Theatre owners and moviegoers take note: Bachelorette has earned a half-million dollars, and it hasn't even opened in theatres yet. The Sundance Film Festival-approved comedy has been available on VOD and iTunes since August 10th, but it won't reach theatres until September 7th. On iTunes, rentals cost $9.99, and the movie debuted at #1, a first for a VOD release.
Normally, distributors don't disclose how much they earn from VOD releases, though it can equal and even exceed the theatrical portion. However, Radius-TWC, a new VOD-focused section of The Weinstein Co., is likely releasing these figures to drum up more publicity for the movie when it hits theatres. In fact, the co-head of Radius, Tom Quinn, says just that, explaining that the company views VOD as a "revenue-generating word-of-mouth screening program." I think there's some truth to that. The Internet encourages impulse buys. Early adopters who looked at star Kirsten Dunst's Twitter, for example, would have been clued into the release and, if they rented it, could have tweeted their own recommendations to people who ended up seeing the raunchy comedy in either theatre or on VOD. Because the film was produced by Gary Sanchez Productions, a co-creator of FunnyorDie.com, the red-band trailer had prime placement on the site, making it very easy for people to click "buy," which is a lot easier than gathering up a group of friends to go to the movie theatre.
While early word-of-mouth can help drive a movie to a successful release in theatres, bad buzz can hurt. Among the "most helpful" comments on Bachelorette's iTunes rental page are a number of comments that say "bad Hangover," "rip-off of Bridesmaids," and "don't let the cast fool you." Of course, comments like ayshleyo3's "Great movie--many laughs along the way! I will probably go see this again in theatres with my girlfriends" even out the criticism.
Although a number of indies like IFC and Magnolia have long been in the VOD-theatrical combo game, The Weinstein Co. (and by extension Radius) is known for its marketing acumen. With their highly publicized release of the movie's success so far, they're showing they're a force in the VOD game, and I'm sure they'll have more tricks up their sleeve in capitalizing on the VOD-to-theatrical release plan.