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VOD is Still Just a Baby: Magnolia Pictures Owner Todd Wagner on the Future of Distribution

09.20.11 @ 9:17AM Tags : , ,

There’s a nice article at Deadline about Todd Wagner, who cofounded Magnolia Pictures with Mark Cuban (also pictured). Wagner, who says Magnolia is not for sale (despite testing the waters earlier this year), shared some numbers regarding Magnolia’s films and their success on VOD. Not to get ahead of myself, but when you’re spending every waking moment thinking about your film, you also tend to think about distribution in a theoretical way. Man-child would be a great day-and-date VOD candidate, and not just in the cable TV world but also in the Amazon, iTunes rental, Dynamo player kind of world. Here’s Wagner on VOD for independent films — which in Magnolia’s case oftentimes brought in several times more than did theatrical — and how it’s just getting started:

Let’s say you gross $40 million [in the theater], which is just huge. How many movie tickets did you sell? About 500,000. How many people are in this country? You start to realize, my god, we aren’t reaching anybody. Through technology, what if you create an impulse buy opportunity? You’re laying on your couch, flipping with your Comcast remote, and you see this new movie and say, I’d like to see that. One click and thank you very much, we just made $9.99. You reach the entire country, cable companies promote your product through running their own spots, there is a frictionless collections process, and most importantly, I don’t have to run a TV commercial trying to get you off your couch, into the car and into the theater. It’s terribly inefficient and ignores 99.9% of the population. You get to a certain age and just don’t go to the theater as much because of kids and other responsibilities. But you will spend a little extra to see something new that interests you. I believe there is a huge mass of movies this model makes sense for. And we’re only talking today, because things are going to change dramatically over the next 10 years.


This sounds an awful lot like my naive thoughts on the topic in 2008. Except Wagner actually knows what he’s talking about. I regard most of my post from two years ago to be wrong today: the sky was falling, and has since fallen on indie film, and I wrongly based my counter argument on the fallacious idea that people actually want to buy films, instead of just renting them. But the future of film is still “instant, digital gratification,” and Wagner’s quotes in the full article offers a realistic and insightful look at the future of film distribution from the perspective of an indie shingle.

Link: As Magnolia Turns 10, Owner Todd Wagner Says It’s Not For Sale And That VOD Strategy Is Thriving – Deadline

[via Ted Hope]

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  • Ok, so what happens when you’ve made your film?
    How do you go about getting it out through VOD?
    Do you send faceless e-mails or well what do you do?!

    I think that on demand is clearly the current trend, but it’s getting your movie or show or short onto the sites/cable. I think the common theme is we all want our work to be seen and we’d like to get paid where possible!

    • Nothing has changed…your film must have an impressive festival run, attract distributor in order to get vod placement

  • “Let’s say you gross $40 million [in the theater], which is just huge. How many movie tickets did you sell? About 500,000″

    my calculator says you’re paying a bit too much for your tickets

    • PouncedeLeon on 09.20.11 @ 11:57AM

      ha ha, yeah isn’t this about $80 per ticket? And that is just the profit that goes to the studios and not the theaters… Kind of hard to make your central point off of that kind of math…
      If you made only 2 bucks off of every ticket and made 40 million you’d still have 20 million viewers…

  • “They’ll do everything they can to stop it, but because of where I came from, I know that technology is like a freight train going down a mountain. You might slow it down and temporarily derail it through litigation and lobbying, but you cannot stop it”_wagner

  • Todd Wagner may be smart but he needs to check his math…fail. Also a lot will have to change b/c only 40% of the US has access to Broadband internet. http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-10454133-94.html

    • Broadband internet is a separate issue than having cable TV with On Demand though, right?

      There’s also an interesting tidbit about one filmmaker’s experience with Magnolia in this free book.