New Zealand movie Sunday has been picked up by Apple Australia-NZ to feature on iTunes.
Its makers say they adopted a strategy to release the film through multiple platforms the same day (December 7), in part as a way to combat piracy.
The gambit attracted the attention of several big players, including Apple, which will offer Sunday to $3.99 to rent and $12.99 to purchase (if you're on iTunes or Apple TV don't look for it yet, but it will soon appear. "Because this all happened so fast Sunday is in the Apple queue and being fast-tracked so it will be up and available on iTunes by Sunday at the latest," spokeswoman Sarah McMullan tells NBR.)
The self-financed film's "world-first" multi-platform strategy will also see it released simultaneously across 20+ cinemas in NZ, television (Sky's Rialto Channel), the internet (with availability through Vimeo as well as iTunes), DVD, airlines (Jetstar and Air NZ) and via North American cinema service Tugg, through which fans can book a theatre and arrange their own screenings.
“Apple Australasia contacted us excited about our release strategy, and wanting to help us with marketing and selling the film on iTunes in New Zealand, Australia, and potentially beyond," director and producer Michelle Joy Lloyd says.
"Now we are working with film distribution company Madman Australia on the international iTunes release.
"The fact they came to us is a huge deal – that’s very rare for a completely self-funded independent film like ours."
Film makers have always favoured staggered release windows, with a movie first appearing in cinemas, then on disc or download, then pay TV (at which point it's often temporarily withdrawn from other channels) then free-to-air TV.
Historically, that's allowed them to milk maximum profit. But these days the strategy can backfire if frustrated customers turn to pirate channels, or mess up the regional strategy by subscribing to offshore video streaming sites.
For me, as a punter, I look forward to the day when every movie is available through the platform of my choosing on day one — whether it's an indie release or a blockbuster. I do dip into iTunes US from time to time (okay, practically every day) and it's been good to see it offering a growing number of movies while they're still in cinemas. Good luck to Sunday in joining that trend in North America.
In parallel, it's been good to see Quickflix and now Lightbox increasing their local content. That's the best way to compete against Netflix et al.
Sunday, by the way, is a relationship drama set in Christchurch a year after the quakes.
Its "in the vein of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset; a classic tale of two people whose lives intertwine with the city they inhabit," the official blurb says.
Good luck to them.
POSCRIPT: Why not Quickflix, or a similar streaming service?
"We looked at the music industry, which is usually a few steps ahead of film, and saw streaming services were not working for artists, so decided to focus our attention initially on rent and download to own," Sunday producer/director Michelle Joy Lloyd tells NBR.
"While we want to make the film easily accessible for customers (and we believe we have), we also believe it needs to be at a fair and reasonable price. That means for both the customer and the artist. We question whether SVOD services like Quickflix do benefit the artist, especially when free trials are offered. Without access to stats it is hard to know, In our own experience a lack of figures, and a reluctancey from the industry to share figures, has added to the difficulties with distributing an independent film .
"However, we will eventually release the film to SVOD [streaming video on-demand services, and find out. We hope to be proven wrong, because this is where it seems the industry is moving.
We are committed to sharing our learning’s with other independent filmmakers. We want to be transparent with the release, and help other filmmakers understand the new online space, and how an independent film can find its audience in this new landscape."