Why Zachary Quinto Is Betting on On-Demand
The producer of “Margin Call” and “Breakup at a Wedding” says there’s plenty of business to be had by programming against studio tentpoles.
In addition to turning himself into Spock in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movies, actor Zachary Quinto has also transformed himself into a producer, making movies through his Before the Door production company. Both the company's first feature film, Margin Call, and its recent release, Breakup at a Wedding, had a significant VOD component to their release strategy -- something that Quinto says he won't rule out going forward.
Breakup at a Wedding -- which debuted on demand and on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and other digital platforms June 18 -- is a comedy about a couple who decide to end their engagement but go ahead with the ceremony, using the same sort of found-footage technique often seen in horror films. Quinto has known the film's director, Victor Quinaz, since their days at Carnegie Mellon, which Quinto attended with his Before the Door partners Corey Moosa and Neal Dodson.
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The nature of the cast and material, Quinto said, made the film seem best suited for digital distribution.
"You get into the budget of the film and the reach of the movie and the fact that many of the actors in this are up-and-coming, and for some of them, it's their first feature and there's no big box-office name to draw people into the theater, but there's very good quality material and really good acting, great humor and good heart, so we wanted it to reach as many people as we could and we felt like the VOD platform was the way to do that," Quinto said.
"This isn't a movie like Man of Steel or Star Trek that's a big tentpole action spectacle film, and it can be enjoyed just as well in the comfort of someone's home as it can be in the theater," he added.
Distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories agreed, according to co-president David Laub.
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"Our thinking was this is a movie that can be accessible and relatable to a lot of people. It's the kind of film that people would really enjoy via home viewing. It's a very comfortable, easy watch," he said.
Before the Door's first feature, Margin Call, was released day-and-date on demand and in theaters by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions. The film ended up grossing $19.5 million worldwide at the box office with an additional $5 million in revenue from digital platforms. With that film, Quinto said, the dual release strategy ended up benefiting the movie as a whole.
"We released Margin Call theatrically, but we also day-and-date released it on demand, and as a result of that, it generated a lot more revenue and did a lot more business," Quinto said. "As that word-of-mouth theatrically built, a lot more people were watching [Margin Call] on their televisions or on their computers."
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Breakup at a Wedding saw an initial burst in popularity, spending its first week on iTunes as one of the platform's top 40 films, according to Oscilloscope.
Quinto said that part of his company's willingness to release movies on demand comes from the fact that it doesn't have a deal with a studio that it has to honor, which has allowed the company to be more innovative in its approach to distribution.
"When you're tied into the studio structure as a production company, you don't have the luxury of experimenting or trying to anticipate or modulate release platforms. So for us, it's really about trying to be innovative and trying to anticipate ways in which movies are being released and people are watching movies, because it's not just about going to the theater anymore, and I think that's only going to continue," he said.
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And he acknowledges that since the ways people are consuming content are changing, his company wouldn't rule out digital distribution as at least part of its release strategy going forward.
"While I can't guarantee that every film we make will be released on VOD platforms, it's served ones we released so far, and if that continues to be the case, I imagine we'll continue to do it this way," Quinto said.
But he cautioned, "We have other, bigger movies along the way that won't fit into that model, and we are starting to have a little more studio affiliation on some of our projects, so distribution models are well intact in those scenarios, so we'll see how it plays out."
Still, Oscilloscope's one company that's willing to release at least some films solely via digital distribution.
"You know, theatrical distribution costs money and it's very labor intensive," Laub said. "So if there's a movie that doesn't make sense for that but we love [the movie] anyway and think it's something that could work, this allows us to approach it a little more differently. More and more consumers are looking toward these digital platforms … for content, and being able to provide the content they want to watch is certainly something we're attuned to."
Breakup at a Wedding is still available for purchase here. Watch a clip from the movie below.