Film company Roadside opens new "window" for films

Tue Jun 17, 2008 7:29pm EDT
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By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hoping to widen the market for a low-budget anti-war film, one distributor is testing a strategy of releasing "CSNY: Deja Vu," directed by rocker Neil Young, not just in theaters but on pay TV and the Internet on the same day.

Roadside Attractions, 40 percent-owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, is in "final negotiations" to release the film July 25 in theaters, on TV video-on-demand services and via Netflix Inc's "Watch Instantly" Web streaming, said Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside.

"It's a big experiment to release this film simultaneously on all these media, with big expectations for all of them," said Cohen of the film, which chronicles a 2006 tour of the Woodstock generation band of David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and Young against a backdrop of anti-Iraq-war protest.

This untraditional strategy may help Young's movie after several other anti-war films, like Universal Pictures' "The Kingdom" ($47 million U.S.) and Paramount's "Stop-Loss," failed to reach box office expectations, industry analysts said.

And faced with an ever swelling pipeline of Hollywood movies and stagnating theater attendance and DVD sales, Hollywood studios are mulling more and more experiments like this in hopes of finding ways to maximize audience exposure, technology and profits, industry sources said.

But to date, the major studios have only dabbled with changes to their release strategies, hesitant to threaten relationships with partners and abandon the old formula of distributing movies in staggered "windows" of opportunity -- first in theaters, then premium TV services, DVD and lastly, basic TV, generally speaking.

Major studios for the most part declined to comment, although opinions vary among executives and analysts as to when these companies, which spend upwards of $150 million to promote and release big budget films, will defy the system.

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said he believes the next two years could see change. "By 2010, there should be one major summer release in which a studio will break the mold and try simultaneous platforms," McQuivey said.   Continued...

<p>Canadian singer and director Neil Young addresses a news conference to present the film 'CSNY: Deja Vu' running at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 8, 2008. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke</p>