Veronica Mars opened this weekend at number 10 at the box office with an impressive $2 million on only 291 theaters. It’s not enough yet for the film to turn a profit and spawn a sequel, but the box-office numbers are only part of the story. Chances are, the film performed nearly as well or even better on VOD, where it was released on the same day.
Unfortunately, we don’t know how well the movie did on VOD. In fact, we may never know. Why? Because VOD numbers are not made available to the public. Beyond a simple list of the ten best performing VOD titles each week (which is almost always comprised of only titles that were released to theaters weeks or months ago), Rentrak does not provide VOD figures, and they are very hard to come by.
We know that more and more indie titles are getting day and date releases (i.e., being released into theaters and on VOD on the same day, or on VOD a month ahead of their theatrical distribution), so we can assume that multiplatform releases have been successful, but we don’t really know how successful. Indiewire, actually, wrote a nice piece explaining why studios don’t release these numbers, if you’re curious, but it basically comes down to this: The studios don’t have to publish the numbers, so they don’t.
However, if you’re willing to spend an hour on Google, you can eventually track down not exact numbers in most cases, but a few success stories in the VOD market. In my research, I managed to find 10 titles that we know performed well on VOD.
All Good Things — It made only $500,000 in theaters, but the Ryan Gosling/Kirsten Dunst film made a whopping $6 million in VOD. (Source)
Arbitrage — Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere, apparently holds the record for the most VOD sales and rentals, racking up $12 million. Interestingly, it was directed by Nicholas Jarecki, while his brother, Eugene Jarecki, directed the above All Good Things.
Margin Call — The Kevin Spacey/Zachary Quinto movie that looks at an investment bank over a 24-hour period racked up $5.3 million at the box office, but before that, $5 million on VOD.
The Bachelorette — The movie, starring Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan and described as Bridesmaids crossed with The Hangover (but isn’t as good as either) had a $500,000 opening weekend on VOD on its way to more than $5 million in VOD revenue, in addition to another half million dollars in theaters. (Source)
Melancholia — The Lars von Trier film reportedly made $2 million in VOD, compared to the $3 million it made in theaters. (Source)
Drinking Buddies — The film starring Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, and Jake Johnson reportedly made its entire budget back on VOD and was one of Magnolia’s top three VOD performers of 2013.
Only God Forgives — The Ryan Gosling film, which reunited him with his Drive director, Nicolas Winding Refn, only made $1 million in theaters, but added another $2.4 million in VOD.
Lovelace — The Amanda Seyfried film about Deep Throat’s Linda Lovelace was the first movie in 2013 to break the top 10 in VOD on the same weekend it was released in theaters.
The Canyons — The low-budget Lindsay Lohan movie was said to have performed “extremely well” on VOD, and was in fact IFC’s top performing title in 2013.
Black Death — I’ve never even heard of this medieval Sean Bean film, but despite making only $22,000 in theaters, it amassed over $4 million on VOD. (Source)