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DirecTV Turns Theatrical Window on Its Ear

17 Aug, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds in 'Mississippi Grind'

DirecTV continues to turn the bloated theatrical window on its ear. Unlike Netflix, which plans to bow original movies in select theaters day-and-date with streaming access, DirecTV is bowing movies via transactional video-on-demand up to six weeks ahead of the box office.

The latest film is the drama Mississippi Grind, staring Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds and Sienna Miller, which is now available to DirecTV subscribers for 72-hour rental for $12.99 in high-definition and $11.99 in standard-definition. The movie from A24 will release theatrically Sept. 25.

Other films released to date through DirecTV Cinema include Enemy, Life After Beth and Barely Lethal, among others.

The pre-box office release slate is the result of a partnership with producer A24 aimed at releasing films exclusively on the satellite TV operator 30 days prior to their theatrical debut.

The union provides national exposure for filmmakers to DirecTV's 20 million subscribers. The satellite operator was recently acquired by AT&T for $48.5 billion. Other films released to date through this deal include Revenge of the Green Dragons, executive produced by Martin Scorsese, The Captive, Son of a Gun, Cut Bank, Slow West and Dark Places.

While shortened windows or day-and-date releases aren’t new, DirecTV’s policy to release movies weeks before theatrical is unique and underscores new strategies pay-TV operators are employing to retain and lure subscribers in a rapidly changing entertainment landscape.

Netflix, which is the largest media disruptor, made waves when it said it would release a slate of feature films simultaneously with streaming. The strategy is the brainchild of CCO Ted Sarandos, who has long criticized theater operators’ three- to four-month exclusive on new theatrical releases as antiquated and anti-consumer.

In response, theater operators have vowed to boycott Netflix’s movies, which include initial release Beasts of No Nation with Idris Elba Oct. 16.

Regardless, the impact of the release pre-window strategy on the box office remains unclear in a market dictated by tentpole superhero/fantasy action movies.

Enemy with Jake Gyllenhaal generated $3.4 million at the global box office since its March 14 release. Other titles have registered scant ticket sales based on limited theatrical screens. Life After Beth has tallied $88,000 since Aug. 15, 2014; Barely Lethal earned $6,000; Slow West earned $229,000; and Dark Places earned $155,000.

Enemy was released at retail June 24, 2014, by Lionsgate.


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