January 25, 2006
The Potential Effect of Soderbergh's Bubble on Film Distribution

While the entertainment business keeps its focus on the announcement of the CW Network I mentioned here late last night/early this morning, Ty Burr covers out another story with a potential effect on the entertainment industry, in particular film distributors, in today's Boston Globe.

Steven Soderbergh's new film Bubble will be released in theaters, on cable, and in video stores simultaneously on Friday.

What does this mean? Bubble isn't going to be that big of a film, but everyone is going to have their eyes on what this means for it. Will it garner more total interest by being available in so many media forms simultanously? How much will this damage theater distribution? At this point, it seems that the company may not have much to lose, but theater distributors will most definitely be hurt by it.

What is your all's take?

Be sure to check out the excellent article on Bubble here.



I've seen a preview for this particular film several times, but have yet to really figure out what it is about. However, the subject of this movie isn't really the issue.

The way I look at it is that this movie doesn't seem to be a movie that you absolutely must see in a theater. King Kong was a movie you really needed to see in the theater. DVD home viewers aren't going to have the same experience and in my opinion they really missed out.

This movie is one that doesn't beg you to come see in the theaters and it won't garner as much theatrical attention. When a borderline blockbuster does something like this, then we'll see where this concept stands.


I believe ultimately Mark Cuban's recent comments (which echo my own thoughts) will prove true. The format doesn't matter; it's the experience that's being sold. And in some ways, this film's success is already being affected by that very argument.

We can't predict what the impact of a simultaneous release will have on this or any film's success. However, for this one, because it will be the first and is garnering additional attention, we've already changed one possible outcome simply by observing to see what that outcome will be {apply famous principle here}. It might succeed now when it might have failed had it not been the first.

On January 26, 2006 at 10:19 PM, Sam Ford said:

Dustin, I think your point about theater distribution eventually being about the degree of theatricality of a movie is still a very important distinction. There are a lot of films that have the "big picture" experience wrapped up in them, and that's why certain films that have been released on DVD and play on television do well in re-releases at theaters from time-to-time...People want to experience Star Wars on the screen, and they see the pagentry of the viewing experience of The Rocky Horror Picture Show as a major part of the event. It's the "experience economy" that B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore write about in their book.

It will probably be quite a while before a major Hollywood blockbuster tries something like this, but Bubble will be an experiment that the entertainment world will be watching very closely.

This ties in to Csven's very astute comments. This is absolutely part of the experience, and being the first is part of the experience. People's decisions are going to be affected by the publicity and the knowledge that this is an experiment, and how might that affect things? It is very much all about the experience...

All eyes are going to be on Bubble over the next week to see what happens...And, as you mention, that is a success in itself.


Another aspect of this campaign is that Bubble seems to be a film that was inexpensive to make. So even poor performance in theaters will most likely make money for it. DVD sales for this movie should be high since it is the first film to be released on DVD the same day as its theatrical release.

That being said, from what I've gathered on the whole situation of DVD sales is that studios love DVDs because there are a lot of movie out there that people like myself call "renters". Typically that is due to a bad movie or worse a good movie with a bad or deceiving trailer.

So after a theatrical flop, the DVD will ultimately make the movie either successful or, at worst, a break even waste of time. And I'm sure the studios want to at least recuperate their investment as quickly as possible.

It seems to me that movie studios are looking for a magical time frame. How long do you wait before releasing the DVD? If you establish a track record of quickly releasing a DVD, theatrical sales might be hurt. But if your movie is a total theatrical flop (See Gigli) your DVD sales might not hit the homerun you need to at least break even on the project. And then you have to look at the time aspect of being able to put together a nice DVD with all of the cool extras that we love to see.

And since we are talking movies, a side note of my movie watching tendencies is that I typically see movies in the first 2 weeks or not at all in the theatres. This is because the film itself degrades and begins to look pretty terrible after being shown a couple of dozen times. DVD projectors will help people like myself check out a movie in its fourth or fifth week and producing a DVD is cheaper than printing out a half dozen reels of film for 2,000 screens.

And as far as the "experience economy" goes, DVD projectors will allow theatres to play anything their hearts desire and it will open up more independent film makers to release their films nation wide. Film is expensive, but I can cut high definition video on my $499 Mac mini right now and make a DVD.

But that's another topic all together.


Dustin said: "And as far as the "experience economy" goes, DVD projectors will allow theatres to play anything their hearts desire and it will open up more independent film makers to release their films nation wide. Film is expensive, but I can cut high definition video on my $499 Mac mini right now and make a DVD.

But that's another topic all together."

As is the ability to broadcast videogame tournaments for what might become "cyberathletic lan-style video events" held in digital theaters. Viewers can literally follow the action as it occurs or "be" one of the competitors.

Imagine a multiplex that assigns three screens to a tourney. One screen is the viewpoint of Player A. Screen two is the viewpoint of Player B. And screen three is a professional in-game video commentor who is a "Spectator" and follows the action and provides commentary.

Add on to the "box seating" where audience members have the ability to switch to any of these. Or even don VR Goggles!

And theater owner's are worried!?! Give me a break!