Django Unchained 3

In 2011, Universal’s first experiment with early VOD release did not go well. The studio wanted to make Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist available on demand just three weeks after its theatrical opening in two test markets, Atlanta and Portland. Exhibitors were none too pleased, threatening to boycott the film entirely. In the end, Universal backed down and scrapped their original plan.

But as long as there’s a market for premium home video options, Hollywood isn’t going to give up completely. Two studios, Disney and Sony, have quietly begun testing the waters, offering new releases at home while the films are still in theaters. At present, the experiment is only limited to South Korea — but it’s not tough to imagine studios trying to bring the model to the U.S. if it catches on abroad. Get the details after the jump.

The South Korean film market is the eighth largest in the world, but according to the WSJ (via Variety) suffers from such a serious piracy problem that some studios aren’t even bothering to try and enter the home video market there anymore. In an apparent effort to recapture some of that lost revenue, Sony and Disney tried releasing their titles (specifically Django Unchained, Brave, and Wreck-It Ralph) online and on cable VOD between three and five weeks after they landed in Korean cinemas. Meanwhile, other studios are following the trial closely to see what happens.

However, even if all goes well in South Korea, it’ll likely be some time before the early VOD model tales off in the U.S. Studios are intrigued by the strategy because it allows them to reach viewers where they are, make back some of the money they’re losing on declining DVD sales, and capitalize on the expensive marketing campaign for the theatrical release. But American exhibitors, who stand to lose the most if early VOD becomes popular, have steadfastly fought back against any effort to shrink the theatrical window.

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