video-on-demand (VOD) space is heating up, which means you have one less reason to pry yourself off the couch.

The Wall Street Journal writes that as the cost of distributing films theatrically keeps rising, movies being bought up at festivals like Tribeca are actually going to VOD platforms. For example, Mark “online video gloom and doom” Cuban’s HDNet acquired the rights to the dark comedy Finding Amanda, starring Matthew Broderick, but will release it on VOD before putting it in theaters. At last year’s Cannes, IFC picked up seven films to fill its VOD pipeline. Lots of indie movies get small theatrical releases, and in fact most of the movies acquired from Tribeca last year went straight to DVD or cable. But the economics of widespread theatrical distribution don’t hold up any longer.

And VOD isn’t just important for the art house set, either. Big names have also jumped into the on-demand pool lately.

Time Warner has announced that all of its DVD titles will be released concurrently on VOD this year. Apple says it will offer movies for purchase on the same day they’re released on DVD (something Vudu has offered for a while). VOD will play an important distribution role for the new pay network being created by Viacom, Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM. And let’s not forget the on-demand capabilities that TV networks are providing, both through their own sites and through sites like Hulu.

But the studios aren’t offering up all those sweet shows because they like you — they see dollar signs. A recent survey by consulting firm Oliver Wyman predicted that by releasing content on VOD on the same day and date as DVDs and jacking up the rental prices to anywhere from $7 to $9, consumer spending could be boosted by $5 billion by 2010.

Image grabbed from the online trailer for “Finding Amanda.”


James Gardiner

The US seems to be a bit shielded by what is actually happening with Theatrical Movie Distribution around the world.

From what I see, the very powerful companies behind DCI are making sure nothing but the massively expensive and difficult to do DCI standard is the perceived only way forward for presenting low budget films.

The rest of the world, and specifically Australia, the market the company I work for sells non-DCI (And DCI) digital cinema services for.

The fact is, over here, most independent cinema owners have installed non-DCI playback systems. The distribution of Art house films to the non-Chain-exhibition-circuit, has been est. 80% digital. Mainly going to 1280×720 projections systems on smaller screens (Under 10 m). 1920×1080 are starting to pop up all over the place now (Ie installed in larger screens).

These are non-DCI projectors but cost 1/10th the price for 80% the quality. (Objective, main issue is the patrons don’t notice. They cannot tell the difference)

Comments I have heard form a number of Exhibitors.

“Non-DCI distribution has saved many independent Cinema owners from going out of business over this year of poor content.”

“It does not make sense to put in a DCI cinema if all you intent to run in that cinema is art house films.”

Other examples. Encoding DCI film in the US costs $12000usd. In Australia, encoding a non-DCI film is $2000aus ($1900usd)

The cinema industry has also officially adopted a encoding standard for non-DCI encoding recently.

The story goes on and on. If you don;t want to do film or DCI, it is VERY cost effective to distribute films. Just not in the US as the cinemas owners have been brainwashed into not accepting any alternatives.

But really, I feel the US will realize this soon, and as DCI equipment is designed NOT TO PLAY these non-DCI films, I expect DCI and a non-DCI player to start popping up in the bio boxes of the US. This will take of over the next year in the US. The savings and advantages cannot be ignored.


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