Direct-to-video (also known as direct-to-DVD, direct-to-iTunes, direct-to-digital, made-for-video, straight-to-video, and straight-to-DVD) is a term used to describe a film that has been released to the public on home video formats (historically VHS) without being released in film theaters or broadcast on television. The term is also at times used as a derogatory term for films or sequels of films that are of inferior quality or are not expected to find financial success. Direct-to-video releases have become something of a lifeline for independent filmmakers and smaller companies. Direct-to-iTunes has revolutionized the short film industry.
Reasons for releasing direct-to-video
A production studio may decide not to generally release a TV show or film for several possible reasons: poor quality, lack of support from a TV network, negative reviews, controversial nature, or a simple lack of general public interest. Studios, limited in the annual number of films to which they grant cinematic releases, may choose to pull the completed film from the theaters, or never exhibit it in theaters at all. Studios then generate additional revenue through video sales and rentals.
Direct-to-video releases have historically carried a stigma of lower technical or artistic quality than theatrical releases. Some studio films released direct-to-video are films which have been completed but were never released. This delay often occurs when a studio doubts a film's commercial prospects would justify a full cinema release, or because its "release window" has closed. A release window refers to a timely trend or personality, and missing that window of opportunity means a film, possibly rushed into production, failed to release before the trend faded. In film industry slang such films are referred to as having been "vaulted."
Direct-to-video releases can be done for films which cannot be shown theatrically due to controversial content, or because the cost involved in a theatrical release is beyond the releasing company. Almost all pornographic films are currently released direct-to-video.
Animated sequels and film-length episodes of animated series are also often released in this fashion. The Walt Disney Company began making sequels of most of its animated films for video release beginning with The Return of Jafar (the sequel to Aladdin) in 1994. Universal Studios also began their long line of The Land Before Time sequels that same year. In 2005, Fox released Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story for DVD and Universal Media Disc.
Studios may also release sequels or spin-offs to a successful live action film straight to DVD. These are commonly referred to as "cheapquels" due to the lack of quality and budget in comparison to the original. Examples are the Behind Enemy Lines series of films.
In the case of a TV show, low ratings may cause a network to cancel the show, possibly after having filmed an entire season and aired some episodes. If the show has a considerable fanbase, the studio may release un-aired episodes on video. Firefly is an example of a canceled show which became a successful cult hit on DVD. Occasionally outstanding DVD sales may revive a canceled show, as in the case of Family Guy. Originally canceled in 2002, the series was revived in 2005 due partly to its excellent DVD sales. Futurama is another example of a successful DVD run (along with strong fan support) that causes a network comeback.
The family film segment is a major part of direct-to-video sales. According to the LA Times,
"Often, the downfall of live-action family films at the box office is their strength on video. Their appeal is to families with young children, who may go to only a couple of movies per year but who will watch many videos multiple times. The teens and young adults who drive blockbuster box-office statistics stay away from family movies."
Direct-to-video films screened theatrically
Once in a while, a studio that makes a film that was prepared as a direct-to-video film will release it theatrically at the last minute due to the success of another film with a similar subject matter or an ultimate studio decision. The animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is an example of this. However, despite the film's critically acclaimed success, its box-office performance was very poor, which has been blamed on its last minute decision to be released theatrically. The film had much better commercial success in its subsequent home video releases. Another example which garnered a large cult following is the 2001 psychological thriller Donnie Darko, which was originally slated for a direct-to-video release. Doug's 1st Movie was also intended as a direct-to-video release, but due to the success of The Rugrats Movie, it went into the theaters in Spring 1999. While the film did poorly with critics, it was a moderate box-office success.
Other times, a direct-to-video film may get a limited theatrical screening in order to build excitement for the actual release of the video such as was done for 2010's Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and Planet Hulk.
Television spin-offs are animated or live action television series or made for television films which contain either characters or theme elements from an older series or film (Clerks: The Animated Series). While the most common examples of a television spin off are animated series there are also live action examples (Stargate: The Ark of Truth, Stargate: Continuum, and Babylon 5: The Lost Tales).
Some SpongeBob SquarePants DVD volumes contain episodes not yet aired in the United States. Certain special episodes of Pokémon were released directly on video such as Pikachu’s Winter Vacation. Some Disney Channel shows, such as That's So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Phil of the Future, and Lilo & Stitch: The Series have also had direct-to-video episodes. Some DVD volumes of The Land Before Time also contain episodes not yet aired in the United States or Canada.
As DVDs gradually replaced videocassettes, the term "direct-to-DVD" replaced "direct-to-video" in some instances. However, the word "video" does not necessarily refer to VHS cassettes. Many publications continue to use the term direct-to video for DVDs or Blu-ray Discs. The new term sometimes used is DVDP ("DVD Premiere"). Such films can cost as much as $20 million (about a third of the average cost of a Hollywood release) and feature actors like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes and Cuba Gooding Jr.. Salaries for such actors range from $2 to $4 million (Van Damme) to $4.5 to $10 million (Seagal). According to Variety, American Pie: Band Camp sold a million copies in one week, despite retaining only two actors from the original trilogy.
In recent years, DVD Premieres have become a substantial source of revenue for film studios. DVDPs have collectively grossed over $3 billion over the last few years, and have matured enough that DVDP divisions of studios now option their own films. Studios realized that DVDP films can be shot on a smaller budget, thus allowing studios larger profits with the combined revenues of home video sales and rentals, in addition to licensing films for television and for distribution abroad (where some DVDP films do see theatrical releases).
Distributing DVDPs is not a practice reserved solely for larger Hollywood studios. Several companies, such as The Asylum, MTI Home Video, and York Entertainment distribute DVDPs almost exclusively. The budgets for films distributed by these companies are even smaller than those of ones distributed by a larger studio, but these companies are still able to profit off their sales.
Direct-to-iTunes is a online distribution method that avoids all upfront DVD production, marketing and distribution costs as well as upfront cinema distribution and marketing costs. It has revolutionized short film distribution and on occasion has been used for feature length films. Apple distributes the film for 30% of the revenue, while an additional 10-15% may go to the person who formats the film for iTunes compatibility. The first independently produced feature length motion picture to pursue the direct-to-iTunes marketing scheme was Ed Burns' Purple Violets, which debuted on iTunes on November 20, 2007. It was the first feature length film to "premiere exclusively on iTunes". It was distributed exclusively on iTunes at a price of US$14.99 for a month before being made available through other distribution channels. The movie, which was produced at a cost of $4 million, had premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where it was reviewed positively, but only received modest distribution offers. At the time of the Purple Violets release, most studios were not distributing via iTunes early in the process and only Walt Disney Studios, which was the first movie studio to distribute via iTunes, was distributing at iTunes simultaneously with DVD distribution. It was not very common for consumers to make digital movie purchases at the time. The Polish brothers' 2011 For Lovers Only, which had virtually no production costs and was released to iTunes on July 12, is regarded as the first profitable feature length direct-to-iTunes product. The direct-to-iTunes method is also becoming common with both books and music.
When Purple Violets was released, several short films had already been distributed through iTunes. Previously, marketing of short films had been prohibitive. However, Apple distributed the February 25, 2007 79th Academy Awards nominees for the Animated Shorts, Live Action Shorts and Documentary Shorts as well as half of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival shorts, beginning a new era.
The V-Cinema and OVA markets in Japan
In Japan, direct-to-video titles referred to as "Original Video" (オリジナルビデオ) carry different connotations, being a niche product rather than a fallback. Despite having lower budgets than features intended for theater release, Japanese direct-to-video productions are rarely marred by the poor storyline and lower quality production often associated with the DTV market in the US. So-called V-Cinema has more respect from the public, and affection from film directors for the greater creative freedoms the medium allows. DTV releases are subject to fewer content restrictions and less creative dictates than other formats.
In the case of anime, this is called Original Video Animation (OVA or OAV), and their production values usually fall between those of television series and films. They are often used to tell stories too short to fill a full TV season, and were particularly common in the early 1990s. Sometimes OVAs garner enough interest to justify commissioning a full television series, such as Tenchi Muyo!, El Hazard, and Read or Die.
With the advent of the 13 episode season format, OVAs are less common now. This is not to say that they are non-existent: for example, the Japanese anime series Elfen Lied features 13 episodes and an OVA. The majority of OVAs released in today's market are usually continuations or reworkings of recently completed TV series. For instance, the DVD release of a TV series might include a bonus episode that was never broadcast as a sales hook.
- B film
- Home video
- List of Disney direct-to-video films
- Television film
- Category:Direct-to-video films for a list of Direct-to-video productions.
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- ^ Lerman, Laurence (September 17, 2001). "Independents' 'Bread and Butter'". Video Business 21 (38): Section: Video Premieres
- ^ Barlow, Aaron (2005). The DVD Revolution: Movies, Culture, and Technology. Praeger/Greenwood. pp. 19. ISBN 0-275-983-870. "Films that flop in theaters or which are never theatrically released can prove profitable through longer-term video and DVD sales."
- ^ Goodale, Gloria (October 23, 1998). "'Straight to Video' Picks up Steam". Christian Science Monitor
- ^ Bernstein, Adam (2004-12-12). "Silent Films Speak Loudly for Hughes". The Washington Post: pp. TVWeek; Y06.
- ^ a b "More Films Jump Straight to DVD". USA Today: pp. Section: Life pg. 03d. August 6, 2003
- ^ Cheapquel - Urbandictionary.com
- ^ Whedon: "This movie should not exist," he continues. "Failed TV shows don't get made into major motion pictures—unless the creator, the cast, and the fans believe beyond reason. ... It is, in an unprecedented sense, your movie."Russell, M.E. (June 24, 2006). "The Browncoats Rise Again". The Daily Standard. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/757fhfxg.asp. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- ^ Chonin, Neva (2005-06-08). "When Fox canceled 'Firefly,' it ignited an Internet fan base whose burning desire for more led to 'Serenity'". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/06/08/DDGQJD4D2O1.DTL&hw=firefly&sn=001&sc=1000. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- ^ Levin, Gary (March 24, 2004). "'Family Guy' un-canceled, thanks to DVD sales success". USAToday.com. http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2004-03-24-family-guy_x.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-03.
- ^ Cericola, Rachel (June 9, 2009). "'Futurama' Makes a Comeback!". TvFodder.com. http://www.tvfodder.com/archives/2009/06/futurama_makes.shtml. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- ^ Schneider, Michael (Fri., Jul. 31, 2009, 3:26pm PT). "'Futurama' cast returning for reboot". Variety @ Variety.com. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118006765.html?categoryid=14&cs=1. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- ^ Matzer, Marla (1997-04-16). "Direct-to-Video Family Films Are Hitting Home". Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1997-04-16/business/fi-49283_1_video-sales. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
- ^ Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths gets big-screen Premieres on Two Coasts - Comicmix.com - February 5, 2010
- ^ Berardinelli, James. "DVD's Scarlet Letter". http://www.reelviews.net/reelthoughts/july_2006.html#071806. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
- ^ For one example of many uses of the term, see "Paramount grows DVDP slate". http://www.videobusiness.com/article/CA6273122.html. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
- ^ a b c d DVD Exclusive Online. "Stars, Money Migrate To DVDP (archived)". Archived from the original on 2006-05-15. http://web.archive.org/web/20060515194442/http://www.dvdexclusive.com/article.asp?articleID=2259. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
- ^ Carl DiOrio (2004-03-23). "Average cost of a film: $102.9 million". Video Business Online. http://www.videobusiness.com/index.asp?layout=article&articleid=CA614600. Retrieved 2007-01-21. The figure cited in the title includes marketing costs; as of 2004 when the article was written, the average production cost was $63.8 million.
- ^ Variety.com (2005-12-29). "Spending on DVDs up 10%". http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117935319.html?categoryid=20&cs=1. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
- ^ a b c d e Halbfinger, David M. (2007-10-23). "Facing Competition, iTunes Revs Up Its Film Section". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/movies/23appl.html. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- ^ Graser, Marc (2007-10-25). "Ed Burns offers 'Violets' on iTunes: Feature to skip theatrical release". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117974768?refCatId=1009. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- ^ "Edward Burns - Movie Going Direct To Itunes". contactmusic.com. 2007-10-25. http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/story/movie-going-direct-to-itunes_1047915. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- ^ Kirsner, Scott (2007-11-02). "Studio's Digital Dilemma: Apple Calling Shots as Biz Tries To Control Market". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117975284?refCatId=1009. Retrieved 2011-08-26.
- ^ "Stana Katic and Mark Polish Interview about For Lovers Only on Bloomberg West". Bloomberg News. YouTube. 2011-08-24. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpMepR56kh4&feature=player_embedded. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- Mike Mayo (1997). VideoHound's Video Premieres: The Only Guide to Video Originals and Limited Releases. Visible Ink Press. pp. 431. ISBN 0787608254.
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