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Direct-to-video or straight-to-video refers to the release of a film, TV series, short or special to the public immediately on home video formats rather than a theatrical release or television broadcast. [1]


Because inferior sequels or prequels of larger-budget films may be released direct-to-video, review references to direct-to-video releases are often pejorative.[ citation needed ] Direct-to-video release has also become profitable for independent filmmakers and smaller companies. [2] It is usual for a direct-to-video genre film (with a high-profile star) to generate well in excess of $50 million revenue worldwide. [3]

Reasons for releasing direct to video

A production studio may decide not to generally release a TV show or film for several possible reasons: a low budget, a lack of support from a TV network, negative reviews, its controversial nature, that it may appeal to a small niche market, or a simple lack of general public interest. Studios, limited in the annual number of films to which they grant cinematic releases, may choose to pull the completed film from the theaters, or never exhibit it in theaters at all. Studios then generate revenue through video sales and rentals. [4] Direct-to-video films are marketed mostly through colorful box covers, instead of advertising, and are not covered by publications like Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide . [5]

Direct-to-video releases have historically carried a stigma of lower technical or artistic quality than theatrical releases. [6] Some films released direct-to-video are films which have been completed but were never released in movie theaters. This delay often occurs when a studio doubts a film's commercial prospects justify a full cinema release, or because its release window has closed. In film industry slang, such films are referred to as having been "vaulted". [7] Like B-movies shown in drive-in theaters in the mid-20th century, direct-to-video films employ both former stars and young actors who may become stars later. [5]

Direct-to-video releases can be done for films which cannot be shown theatrically due to controversial content, or because the cost involved in a theatrical release is beyond the releasing company. [8]

Animated sequels and feature-length episodes of animated series are also often released in this fashion. [8]

By 1994 an average of six new direct-to-video films appeared each week. Erotic thrillers and R-rated action films were the two most successful genres. [5] Family films became more important than such genres later in the 1990s, as retailers stocked more copies of blockbuster films instead of more titles. According to the Los Angeles Times : [9]

Often, the downfall of live-action family films at the box office is their strength on video. Their appeal is to families with young children, who may go to only a couple of movies per year but who will watch many videos multiple times. The teens and young adults who drive blockbuster box office statistics stay away from family movies.

Some horror films that are unsuccessful in theaters, like Witchcraft , begin successful direct-to-video series. [5] Studios may also release sequels or spin-offs to a successful live action film straight to DVD, due to a lack of budget in comparison to the original.


During the Golden Age of Porn in the 1970s, many pornographic films were released in theatres, some of which became some of the highest-grossing films in their release years, and in the pornography industry altogether. Toward the 1980s, porn began to shift to video release, because video allowed the producers to work on extremely low budgets and dispense with some film production elements, like scripts, and the increased privacy and convenience of the format change were preferred by the target market.

During the late 1990s and onward, pornographers began releasing content through paysites on the Internet.

Physical format releases

Direct-to-video films screened theatrically

Occasionally, a studio that makes a movie that was prepared as a direct-to-video film will release it theatrically at the last minute due to the success of another film with a similar subject matter or an ultimate studio decision. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is an example of this. However, despite the movie's critically acclaimed success, its box-office performance was very poor, which has been attributed to its last minute decision to be released theatrically. The film had much better commercial success in its subsequent home video releases.

Other times, a direct-to-video movie may get a limited theatrical screening in order to build excitement for the actual release of the video such as was done for 2010's Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths , and Planet Hulk , 2016's Batman: The Killing Joke [10] or 2013's Sharknado .

Direct-to-disc or "DVD Premiere"

As DVDs gradually replaced VHS videocassettes, the term "direct-to-DVD" replaced "direct-to-video" in some instances. [11] However, the word "video" does not necessarily refer to videocassettes. Many publications continue to use the term "direct-to-video" for DVDs or Blu-rays. Both disc-based release types may also be referred to as "direct-to-disc". A new term sometimes used is "DVD premiere" (DVDP). [12] Such films can cost as little as $20 million, [3] about a third of the average cost of a Hollywood release. [13] According to Variety, American Pie: Band Camp sold a million copies in one week, despite retaining only two actors from the original trilogy. [14]

Some direct-to-DVD releases recently have tended to feature actors who were formerly bankable stars. In 2005, salaries for some of these direct-to-DVD actors in the multimillion-dollar range from $2 to $4 million (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and $4.5 to $10 million (Steven Seagal), in some cases exceeding the actors' theatrical rates. [3]

Digital releases

With the increasing prominence of digital distribution platforms in the 2000s and 2010s, direct-to-digital releases began to emerge alongside, or in lieu of home video. In November 2007, Ed Burns' Purple Violets became the first film to "premiere" exclusively for sale on iTunes Store, being exclusive to the platform for a month. It had premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where it was reviewed positively, but only received modest distribution offers. [15] [16] At the time, it was not very common for consumers to make digital movie purchases. [17]

As part of a push by the service towards original content, the subscription video on demand service Netflix began to acquire feature films for distribution on its service in the 2010s, including the 2013 documentary The Square , [18] and its first feature film in 2015 — Beasts of No Nation . [19] Netflix pursued a simultaneous release strategy for its films, partnering with a distributor for a limited theatrical release (in order to maintain eligibility for awards requiring theatrical release, such as the Academy Awards) simultaneous with their availability to subscribers. As this practice violates the traditional release windows mandated by the cinema industry, major chains have typically declined to screen the films. [20] [21] Since 2018, Netflix has partially backpedaled from this strategy, giving its films a one-month theatrical run before their premiere on the Netflix service. [22] [23]

Unique circumstances have also resulted in direct-to-digital releases, sometimes alongside a limited theatrical release; the 2014 film The Interview was released simultaneously on digital and at selected cinemas, after major chains dropped the film due to terrorist threats by a hacking group believed to have ties to North Korea (whose regime is satirized in the film). The group had also leaked confidential data from the internal servers of the film's distributor, Sony Pictures. [24] [25]

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in worldwide closures of cinemas due to economic restrictions and guidance against public gatherings, which has prompted direct-to-digital releases for several major films; the Chinese film Lost in Russia was acquired by ByteDance and streamed on its platforms (including TikTok) for free in lieu of a theatrical release, as part of a larger relationship with the company and the film's distributor Huanxi Media. [26] A number of U.S. films were shifted directly to video-on-demand rentals in lieu of a theatrical release, [27] [28] [29] while some have been sold directly to subscription services, including Disney+, [30] HBO Max, [31] Netflix, [32] and Prime Video. [33]

The V-Cinema and OVA markets in Japan

Naoko Iijima started her career appearing on late night TV variety, and then focused on such V-Cinema[ clarification needed ] titles as Strawberry Times 4 and Zero Woman: Final Mission (Zero WOMAN 警視庁0課の女; Zero Woman: Keishichō 0-ka no onna) before moving into a career in mainstream movies and TV. Cult director Takashi Miike has released quite a few of his works as V-Cinema, perhaps preferring the freedom. Weather Report Girl (1995) starring Kei Mizutani is a rare case of a work being released to video and then recalled by the maker and released to theatres to considerable success. V-Cinema may be used for the sequels to a successful feature film (e.g. Zero Woman, Sasori, Kunoichi Ninpoden, Baka Yaro or Pantsu no Ana). The content can be more sexual or violent than a mainstream feature film.

In the case of anime, this is called original video animation (sometimes capitalized, and abbreviated OVA or OAV). They are often used to tell stories too short to fill a full TV season, or to take creative risk without pressures from TV studios and sponsoring companies [34] and were particularly common in the early 1990s. Sometimes OVAs garner enough interest to justify commissioning a full TV show, such as Tenchi Muyo! , El Hazard , and Read or Die .

With the convenience of the 13-episode season format, OVAs are less common now. The majority of OVAs released in today's market are continuations or reworkings of recently completed TV shows. For instance, the DVD release of a TV show might, as a sales hook, include a bonus episode that was never broadcast.

See also

Related Research Articles

Miramax, LLC is an American entertainment company known for producing and distributing films and television shows. Its headquarters are located in Los Angeles, California. Miramax was founded in 1979 by brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and was a leading independent film motion picture distribution and production company before it was acquired by The Walt Disney Company in June 1993, which was the first acquisition done by the company. The Weinsteins operated Miramax with more creative and financial independence than any other division of Disney until September 2005, when they left the company and founded a new studio, The Weinstein Company. Miramax was sold by Disney to Filmyard Holdings, a joint venture of Colony NorthStar, Tutor-Saliba Corporation, and Qatar Investment Authority, in 2010, ending Disney's 17-year ownership of the studio. In 2016, the company was sold to the beIN Media Group. In 2019, beIN agreed to sell a 49% stake in the company to ViacomCBS. The sale was completed on April 3, 2020.

2929 Entertainment

2929 Entertainment, LLC. is an American integrated media and entertainment co-founded by billionaire entrepreneurs Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban. 2929 maintains companies and interests across several industries including entertainment development and packaging, film and television production and distribution, digital and broadcast syndication, theatrical exhibition and home entertainment.

Nickelodeon Movies is the theatrical motion picture production arm of the Nickelodeon TV channel. Founded in 1995, the company released its first film Harriet the Spy in 1996. It has produced family features and films based on Nickelodeon programs, as well as other adaptations and original projects. Its films are co-produced and/or distributed by fellow ViacomCBS division Paramount Pictures. The studio's highest-grossing films are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), which grossed $493.3 million worldwide, The Adventures of Tintin (2011), which grossed $374 million worldwide, and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015), which grossed $323.4 million worldwide.

Nickelodeon Animation Studio American animation studio in California

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, sometimes often shortened to Nick Animation, is an American animation studio and division of ViacomCBS. It has created many original television programs for Nickelodeon and its sister channels, such as SpongeBob SquarePants, The Fairly OddParents, Rugrats and Avatar: The Last Airbender, among various others. Since the 2010s, the studio has also co-developed its own series based on preexisting IP purchased by ViacomCBS, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Winx Club. In November 2019, Nickelodeon Animation Studio signed a multiple-year output deal for Netflix, which will include producing content, in both new and preexisting IP, for the streaming platform.

Film distribution is the process of making a movie available for viewing by an audience. This is normally the task of a professional film distributor, who would determine the marketing strategy for the film, the media by which a film is to be exhibited or made available for viewing, and who may set the release date and other matters. The film may be exhibited directly to the public either through a movie theater or television, or personal home viewing. For commercial projects, film distribution is usually accompanied by film promotion.

A simultaneous release, also known as "day-and-date" release, is the release of a film on multiple platforms—most commonly theatrical and home video—on the exact same day, or in very close proximity to each other. This is in contrast to the industry standard of having a window of exclusivity between the theatrical and home video releases.

Home video Prerecorded video media that are either sold, rented, or streamed for home entertainment

Home video is prerecorded video media sold or rented for home viewing. The term originates from the VHS/Betamax era, when the predominant medium was videotape, but has carried over to optical disc formats such as DVD and Blu-ray. In a different usage, "home video" refers to amateur video recordings, also known as home movies.

Paramount Animation Animation division of Paramount Pictures

Paramount Animation is an American animation studio. It is the animation division for Paramount Pictures, and also serves as the releasing banner for other animated films based on ViacomCBS properties. The division was founded on July 6, 2011.

Warner Animation Group Animation division of Warner Bros.

The Warner Animation Group (WAG) is an American animation studio that is the feature animation division of Warner Bros. Entertainment. Established on January 7, 2013, the studio is the successor to the dissolved 2D traditional hand-drawn animation studio Warner Bros. Feature Animation, which shut down in 2003 and the dissolved family film division Warner Bros. Family Entertainment, which shut down in 2009. The entity is also a sister animation studio of the regular animation studio Warner Bros. Animation. Its first film The Lego Movie was released on February 7, 2014 and its latest release was Scoob! on May 15, 2020; with their next release being Tom & Jerry on February 26, 2021. Films produced by WAG have grossed a total of $1.4 billion at the box office.

<i>The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run</i> 2020 animated/live action film directed by Tim Hill

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is a 2020 American live-action/computer-animated adventure comedy film based on the animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. Directed and written by series developer and former series writer Tim Hill, who co-wrote the story with Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, it is the first film in the franchise to be fully animated in stylized CGI rather than traditional 2D animation. The regular voice cast of the series reprise their respective roles from the series and the previous films, and the plot follows the origin of how SpongeBob met Gary the Snail, and SpongeBob's quest to rescue him after he is kidnapped. It is the third theatrical film based on the series, following the first in 2004 and second in 2015. The film is dedicated to creator Stephen Hillenburg, who died in 2018, and also served as an executive producer on the project.

<i>Trolls World Tour</i> 2020 animated film directed by Walt Dohrn

Trolls World Tour is a 2020 American computer-animated jukebox musical comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Universal Pictures. The sequel to Trolls (2016) and the second installment in the franchise, the film is directed by Walt Dohrn in his directorial debut from a screenplay by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Elizabeth Tippet, Maya Forbes, and Wallace Wolodarsky from a story by Aibel and Berger. The film features an ensemble cast that features the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom, James Corden, Ron Funches, Kelly Clarkson, Anderson Paak, Sam Rockwell, George Clinton, and Mary J. Blige. The film follows two trolls who discover that there are Six Troll tribes represent the musical genres Pop, Funk, Classical, Techno, Country, and Rock. Troubles arise when the queen of the Rock tribe plans to steal the strings to unite the trolls under rock music.

<i>Scoob!</i> 2020 film directed by Tony Cervone

Scoob! is a 2020 American computer-animated mystery comedy film produced by Warner Animation Group and based on Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo franchise. The film is directed by Tony Cervone from a screenplay by Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott, and Matt Lieberman, and a story by Lieberman, Eyal Podell, and Jonathon E. Stewart. It stars the voices of Frank Welker as the titular character, as well as Will Forte, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, and Amanda Seyfried as Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne respectively, with Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong and Tracy Morgan as other Hanna-Barbera animated characters.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cinema Impact of coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the film industry in 2020, mirroring its impacts across all arts sectors. Across the world and to varying degrees, cinemas and movie theaters have been closed, festivals have been cancelled or postponed, and film releases have been moved to future dates or delayed indefinitely. Due to cinemas and movie theaters closing, the global box office has dropped by billions of dollars, and streaming has become more popular, while the stock of film exhibitors has also dropped dramatically. Many blockbusters originally scheduled to be released between March and November have been postponed or canceled around the world, with film productions also halted.


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