FIRST LOOK: Never Rarely Sometimes Always (VOD)

The number of new(er) releases hitting VOD is multiplying and growing. Check out the list above in red with 8 of 9 titles released on various streaming channels.

As for the “limited” theater releases that I’ve remarked before are (too often) difficult to locate, maybe when the pandemic passes, we’ll be in a world where “limited” means that it is simultaneously available on VOD, preferably at a reasonable rental price.

But back to Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” won prizes in Sundance and Berlin before Focus Features released it in early March — days before theaters closed nationwide. The Universal subsidiary is now following a strategy it applied to movies like “The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt” by pushing “Never Rarely” into VOD on Friday.

How the Producers of Never Rarely Sometimes Always Made Peace With VOD | IndieWire

I vaguely remember this movie, and it wasn’t part of our Coming to theaters in March 2020 list, so it was probably showing as a limited release.

Our coming soon lists are so jacked up right now. April 2020 is a real mess with maybe two of the proposed 11 movies actually being released as planned. I don’t know what the story is with My Spy, that movie has moved around multiple times and it’s showing at MovieInsider as still being released (somehow) in April, but that is probably inaccurate and it’s been delayed or moved again.

Bottom line, it’s not a good time to be covering movies released in theaters, because there are almost none being released. Out of necessity, I’m spending more time on streaming movies & TV, plus news, opinion and research posts where the information won’t change tomorrow, next week or month.

When theaters open again, we’ll go back to regular programming.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always will be available on VOD April 3, 2020.

Kudos to Anna Kendrick Promotion of Trolls World Tour as VOD Home Release

As most of us know by now, there is only one new wide release movie being released in these troubled times.

It’s called Trolls World Tour by Universal (see: Universal will break theatrical window with Trolls World Tour available for same day streaming).

I’m looking very forward to seeing this and yes, I’ll be paying the (presumably) $19.99 VOD to rent this coming weekend.

Remember that, moviegoers, because the studios could — and below I will argue should — release more movies intended for theaters while so many are home ready to watch them.

Check out what Anna Kendrick has to say on her official Twitter account about the new Trolls movie.

This. How to promote your upcoming movie. Every actor/actress should follow Anna Kendrick’s promotion playbook. If you can’t say something positive, then say nothing, especially in these times.

The actress makes it pretty clear that she’d prefer fans see the movie in the safety of their own homes. That sentiment seems to be at the heart of why studios are making decisions like this — and they can’t be easy decisions to make.

How Anna Kendrick Feels About Trolls World Tour Hitting Homes With No Theater Release – CINEMABLEND

Listen up, Tim Miller, Elizabeth Banks and others who didn’t know how to promote their new movies (see: How To Better Promote Your Next Films, Elizabeth Banks and Tim Miller), because this is the type of promotion that moviegoers want to see from creative people. We don’t want to hear your political or social views. We just want to hear you excited about however the movie is being released.

Kendrick could have gone into Debbie Downer mode and bummed us all out that the movie isn’t showing on the big screen, but no, she’s smarter than that. She realizes it’s nobody’s fault right now the theaters are closed. She’s excited that moviegoers can see it somewhere, somehow, someway. Huge props to her for the great attitude.

Should More New Wide Release Theater Movies Be Available on VOD?

Yes. Not the big tentpole movies, no, I understand delaying those because of the big budgets.

Go to Netflix or other streaming channels and cut deals, like: Paramount sharing The Lovebirds on Netflix, skipping theatrical release

(only problem with there is Netflix isn’t saying when this is being released)

No Time To Die should have been delayed, Fast & Furious, yes, Black Widow, yes. I don’t understand why A Quiet Place Part II was delayed. It wasn’t a large budget movie, at least as far as I know. It’s a sequel and could have tested the VOD marketplace as Trolls is going to do. It’s the perfect middle to lower tier movie with some good marketing juice to see how direct to home marketing would play out.

Also, there are a lot of movie fans out here hungry for new movies to watch. Fill the need. Stop saying you “have” to release on a big screen. You have a freaking captive market at home, a large market waiting right now. Delaying for months or a year or more if you don’t have a ridiculous budget (looking at you, $100 million budget club) is not servicing your customers.

In most businesses, this type of behavior is financial suicide. Take care of your customers, give them what they want.

Independent Theaters Testing Virtual Screenings

Before you get super excited by the words “virtual theater” (like me), as some are billing it, the reality is it is essentially $12 VOD for movies that should be showing in independent theaters. If they weren’t closed.

The title to the theater shown above, “virtual screenings”, is more apt.

Though some “virtual theater” screenings began rolling out around March 20, the weekend of March 27 has the first full crop of movies available to watch, from slick noir to sardonic comedies to repertory titles from the 1970s to Oscar nominees. If you’re looking to see something new and exciting this weekend — and support independent theater at the same time — then here are 15 options available right now.

15 movies you can buy a “virtual ticket” to this weekend – Vox

The problem with this idea is it goes only part of the way. It’s not as virtual as even very dated tech currently currently allows.

What about an Oculus virtual reality app version of your theaters? Oculus/Facebook where are you right now? See: Watching Movies on Oculus Go

What these independent theater owners should be doing is personalizing the movie watching experience. How about scheduled watch-a-longs where a host has a chat during the virtual screening (see: 2nd Annual Halloween Mystery Movie Event Features 4 Shudder Movies)? Or maybe, the ability for a 3D virtual panoramic tour of your independent theater, choose your seat and then the movie plays, a la Second Life theaters.

Virtual Reality 3D Theaters emulate the social experience of the movie theater

The other part of this that is undesirable is the theater owners should already have been doing this. Waiting for the pandemic makes the “virtual screening” pitch seem — and probably is — desperate. If they were embracing virtual reality all along, including handicapped and disabled patrons who cannot as easily attend regular screenings, then this promotion of their virtual theater now would be more genuine and worthwhile. They would be supporting those moviegoers who wanted to come more often to their theater but weren’t as easily able to do so.

So, that’s why I think simply making movies available for VOD at $12 a rental and labeling them “virtual screening” just doesn’t go far enough.

I’m not a theater owner, but giving all of them this free advice: start investigating this tech and embracing it into your business ASAP. Make your patrons feel like the theater is still open, the lifeblood is there, the only thing missing are brand new wide release movies (and you should be plotting and planning to get those pictures screening — like Trolls World Tour that’s coming this Friday, yes, how about a Trolls World Tour viewing party?!).

Good business ideas are out there begging to be grabbed by the creative, the innovative, the wise. Those independent theater owners have a chance at surviving the pandemic.

The virtual playbook already exists. This might be one time where forced social distancing promotes virtual reality as an opportunity it’s never experienced before.

Virtual Screenings – what do YOU think?

Would/will you support your local independent theater through virtual screenings? Or do you, like me, think $12 (or so) VOD rentals, even when the theater gets to keep a meatier chunk of the ticket sale, isn’t quite enough in 2020?

Yes, Some Are Paying $20 to Rent New Movies – But Is This The Right Price Point?

The two movies circled in red are the only movies above that we haven’t seen yet

There are two movies right now we’d like to see that were ever so briefly in theaters and haven’t seen yet: I Still Believe and Emma.

So, are people willing to spend $20 to rent a theatrical movie at home? It seems the answer is yes… Especially if that movie is The Invisible Man. And I have a feeling that Trolls World Tour from Universal, which will be available to rent for $19.99 for a 48-hour viewing window beginning April 10, will be an even bigger at-home hit for parents looking to keep their kids occupied during this time of social distancing.

Are People Willing to Pay $20 to Rent a Movie? The Invisible Man Seems to Suggest Yes

Admittedly, am wrestling with the price: $19.99 for a 48 hour rental. Now, before anybody jumps on me for hypocrisy. For saying that I want to see more new movies released during the time the theaters are closed. This doesn’t mean I want to pay 20 bucks to see every one of these movies as a rental.

Why am I hesitating? I pay $15 and change for a large popcorn, butter and large soda with almost every movie we see and don’t think twice. It’s not really a financial quandary and yet it is.

Most of us look at price tags. We weigh the pros and cons of our hard earned money.

When Trolls World Tour releases on VOD on April 10 for the same price presumably, I think that will be an almost instant buy. We enjoyed the other Trolls movies and our grandchildren like the Trolls. Just for them to be able to rewatch 4-6 times in 48 hours is well worth the money.

Get to it, then, why am I hesitating over these other two movies?

Neither one of them were movies I really, really wanted to see, nor my wife. I Still Believe more than Emma and also it’s really the fact that they are rentals, not owned titles.

(subconscious saying: excuses, excuses!)

If I’m patient 60-90 days, I’ll save $30 USD or so, because the rental price will drop from $19.99 to $5 or so. That’s what happens with all new movie titles eventually, especially when they end up on streaming. Thirty bucks for a couple months worth of patience for movies that I want to see, but not see badly.

So, why not just wait?

Maybe I can catch one or both of them HBO Max (am subscribing when that is released) and that would even further increase the savings. Will HBO Max launch in May as planned?

(no good reason for them not to, captive large audience at home, this is the golden time to release a new streaming service)

Wonder how many others are doing the same ying-yang dance with these VOD rental prices? I don’t really understand why we can’t own the title now, instead of having to rent it when the price ultimately will be the same in a couple months. If it’s a movie you’re going to want to see more than once, absolutely that rental price is reasonable (ahem, Trolls World Tour), but if it turns out being one of those one and done movies or, worse, one that can’t even be finished then the $20 price just seems like double punishment.

Also, weighing in my mind is that for $21/month I can see that same movie every day once per day as long as it’s in theaters. It just lowers the VOD rental value significantly, even though right now that plan is on hiatus and theaters are closed. If the theaters reopen in a month from when they closed — that would be the weekend of April 17 — then maybe these two movies will still be available to see in the theater?

All this indecision … over thirty bucks. What can I say, these are strange, unusual times. Part of me wants to support VOD and just pay the $40, shut up, watch and (hopefully) be entertained. The other part says wait it out and use that $30 to fill the gas tank for a work week.

(yes, I’m still working right now)

Or, perhaps best idea yet, buy $30 food and donate to the food back for others who aren’t able to work right now. Kara paid for groceries for a woman the other day. A lot of people are out of work right now, so this whole post waffling over paying $20 for a VOD rental being worth it might seem ill-placed. We are very, very lucky to have an extra $30 when some are wondering where their next meal might be coming from.

Decisions, decisions. Perhaps all of the above is the right answer. Gas, food bank donation, shut up and rent the darn movies.

What do you think of a $20 VOD rental price? Too high? Priced fair? Are you waiting until the rental price drops in 60-90 days or buying it on physical media or digital when it’s released?

NOW PLAYING REVIEWS (on VOD): Bloodshot, The Hunt

I’ve been delayed getting this posted hoping the theater closure would be short-lived. Clearly we’re past that fantasy, so I might as well get caught up with the final two films caught in the theater before they all closed.

Week #11,12, and 13 (this week) have all passed with no “now playing reviews in the theater.” There were other films playing in the theater that we haven’t seen yet: I Still Believe and Emma. I have another post about those two movies at a later date. For now, let’s get to those final two movies we saw in the theaters before the shutdown.

Bloodshot ⭐️⭐️½

Vin Diesel is front in center in this adaptation of the Valiant comic book character. He dies, then comes back aided by nanotech that repairs his wounds. I haven’t ever read the comics, but the character has familiar regenerative powers as Wolverine, sans the metallic endoskeleton.

Just left theater (no spoilers) review of Bloodshot

Sony gave away the first 9 minutes of the movie to tempt others to see it. March was a terrible month to gauge the performance of any movie and now it’s on VOD. It’s not recommended, unfortunately, because it’s just kind of a killjoy to watch. You think it’s going to be cool, it feels like it’s going to be … and then just isn’t.

I wouldn’t even call it serviceable, so save your $19.99 VOD purchase unless maybe you’re a diehard Valiant comics fan and want to show the brand some love. It’s tough to get a comic book movie adaptation made, especially if your company isn’t Marvel or DC.

The Hunt ⭐️⭐

W️as looking forward to seeing this last year when it got pulled to see if the hype and controversy were warranted. Um, no, it wasn’t. This movie played it too safe, if that’s even possible. They should have chosen a political side — red or blue — and just drilled on the nerve of the opposition. That’s what I was expected to see.

Leaving the theater for the last showing before the theater shutdown in Las Vegas

On the plus side, we do get some cool women on women fighting and some graphic, gory kills. Bonus points on the grenade carnage.

Can’t recommend either of these movies, but if you want to take a chance on one, the other or both, give them a blood-y (The Hunt) shot.

Universal Supporting VOD During Pandemic More Than Any Other Studio

Don’t know about you, but I’m really, really, really missing movie theaters. The sooner we get them back, the better.

That said, I like the whole theater at home VOD surge. Thank you, studios, for giving us titles we should be seeing in the theaters at home. Thank you for realizing the theatrical window right now is irrelevant and pointless. Thank you for giving us entertainment to take our minds off the elephant in the room.

I want to publicly thank Universal for embracing VOD (see Universal will break theatrical window with Trolls World Tour available for same day streaming) more than any other studio in these unprecedented times.

Universal leads the pack in establishing the new normal for premium on demand (PVOD). It made “The Hunt,” “The Invisible Man,” and Focus Features’ “Emma” — all cut off at the knees when theaters closed around the country — available for rental March 20 ($19.99 for 48 hours) on multiple platforms. Other studios followed suit … and now Focus will put Eliza Hittman’s Sundance and Berlin prize-winner “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” one of the best-reviewed movies of the year, on demand April 3.

Focus Sends ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ to Premium On Demand | IndieWire

Say whatever you want about the Universal movies being good, bad or indifferent movies, but the mere fact they are promoting and pushing their movies on VOD is a great thing.

I will remember Universal’s support for moviegoers forced to only enjoy movies at home right now. The movie theater association (NATO as they are known) throwing shade at Universal is stupid and ill-placed. They should be embracing the movie watching experience wherever and whenever right now, so when theaters reopen people will not feel like the movie watching experience itself wasn’t the most important thing, not where we watch movies.

Moviegoers are supporting VOD of course. It’s the only viable place to watch newer movies right now, especially with stay at home shelter in place orders. Many people cannot go outside except for work (if working for an essential/critical business), emergencies and to shop for groceries.

At this point, nearly all 2020 wide-release films — as well as key specialized titles — are either available for home viewing, or soon will be. And the initial impact is dramatic. Based on the charts at iTunes and Amazon, which are updated daily, premium sales (largely priced at $19.99) are flying high.

Farewell, Box Office: This Was the Week That Premium VOD Charts Took Flight – Indiewire

Alas, we’ve gone backwards in China as theaters were closed again that were reopened. Athought reports seem to suggest that they will reopen again soon. I continue to target May 1 as a date when everything starts returning to normal, but there is another date at least in our state that I’m keeping my eyes on.

April 9. I’m looking at buying a new car and the dealership that is closed tells me that is when they are planning on reopening their showroom. Tribal casinos nearby are also suggesting the second week in April they might be reopening. I don’t know if either of these dates are too soon or not, but want to end this post optimistically.