It used to be you knew what you were in for when a movie was not, as the trailers say, “only in theaters”: something way too highbrow or way too, well, too bad for a studio to put money behind a cinematic release.
This week, the movie Bachelorette—a raunchy dark comedy starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan as bridesmaids who are not as interested in the wedding as they are in the party that proceeds it—seems to have heralded the end of that era. The film premiered at Sundance this year but doesn’t come out in the U.S. until Sept. 7 for a limited release. Still, it’s already made more than a half a million dollars in video-on-demand and online rental formats. (Which is about as much as a decent indie opening weekend in theaters, notes Variety.) Since its release last Friday in the iTunes rental store, where it is available for $9.99, it reached No. 1 on the download charts—the first movie to ever do so prior to its theatrical release, according to Reuters.
Bachelorette’s distribution scheme comes courtesy of RADiUS, a Weinstein company created specifically to deal with new methods of releasing movies; even though this is the first RADiUS film, clearly the idea has legs. And although other movies have gone the iTunes/VOD route first—Dunst’s Melancholia did it last year—the success of Bachelorette is good news for mainstream-ish movies that people want to see but about which studios may be wary. According to Deadline, even though a ‘Ladies With A Hangover’ movie sounds appealing (especially post-Bridesmaids) and Sundance audiences loved Bachelorette, the characters were just too unsympathetic for the R-rated film to score a big traditional distribution deal.
Promotional help from the cast (for example, Rebel Wilson, who plays the unlucky bride, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel last night) helped the movie overcome any straight-to-not-quite-video stigma. It’s a good time in general to separate VOD releases from old-timey straight-to-video. Straight-to-video may soon be a thing of the past anyway: The Wrap reported this weekend that, because of low sales, Warner Bros. is dismantling its straight-to-video division. With other non-theatrical options on the rise, that’s bad news for anyone hoping for a sequel to the sequel to the sequel to Free Willy and pretty much no big deal for the rest of us.
Here is why I think these Radius-TWC heads Tom Quinn and Jason Janego will be interesting to watch as they get untracked heading Harvey Weinstein’s multi-platform releasing company. They’ve done a pre-theatrical release of their Sundance acquisition Bachelorette and it has hit #1 on the iTunes Top Movies chart, the first pre-theatrical release to do so. I saw the Leslye Headland-directed film at its Sundance premiere, and with a cast that included Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Rebel Wilson, James Marsden and Adam Scott, everyone thought it would be the female version of The Hangover. But in this film, about best friends whose night of prenuptial debauchery threatens to ruin their closest friend’s wedding, these chicks were so hard to love that many buyers walked away for fear of alienating audiences with a wide release that would have required a big P&A spend. Still, the film’s biting humor is good enough to find a niche adult audience, and Janego and Quinn have started to do this with the iTunes release. These days, indie distributors have to find resourceful ways to find audiences while saving the P&A, as Roadside did with Margin Call last year. This year it’s even tougher to rise above the clutter of all the VOD titles. The Radius guys seem to have found a way to do that, before the September 7 theatrical release. Indeed, by way of comparison, Quinn says Bachelorette‘s performance on VOD exceeds $500K — roughly the same super-successful traditional opening of Moonrise Kingdom, which opened in just 4 theaters and grossed $523K in its first three days. “That’s an incredible opening,” Quinn notes. “Bachelorette’s total performance on VOD exceeds that performance though. That’s a revelation.”
“We are beyond thrilled to hit this milestone,” Radius co-presidents Quinn and Janego said in a canned quote. “From day one, our goal has always been to bring content to viewers when, where and how they want to see it. Leslye has done a sensational job with Bachelorette in delivering a first rate crowd pleaser with a top notch cast that clearly resonates with audiences. This achievement on iTunes gives us terrific momentum”.
“Bachelorette,” a raunchy comedy from the Weinstein Company’s multi-platform distribution shingle RADiUS, has become the first pre-theatrical release to top the iTunes Top Movies chart, according to the company.
Directed by first-timer Leslye Headland, the comedy boasts an ensemble cast of well-known actors, including Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Rebel Wilson, James Marsden and Adam Scott.
Drawing comparisons to “Bridesmaids” and “The Hangover,” it depicts three best friends hell-bent on having perhaps too good of a time before their best friend’s wedding, threatening the nuptials in the process.
The film was a big hit at Sundance, where RADiUS bought the rights earlier this year.
Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and Jessica Elbaum are producers, through their Gary Sanchez Productions. BCDF Pictures’ Brice Del Farra, Claude Dal Farra and Lauren Munsch also produced.
“We are beyond thrilled to hit this milestone,” Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, co-presidents of RADiUS, said in a statement. “From day one, our goal has always been to bring content to viewers when, where and how they want to see it.”
“This achievement on iTunes gives us terrific momentum going into our September 7th theatrical release,” they added.
TWC founded RADiUS to release movies across many platforms, experimenting with the best combinations of distribution methods. Releasing a film on iTunes before its theatrical release is but one example.