Future of movies is video on demand

There’s no doubt that the way we view movies is changing. Back in the golden days of Hollywood, people would go to opulent, one-screen theaters to see a movie that will play, not just for a few weeks, but for months, if not more.

Of course, this was a time before the home video market. In the mid-80s, the VCR became a popular way to make your own home video library and movies began to roll out on VHS to make that happen. Then DVD came along and now Blu-ray. But there’s another way to build a movie library, which is through digitally downloading a film.

I’m not a huge fan of the digital download. I like physical media.

But there’s an advantage to being able to buy movies through your computer: it’s opened a path for releasing movies to rent that are currently playing in theaters. Of course, this isn’t an entirely new practice. It’s been going on for a few years now and has been gaining popularity, as well it should. The only problem is that it’s not happening enough.

The fact of the matter is that no studio is going to allow its biggest summer blockbuster to be downloaded in the comfort of someone’s home. Studio heads want people to go to the cinema to see their movie and the possibility of piracy becomes a certainty. But for smaller films, a simultaneous release across different platforms is a near guarantee that more people will see a filmmaker’s movie.

The much publicized film, “The Canyons,” grossed less than $15,000 playing in one theater. That’s not bad for just one theater, but one theater can only hold so many people. With the film having been released through video on demand (VOD) the same day, the film was reported to have done very well, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, but exact numbers have not yet been released.

Other films, “V/H/S” and its sequel, as well as the Oscar-nominated “Margin Call” have taken the VOD route, with “Margin Call” reportedly having raked in $5 million through its VOD distribution. How are more studios not going this route?

I like to see movies in a theater as much as the next person, but more often than not, those movies just aren’t going to be coming to a theater near me anytime soon. What VOD offers is the ability to watch smaller, independent movies without having to travel 500 miles (likely more) to a theater that will be playing it.

Steven Spielberg was recently quoted as saying that going to the theater to see a movie will be akin to an event, with tickets costing $50 each. He may be right. “World War Z” had $50 “mega tickets” available at a few select theaters that included the chance to see the film early, a digital download of the movie when it becomes available on the home video market, as well items from the concession stand. Even with all those perks, I don’t think I’d be likely to buy a “mega ticket.” No, Spielberg might be wrong. If Netflix has taught us anything, it’s that people want to watch what they want when they want it. The studios embracing VOD might just be a way to reach a wider audience, as well as line their pockets with more cash.