Movies are traditionally distributed in theaters to reach the widest audience possible. A movie will be screened as long as tickets continue to sell, then it’s off to DVD racks. Contrary to that point, Ari Folman’s (Waltz with Bashir) new movie The Congress, a live-action/animated sci-fi feature starring Robin Wright (House of Cards), won’t be released until the end of August. But movie-goers can see it via VOD starting this weekend.
A trailer for The Congress markets itself as a Hollywood satire. Wright portrays a washed-up version of herself who digitally preserves her youthful likeness so a studio can continue to feature her in movies while she cares for her sick son. Co-starring is Harvey Keitel (Two Men in Town), Paul Giamatti (Saving Mr. Banks), and Jon Hamm (Mad Men).
The Congress premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, but the distributor Drafthouse Films will only release it via VOD on July 24. Drafthouse Films CEO Tom League explained the distribution model:
“IFC and Magnolia paved the way for this type of release and many of the other indie distributors are now selectively employing the strategy. It doesn’t work for every title, but I think it is a good way to go for indie films that have a strong cast and an audience that consumes on VOD platforms. When you simply don’t have the budget to mount a national campaign twice, once for theatrical and once again for digital/VOD, it helps to compress the windows so that your one press hit is effective in both spaces. An ultraVOD release undoubtedly hurts your theatrical revenue, but if we have confidence that the overall revenue will be greater, we will release it that way. Right now about a third of our titles are day and date or ultraVOD”.
Drafthouse Films’ once used this distribution model when they released the 2013 black comedy Cheap Thrills. That went on to have financial success on VOD and theatrically. And while League made a point of saying that model doesn’t work on for all movies, The Congress is an “intelligent, star-driven science fiction does well in the VOD space”.
The Congress is set to release in Los Angeles theaters on August 29 and in New York theaters on September 5.