The gambit of launching Tony Mahony and Angus Sampson’s dark comedy The Mule simultaneously on digital platforms in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada last Friday, bypassing cinemas, seems to be paying off.

Initial reports from iTunes and distributor eOne are very encouraging, according to Sampson, who served as one of the producers.

Consumers can buy the title on digital platforms for $24.99 and it will be available to rent online and on DVD and Blu-ray on December 3.

The caper starring Sampson as a naive guy who is caught with lethal narcotics hidden in his stomach and tries to withhold the evidence, literally, ranks as the most popular indie title on iTunes in Australia and in the US.

“In Australia iTunes says the film is doing three times better than its estimates, “Sampson tells IF. “EOne just told me the pre-orders for physical sales are five times better than they would have done normally.”

Sampson credits Tim Phillips, Screen Australia’s Melbourne-based senior manager in the interactive and multi-platform team, with encouraging him and exec producers Michele Bennett and Leigh Whannell to back their belief that going straight to digital platforms is a smarter strategy than risking P&A on a theatrical release then having to wait 120 days for the home entertainment release.

The production should qualify for the 40% producer offset as the producers demonstrated their original intention was to have the minimum required cinema exposure.

The LA-based Sampson was chuffed to be invited to host the AACTA awards luncheon in January.

He has three films set for release in 2015. He reprises his role as a paranormal investigator in his mate Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, he plays a villain in Wayne Hope’s Australian comedy Now Add Honey, and he’s a character named the Organic Mechanic in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Contractually he is not allowed to talk about Mad Max 4 but he describes the director as a "modern-day Leonardo da Vinci."

Asked if he would repeat the release strategy he employed on The Mule, he said, “If I produce another film I would, absolutely.”

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  1. The distribution approach taken with “The Mule” is a fantastic model for independent filmmakers. Given the demise of the traditional theatrical attendance along with the shrinking cable subscriptions, VOD and streaming will be the platform of choice. When exploring production efficiencies here in the United States; Colorado is a great location for filming projects because of the states’diverse topography.

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