MOVIE BUFF-ET: Lagging VOD rentals a good sign for theaters


Going into the third weekend with movie theaters closed because of the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, theater owners got one bit of news that that might be considered good.

Video-on-demand (VOD) sales for last week fell under studio projections, according to Fandango, even with films like “Onward,” “Bloodshot,” and “Birds of Prey,” which had shortened stays in theaters because of the closures.

Why could this be construed as good news for theaters?

It seems movie fans of all stripes find a $19.99 rental for relatively new films less appealing than watching fare provided by cable and streaming platforms that are paid for on a monthly basis.

Again what does that have to do with theaters?

One way of looking at it is that if the general public isn’t willing to dive into $19.99 rentals during a time when all are expected to play it safe at home, then they might be even less likely to pay $30, $40, or $50 for a rental of a brand new film with day-and-date release on VOD and in theaters.

In other words, unless prices on VOD aren’t drastically slashed, then theaters still hold the preeminent spot in people’s hearts and minds for watching newly released films, and that isn’t likely to change when the world returns to normal once the virus has run its course or we’ve found a vaccine.

Of course, no one knows exactly when that will be. Any guesses for when theaters will begin normal operations is only speculation. The federal government will make that call, but even when it does, it won’t be until people feel safe congregating once again before the studios begin scheduling blockbusters to be shown.

Most studios have already announced that their big summer releases will be held until later in the year or until 2021. Just Thursday Paramount Pictures announced “Top Gun: Maverick” the highly anticipated sequel to the 1986 original again starring Tom Cruise with Miles Teller as his protégée has been moved from a June 24 release until Dec 23. Last week Warner Bros. moved “Wonder Woman 1984” from June until Aug. 14 in the U.S.

The only major tentpole that hasn’t yet pulled up stakes is director Christopher Nolan’s latest offering “Tenet,” which is set to debut from Warner Bros. on July 17. It will be interesting to see if WB keeps “Tenet” there or pushes it back.

It’s the type of film that would garner a huge audience under normal circumstances, but just how normal will things be in mid July?

Fandango’s Top 10 VOD Performers (March 20-29)

1. The Invisible Man (Universal) $19.99
2. Onward (Disney) – $19.99
3. Bloodshot (Sony) – $19.99
4. Birds of Prey (Warner Bros.) – $19.99
5. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $4.99
6. 1917 (Universal) – $5.99
7. I Still Believe (Lionsgate) – $19.99
8. The Way Back (Warner Bros.) – $19.99
9. Dolittle (Universal) – $19.99
10. The Hunt (Universal) – $19.99

New to Netflix


Most Razorback fans have probably already seen “Greater,” the lovingly produced story of Arkansas football player Brandon Burlsworth, who went from being a walk-on to an All-American to being a third-round NFL draft pick before tragically losing his life in a a car accident in 1999.

The film is low-budget, but its surprisingly solid with Neal McDonough starring as Marty Burlsworth, Brandon’s mentor and older brother, and Christopher Severio, as Brandon. There is an excellent scene between McDonough and Nick Searcy (Justified) at the climax of the film that lifts the movie above the realm of the ordinary sports movie.

The Little Vampire (2017)

This is a CGI-animated retelling of the first book in the 1980s “Little Vampire” children’s series by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg. The movie introduces us to Rudolph, a vampire, and Tony, a monster-loving yet normal boy, and reveals how their friendship saved both or their families. The animation looks very good in the trailer, and the story should appeal to all the monster-loving kids out there with so much time on their hands.

New to Disney +


After just a few weeks in theaters and a few more on VOD, the latest Pixar-Disney production “Onward” debuts on Disney + today (April 3). The movie isn’t up there with Pixar’s best efforts, but it is entertaining and guaranteed to make you reach for a hanky in the final moments. Parents better be ready. Kids will be playing this one over and over.

Elephant/Dolphin Reef

In anticipation of Earth Day on April 22, Disney continues its tradition of celebration by debuting not just one but two nature documentaries on its Disney + streaming platform today (April 3). “Dolphin Reef” is narrated by Natalie Portman, and “Elephant” is narrated by Meghan Markel. Disney’s nature documentaries are always high quality and beautifully shot. I’m looking forward to watching both.