For many filmmakers, film festivals are a way to potentially secure distribution for their indie films. Maybe a very few will hit the jackpot and land a deal with a big studio. However, most deals are likely to incorporate a limited -- if any -- theatrical release, followed by DVD or increasingly, online distribution or video on demand (VOD). At a brunch hosted by Cinetic FilmBuff during Fantastic Fest, a bunch of film journalists gathered to discuss the future of VOD and alternate methods of distributing films.
The big question we discussed is: How do people watch movies these days? Movies that don't get theatrical distribution are often automatically considered second-tier, and the term "direct to DVD" is still derogatory. But many people do most of their movie viewing in their own homes, either on TV or on a computer or other device, like the iPhone. We watch movies on DVD, but also on cable, through VOD channels that are available through cable TV or online, and through online streaming sites, like Netflix Watch Instantly and Hulu. A month ago, I had the choice of watching World's Greatest Dad on Amazon VOD, or waiting a week to see it in the theater -- this model made it possible for people in any city, not just those getting a theatrical release -- to watch the movie.
Matt Dentler of Cinetic Media led the brunch discussion and provided some info about a VOD channel Cinetic has launched called FilmBuff, which also provides movies to online media providers like Hulu, Netflix and iTunes. I thought Cinetic focused on new indie films, but FilmBuff is also reviving older movies. For example, they'll soon release the original 1978 film The Inglorious Bastards (oh, it feels so good to spell that correctly), which will tie in nicely with Quentin Tarantino's recent film. They're also planning to make the 1974 classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre available for purchase via iTunes. However, Cinetic also continues to bring recent indies online like the documentary We Are Wizards, about fans of the Harry Potter series; and Richard Linklater's documentary about Longhorn baseball coach Augie Garrido, Inning by Inning, which played on ESPN and then went straight to DVD.
As someone whose TV setup includes a media computer and a Roku box, I watch a lot of movies and TV shows from online sources, whether they're free or available for rent/purchase. I don't have cable, so the more movies that are available this way, the better for me. And I don't think less of an indie film that made the festival rounds and ended up being available through VOD; it seems like a practical move these days. The Fantastic Fest screening of Trick'r'Treat drew a full house, and that movie will be released to DVD with no theatrical run. Does that make you less likely to want to check it out?