Online Movie Premiere: Will It Work?
Hollywood is following the path of television networks with plans for an Internet-based movie premiere. Michael Moore has announced he’ll release his new project, an election-focused film called Slacker Uprising, exclusively on the Web — and for free, too. Downloads will be offered at no charge via Blip.tv for the first three weeks of release.
Moore’s movie takes viewers along his journey through 62 cities in the 20 U.S. “swing states” that could heavily influence the November vote. Moore speaks to crowds to try to encourage young “slackers” to register to vote — and, not surprisingly, stirs up some controversy along the way.
It’s a risky move for Moore, whose last two documentaries were two of the three most profitable in movie-making history. So will it pay off? Well, financially, probably not. There doesn’t seem to be any major monetization or ad profit plan in place. While Moore does intend to eventually sell DVDs of the project, that certainly can’t compare to the box office cash it would have brought in.
Still, for a guy who probably doesn’t need the money, it may just be worthwhile in the end. As with Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want online album release experiment, the exposure and publicity may outshine any lack of direct income. That, of course, more than pays off down the road. With people already flocking to watch television online, the idea of a free Web movie release undoubtedly plays to a demographic’s video-centric habits — and love him or hate him, the outspoken jolly king of the documentary world may have stumbled onto a smart strategy. I suspect it won’t be the last semi-mainstream Internet movie premiere, but rather the first in a trend that’ll only move upward.