On Friday, people can see Piranha 3DD in theatres. Or they can just stay at home and stream it on Facebook, iTunes, Amazon, or through their TV with VOD. Small indie films, like those from IFC and Magnolia, have been releasing day-and-date on VOD for a few years now. Dimension Films' Piranha 3DD, however, is a follow-up to 2010's Piranha 3D, which released in over 2,000 theatres. The sequel will only open in 75 theatres, making it more of a niche release--and less likely to attract the ire of the exhibition industry. Normally, theatre chains protest if a distributor tries to quickly release a film on-demand. In fact, they successfully derailed a plan to make Tower Heist available on-demand for $59.99 shortly after its theatrical release in October of last year. With only 75 theatres to please, however, perhaps Dimension Films was able to find enough takers.
Does this encroach on the theatrical window, or does the very nature of a limited release make VOD less threatening? Many indie distributors have embraced the extra business they've received from VOD. They see VOD as a way to sustain the indie model.
Dimension Films' distribution plan feels like a halfway point between a straight-to-video release and a theatrical release. Piranha 3DD is kind of in the same category as those American Pie straight-to-video movies. They appeal to a young audience, and it's going to be a lot easier to rent an R movie on VOD than it will be to see one in theatres. The kitschiness of this tribute to B-movies may be better enjoyed in a home environment, where people can talk and be more rowdy than they would be (I hope) in a movie theatre.
Piranha 3DD's 3D will be available for some home markets, allowing people who have bought expensive 3D televisions to try out the 3D. There are also plans to make the film watchable in old-school 3D. People will receive instructions for how to make their own 3D glasses with one red eye window and one blue eye window.
Unfortunately for those on the outside, distributors have not been forthcoming about their revenue from on-demand. We'll all know if Piranha 3DD flops at the box office, but Dimension probably won't reveal whether they busted open a gold mine with their online/at-home distribution plan.