Straight-to-Store DVDs to Accompany Cinematic Release

A couple of years ago, I posited that some day we’d be able to buy the DVD version of a movie that we’d just seen in the theatre:

I wondered out loud “why don’t they just sell DVDs in the cinemas, so that you can buy them as you leave the theatre?” That idea is probably heretical to the industry, but I wonder if it might not prove more profitable in the end?

Let’s assume there are two kinds of DVD buyers–those who see the movies in the cinema, and those who don’t. The people who don’t watch the movie aren’t going to be affected–they’ll just get their DVD sooner. Those who do see the movie probably wouldn’t be too cannibalized–they’re coming for the experience of attending a cinema. Plus, the industry would enjoy a boon of impulse purchases from people leaving the show.

That hasn’t happened yet, but the New York Times reports on an interesting variation (registration required). Zack Snyder is directing the hotly-anticipated “Watchmen” for a March 2009 release. He’s directing another, related film:

The twist is that Mr. Snyder, known for turning the Spartan comic book series “300” into a global hit movie, is also directing a separate-but-related picture that Warner plans to distribute exclusively on DVD.

The second film, tentatively called “Tales of the Black Freighter,” follows a side “Watchmen” storyline about a shipwreck and will arrive in stores five days after the main movie rolls out in theaters. The DVD will also include a documentary-style film called “Under the Hood” that will delve into the characters’ backstories.

Of course, I can’t imagine that you’ll be able to buy this movie from the cinema itself. Even though that’s when you’re likeliest to buy, distributors would never let that happen.


  1. Snyder isn’t the first guy to try this sort of thing though his plan seems to be much more directly related to the film than others. The “Get Smart” production is apparently planning a direct to DVD release which will release close to the film’s premiere but which will feature side characters in a story that ties into the movie and the upcoming Batman film has a direct to DVD animated film (which, if I understand correctly, has no direct tie-in to the film).

    I like the idea of tie-in stories going direct to video, especially if they help build up momentum for the film and perhaps even let the fans explore more of the universe before the actual film sees the light of day on DVD months down the road. If nothing else, it keeps the fanbase busy and talking about the project for longer periods of time though with a film like “Watmen”, I doubt that will be a problem.

  2. I absolutely agree that you should be able to buy the DVDs in the theatres … I mean, here you’ve got people who have just paid money to watch the advertisement (the movie) so why not let them buy the product (the DVD).

    In fact, I’d even sell the DVDs and let the patrons use their tickets as discount coupons so they could buy the DVD at a discount. Yes, I know, some people would buy the DVD at a discount and then resell it but it would be only a (in the broad scheme of things) trivial number.

    For context: I’m a rarely-buy DVD buyer (maybe a dozen at most), I see most movies as DVD rentals and watch blockbusters in the theatre to get the “BIG screen” experience.

  3. Actually Darren, it has happened – sort of. The idea of being able to buy the movie you just watched on your way out of the theatre is something Mark Cuban talked about on his blog a couple years back, and has since then taken steps to make it happen. Cuban financed Steven Soderbergh’s low-budget movie Bubble, which was released in theatres, on DVD, and made available on Pay-Per-View on the same day.

    Regarding the NYTimes story, I think studios are trying some interesting things, but only the die-hard fans will pay any attention to a side project. I don’t think the casual moviegoers will have any interest in the straight-to-DVD release.

  4. I had a feeling you might have heard about it….

    I’m guessing that the failure of Bubble has nixed any future plans between Cuban and Soderbergh.

    I think they were on to something, though. Maybe if Cuban and Soderbergh tried it with a more mainstream offering they might have some luck.

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