When filmmakers start to go on the festival circuit and attend panels about distribution, a term that comes up a lot is “window-ing.” While the choice between drapes and blinds may come to mind at first, this term is something that is integral to the successful release of a film, and it is something that The Orchard Video team has to consider very thoughtfully when negotiating our deals.
What “windows” are in terms of a film release are periods of time in which certain rights are available exclusively. For example, in the traditional model, a feature film would have a 6-month window solely for the theatrical release, and then several more months solely for the broadcast, and then a separate window of time following that for physical DVD, with the final window of distribution being opened up to a digital release. In recent years, the trend has been a “day and date” model, in which the windows collapse.
Over the last year, a few independent films have made headlines, and a lot of money, using this model. This past fall, the indie flick Bachelorette made headlines when it’s VOD release — a full MONTH before the theatrical — shot to #1 on iTunes within 48 hours, and proceeded to make over $5.5 million on VOD — a massive amount of money compared to the $418,000 it earned in theaters. And as Entertainment Weekly pointed out, Bachelorette was hardly the first to succeed using this model: “Bachelorette is just the latest indie film to find great success in the burgeoning world of digital distribution. Movies like 2011′s Margin Call and 2010′s All Good Things have paved the way for a new release model in which films destined for theaters also debut via a cavalcade of on-demand outlets, from satellite and cable providers like DirecTV and Comcast to web-based companies like iTunes, Google, and Amazon.”
All of this is a great thing for The Orchard’s video business, which is increasingly encouraging filmmakers to collapse windows and do a day-and-date release. Recently, we signed an award-winning, audience-pleasing documentary called One Night Stand, a funny behind-the-scenes journey from the blank page to the live stage, as top Broadway and television writers, actors, and directors produce four original short musicals, all within 24 hours. It features hot TV actors like Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, 30 Rock‘s Cheyenne Jackson, and Rachel Dratch. On January 30th, the film will screen for one night only in over 450 theatres nationwide. A day later, we will make it available for pre-order on iTunes, using the momentum from the screening to maximize the iTunes sales and profile.
While theatrical is still a big sell for filmmakers, it is digital that has become a lucrative money-maker for them, with screenings generating press for the digital release. This puts The Orchard in a fantastic position as more and more filmmakers and sales agents recognize the advantage of collapsing the windows to maximize profit.