Huge news: Soderbergh is committing to simultaneous release across TV, DVD, and theaters. His next six movies will be released in theaters, on DVD, and on television (via Mark Cuban’s high def HDTV network) at the same time. The movies will be funded by Cuban, shown in Cuban’s Landmark Theaters chain, and the DVDs will be released through Cuban’s DVD label. So it’s all Cuban, all the time.
This is something Cuban’s wanted to do for a long time; he is betting heavily on digital distribution and he’s probably right. He built his corporate structure with exactly this kind of deal in mind; he owns a company at each level of the movie distribution chain, from production studio down to every consumer product distribution channel. He must be thrilled that he managed to get someone as prestigious as Soderbergh to buy into the concept. Chances are that Soderbergh will bring one of his star stable (Clooney, Roberts, or Damon) along for at least one of these six movies, which should do wonders for publicity.
It also means that Soderbergh won’t be making another blockbuster for a while. I wasn’t expecting Ocean’s 13 anyhow. According to the article, his next movie will be Bubble and will be a fairly experimental piece, at least in that there won’t be any professional actors. IMDB says Soderbergh’s also working on Che — Benicio del Toro, Javier Bardem, and Franka Potente? I’m so there. I can’t tell if Soderbergh is really directing it, though: some say it’s Terence Malick. The latest info says it’s Soderbergh. It’s gone back and forth a few times, I think.
He’s got The Good German coming up, as well, which has another fairly exciting cast. If I were speculating, I’d say that Che won’t be part of the six movie deal, but that The Good German might be. It’s all guesswork on my part, though.
So what are the implications beyond Soderbergh? Really depends on how this works out. I think those three markets are different enough not to cannibalize each other. I think that people who want to see movies in theaters will keep on doing so: The Big Sleep has been out on DVD for a while, but I still went to see it on the big screen. As long as directors keep directing with the big screen in mind, it won’t fade. Similarly, people who want to own the DVD are different from people who want to watch it once and move on with their lives, so HD TV and DVD don’t overlap too much.
On the other hand, the rental market starts looking different — not initially, but as HD TV and broadband penetrate the marketplace. Netflix has a lifespan; if I were an executive over there, I’d be figuring out how to get my brand name into the digital distribution space. Greencine is already thinking about it.
Hm. And you know, I wonder if we wouldn’t see more short term runs of movies, at least in the independent space. Your average art house theater schedules movies on a day to day basis, rather than on a week to week basis, because most people who want to see The Big Sleep in a theater will make it there in the first day or two it’s playing. I wouldn’t predict the end of week+ runs for independent films, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw fewer lengthy runs.
Cool experiment, in any case. I’m glad Cuban got Soderbergh to give it a try.