More big stars going straight to video

14 August, 2014 by Don Groves

Toni Collette, Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, James Franco and Morgan Freeman can all draw crowds but their latest films are not being released in cinemas in Australia.

Distributors say there are multiple factors which compel them to send films straight to DVD and VoD, not least when titles bomb in the US.


But the slashing of pay TV license fees for movies, rising marketing costs, the continued decline of the DVD market, the mainstream programming of chains such as Dendy and the proliferation of festivals and alternate content in cinemas are pushing many small to medium-size films out of cinemas.

Distributors calculate that it costs a minimum of $1.3 million to market a broad theatrical release, which means it will need to gross $4.5 million to break-even. Any less and the distributor loses money.

Universal Pictures International Australia MD Mike Baard says the fragmentation of audiences means distributors have to spend more now on marketing campaigns compared with the bygone era when the combination of free-to-air TV, radio, newspapers and outdoor reached 99% of the target audience.

On the plus side, Baard says the growth of electronic sell through and VoD platforms is giving distributors more opportunities to exploit their films.

“Direct-to-video used to be code for a failed theatrical film or not good enough for cinemas,” he says. “That’s no longer the case. Small, intimate dramas more easily convert to the home entertainment experience.”

Transmission decided against theatrical releases for Pascal Chaumeil’s A Long Way Down and Paul Haggis’ Third Person after both flopped at US cinemas this year.

Based on the best-selling novel by Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down stars Toni Collette, Pierce Brosnan, Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Rosamund Pike and Sam Neill in the saga of four strangers who meet on a roof top intending to jump off.

Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, James Franco, Olivia Wilde and Maria Bello star in Third Person, which follows the hidden connections between three men.

Roadshow opted to bypass cinemas with Dolphin Tale 2, a family film starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman and teenagers Nathan Gamble, Austin Stowell and Cozi Zuehlsdorff, which Warner Bros. is launching in the US on September 12. The sequel to Charles Martin Smith’s 2011 film Dolphin Tale features more true stories from Clearwater Marine Aquarium, including Winter and a baby dolphin.

The original went out wide in Australia but took just $1.3 million so Roadshow understandably is dubious about the sequel’s prospects.

Disney’s Million Dollar Arm, a sports drama about the two baseball pitchers who were the first Indian nationals ever to sign with an American sports club, has grossed more than $US36 million in the US.

But US sports-based movies rarely travel so Disney will release the film, which stars Jon Hamm as the agent who discovered the duo after they won a pitching contest on a reality show, direct to DVD/VoD in Australia.