The Biz: Coming Soon to a TV Near You

TV Guide
Richard Gere | Photo Credits: Lionsgate Films
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Richard Gere | Photo Credits: Lionsgate Films

This may go down as the year movie studios discovered that there's no place like home for watching some first-run films.

In Demand, a major distributor of video-on-demand services for cable systems, says 2012 saw a 21 percent increase in the number of movies it offered subscribers on the same day or before they played in theaters. Thirteen distributors now supply new films to VOD and online streaming services, more than double the number in 2010, when indie distributors like IFC and Magnolia were leading the trend.

Viewers still have to wait several months for blockbuster releases to be available on VOD and DVD, but concurrent theater and VOD release dates are seen as a boon to smaller budget and art house films that might otherwise not attract a wide audience. One movie that benefited from the plan is Lionsgate's Arbitrage, a Wall Street thriller starring Golden Globe nominee Richard Gere that is expected to gross as much as $12 million from VOD and $7.8 million at the box office — believed to be a record for a concurrent release.

Writer-director-producer-star Edward Burns has been touting the iTunes and VOD availability of his new Tribeca Film drama The Fitzgerald Family Christmas during his promotional tour for its theatrical run. "It doesn't matter if you are hundreds of miles away from the nearest art house," Burns tells TV Guide Magazine. "If it's on VOD, you can get The Fitzgerald Family Christmas right in your own home the day it's released."

He's said the new revenue streams allows him to make a profit on his movies for the first time since The Brothers McMullen in 1995. "Of course, every filmmaker wants to see their film play on the big screen," Burns says. "But for the films that I make, a home screen is a great option, and the quality of televisions on the market is just insane. Since my films don't have crazy special effects, the at-home audience is experiencing the same film as those who watch in the theater."

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