What we know is that, overall, Video On Demand (VOD) is a success. Millions of households are willing to pay $5 to watch a movie at home typically a couple of weeks before it’s available on DVD (or months before it’s available on Netflix). Now that video stores are all but obsolete, VOD (and often iTunes) offers the only real opportunity to see certain films. Moreover, given IFC’s obsession with the format, the channel must be raking it in.
How well it’s actually doing is something of a mystery. VOD grosses are almost impossible to find, and the scores of movies that debut first on VOD before a small limited release in theaters can’t be doing well during their box-office runs, either (I’ve yet to see a film released first on VOD later find success at the box office). I have found a couple of examples of box-office bombs that thrived on VOD, like Two Lovers, Steven Soderbergh’s Che, a low-budgeted supernatural thriller Dark Mirror and, strangely enough, Dakota Fanning’s Hounddog. But exact numbers for even those titles are not available. Moreover, the biggest successes overall on VOD are not the movies that debut there, but typically generic date movies like Date Night, The Blind Side, Couples Retreat, Hot Tub Time Machine and It’s Complicated (all of which actually performed better than Avatar on VOD). In other words, movies people want to see but not enough to actually go to theaters.
I’ve got a thousands questions about VOD, and if numbers were ever made available, I’d have a week’s worth of SRLs. But what I have noticed are the movie posters for films that debut first on VOD. They’re very reminiscent of those straight-to-DVD box covers of old, like Phantoms or Cruel Intentions 3. Straight to VOD movie posters have a very identifiable look that says, “Cheap.” It’s as though the same company — a local marketing firm in a mid-sized city in Middle America — is responsible for all VOD movie posters. It doesn’t matter how big the stars in the film are, the posters all have that cut-rate cheesy look about them. More times than not, you can actually identify movies that debut straight to VOD by their movie posters alone.
I find this curious because, given the relative lack of expense in creating a movie poster, you’d think that straight-to-VOD movies would want to create more identifiable posters, especially if it’s one of the biggest selling points. I wonder if there have been marketing studies done that demonstrate that these movie posters are successful because they elicit pity, “Oh, look at that cheesy movie poster. We should rent this movie to make it feel better.”
I don’t have any other explanation.
Here, by way of demonstration, are ten movies that either recently debuted on VOD or are set to debut on VOD in the near future. Some of them had or will have limited box-office runs after VOD. Notice how similarly cheesy they all are?