Why Films Such as "Bel Ami" are Being Released on Demand

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Bel Ami is an upcoming film starring Robert Pattinson and Uma Thurman. Directed by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, it's based on the 1885 French novel of the same name by Guy de Maupassant.

Photo Credit: Optimum Releasing
May 15th, 2012

Why Films Such as "Bel Ami" are Being Released on Demand

While the film "Bel Ami" features an all-star cast including Robert Pattinson and Uma Thurman, it was not released in theaters. The decision to release the film straight to video raised a few eyebrows considering the cast. However, there may be a few reasons why "Bel Ami" went straight to video on demand.

One of the biggest reasons why "Bel Ami" may have been sent straight to video on demand and was not shown in theaters is due to the rising ticket prices at many movie theaters. Many people now only go to the movies when the film is considered a big release. Smaller films and independent films risk costing the movie studios money if the films fail to make a profit in theaters. "Bel Ami" is a period film and may not have had the type of storyline many moviegoers would have wanted to see. The movie studio that distributed the film may have ultimately realized that even with a well-known cast, it would not have been enough to drive sales at the theaters.

Another reason why the distributors of the film may have decided to release the movie on demand and not in theaters is due to the rating of the film. "Bel Ami" is rated as an R. While Robert Pattinson is a box office draw due to his fame stemming from "Twilight" and "Water for Elephants," many of his fans are too young to actually see an R-rated film. The suggestive scenes in the film only further narrow the demographic of people who would actually see the movie in theaters.

Many movie theaters in smaller towns or locations do not carry all films that are released. By releasing "Bel Ami" through video on demand, the distributors could reach a larger audience of people who may have wanted to see the film. For example, a small-town theater may not get a certain film because it will not be profitable for the theater, even if there are a small number of people in the area who do want to watch it. Releasing the film on demand allows the film to still be distributed to smaller towns and locations where there may only be a limited number of people who would watch the film.

The distributors of "Bel Ami" may have also decided to release the film on demand due to a higher earning potential. Typically, it is cheaper to release a film digitally rather than having a theater release. If a movie studio decided to release a film in theaters, the studio can expect to only keep about half of all ticket sales. However, when studios release films on demand, they can expect to keep as much as 80 percent of all sales.

While the price of a video on demand may be significantly cheaper than the full-price of a movie ticket, more people who wanted to watch the film may be more willing to actually purchase the film and watch it at home. The distributors of the film could have also considered the money lost on matinee showings of the movie at many theaters, as well. Many theaters offer cheaper matinee showings of films during the day to draw more customers into the theater. The prices at a matinee show may be cheaper than the amount of money someone would have spent purchasing the film on demand.

Many people who want to see a movie in theaters may not have the time, and most movie theaters are not open all the time. Instead of losing out on potential ticket sales because moviegoers are not available at the same time as the theaters are open, the movie studio may have opted to release "Bel Ami" on demand because it allowed all moviegoers who were interested in the movie the chance to watch it whenever it was convenient for them. If people who watched the movie enjoyed it, they may also be more willing to purchase the movie again on demand rather than having to find the time to go to the movies to see it a second time around.

Certain movie studios are also opting to release films first on demand and then in theaters. "Bel Ami" was first released on demand and may be released later in theaters, depending on how well the movie was perceived on demand, as well as how well it sold. Releasing the film through two media outlets ensures all moviegoers have the opportunity to see the film and also increases the overall revenue for the movie.