Don't expect a film from a major studio to release day-and-date theatrically and on-demand anytime soon. The theatrical window has strong forces protecting it, and too many people are worried that change will drive people away from theatres forever. However, small distributors, who often screen their films in independent theatres, have been pursuing day-and-date VOD releases for a few years now. IFC, particularly, has aggressively pursued the on-demand strategy. Considering the distributor also owns theatres, it can't be all bad for the exhibition side of its business.
So it makes sense that the Magnolia release Marley, a documentary about the reggae musician Bob Marley, will be the first to be available for day-and-date rental on Facebook. Posters of the famous reggae musician are standard-issue in college dorms, and Facebook has a hold on the youth audience. College students are also less likely to have televisions, and be more open to streaming the film on their computer. Additionally, I bet there a few people who'd like to watch the documentary at home while imbibing in the substance for which the musician is famous--and brag about it on Facebook later. The Facebook rentals will be $6.99, compared to about $12 each for a movie ticket. For those that want to watch the movie on their television, on-demand will be an option too.
Ironically, even though such simultaneous releases shatter the theatrical window, they also profit from it. People won't pay $6.99 to rent a movie once it's on DVD, but they will pay that much to see a movie that's "only in theatres." Couldn't this system just fall apart if too many movies become available concurrently with their release? Simultaneous release can and will be destructive to the traditional theatrical model. Theatres provide something tangible--a big screen, comfy seats, a communal experience--in addition to the intangible. By seeing a movie "first," you get to be the one to talk about it to your friends first, and you won't be left out of the conversation. You also don't have to delay gratification--you can enjoy a "must-see" film right away. On-demand releases charge more because of the intangibles, not the tangibles. You can even add another intangible, "convenience," to the list as well, since parents of young children or people who live far away from movie theatres would get more value out of the experience. Simultaneous releases will only get more popular and continue to evolve. Will they be symbiotic with the theatrical model, or will they devour it?