Snowpiercer looks like a badass movie. Like if Blade Runner had sex with Speed. The sci-fi film has great reviews, an intriguing plot about hardscrabble future people engaging in class warfare on a really fast cold-weather train, and Tilda Swinton. But with a limited theatrical release, it hasn't been very easy to see. That's about to change. Today, Snowpiercer will be available on video-on-demand, expanding its potential audience to millions of cable-subscribing Americans.
When movies go on demand, they usually go well after their theatrical release. Same-day releases are usually a strategy deployed by modest indie films, not big-budget action movies, so this is an unusual decision. Snowpiercer wasn't tanking at the box office by any stretch; even though it started on eight screens (yup, eight) and just went to 250 screens this past week, it was packing theaters. So why the decision to bring it to the small screen?
It's a gamble from the film's distributor, Radius. VOD Snowpiercer could cannibalize sales for theatrical release Snowpiercer. Radius-TWC president Tom Quinn explained the thinking behind it to the Los Angeles Times:
"The motto at Radius is 'a screen is a screen is a screen,' " Quinn said. "We're screen-agnostic, and as consumer habits change, film audiences today are becoming screen-promiscuous. Starting Friday, 85 million-plus consumers will have access to 'Snowpiercer' on VOD. The film will be more widely available than every other film on screen this weekend combined. One way or the other, we're going to find you somewhere."
Quinn doesn't think there's a one-size-fits-all approach to releasing movies, but he told Indiewire that the current system needed to get shaken up.
In the most constructive of industries, we would all sit down and work together — exhibitors, distributors, filmmakers — and we'd figure out how we all work together to maximize each of our pies. This is not how it's working now. But if you look at the numbers of how things are consumed, does "Captain America" really need 120 days before it's launched on DVD? The windowing is still a problem, I think. Listen, "20 Feet From Stardom" absolutely needs 120 days or more to maximize its theatrical gross. But does "Captain America" really need that? So look at the hard data and figure out how best to launch these movies. It's purely connected to the data, not something territorial.
If this model of distribution works for Snowpiercer, it will likely get adopted by other distribution companies... which means the annoying lag time between when your new favorite movie comes out in theaters and when it's available on DVD or Netflix may shrink considerably.
Check your cable to see if Snowpiercer pops up On Demand. If not, you can buy it on iTunes or Amazon for $14.99. Amazon also gives you the option to rent for $6.99. Whether you decide to see it in theaters or you prefer to watch train-based dystopian films in your underwear, here's the trailer: