Movie distribution generally follows relatively strict calendar windows. First releases go to the theaters, then, after a nice time lag, the DVD is issued. From there, TV, pay per view, hotels, airlines and the rest of the mix get their shot. Every now and then, the calendar gets thrown away for an experiment. Vudu is the latest beneficiary.
Today, coinciding with the DVD release of the Bourne Ultimatum, set top box video on demand provider Vudu will be making the film available in a downloadable HD version. The same day download breaks the calendar tradition and is characterized as a first of kind offering.
Much as it’s respected, the calendar for film distribution is not sacred. Despite pressures from the theater industry which seeks to protect box office revenue through exclusivity, experiments do happen on occasion. Disney’s Robert Iger has in the past called for compressing the release windows. Independents have run tests outright.
In early 2006, Steven Soderbergh released his experimental film Bubble to full theatrical release. On the same night, it was also broadcast on HDNet and four days later made it available as a DVD. The experiment wasn’t much of a success; only 32 theaters carried bubble at its widest release. In another experiment, IFC and Comcast struck a deal whereby Comcast would be able to show On-Demand pay per view showings of IFC movies on the same day they were released in theaters.
The most notably factor about the Universal and Vudu’s new experiment is the high profile film attached. The Bourne Ultimatum was a huge box office success. The film grossed $439m in worldwide box office receipts. Since leaving the theaters, it has been a hotly anticipated DVD issuance.
Vudu, which launched in September, has so far gotten only mixed reviews. The service requires customers buy a pricey set top box and maintain a fast internet connection in order to download movies for purchase or rental. Limited titles, bandwidth issues and high entry prices have left many critics unsatisfied. The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg wrote in his review “for me, the convenience of Vudu is no convenience at all.”
For Vudu, being associated with Bourne is significant marketing opportunity and chance to improve on those critical reviews. Working with Universal Pictures gives them a chance to promote both their general business line and HD films, which they’ve recently been promoting.
Mark Jung, former CEO of IGN and COO of Fox Interactive, joined Vudu as CEO in mid October. Since his appointment, Vudu has signed deals for HD content with Paramount, Lionsgate, and Universal.
The Bourne Ultimatum will be sold on Vudu for $24.99 in HD. The film will only be available for purchase, not rental.