You’ll Be Able to Watch the Freakonomics Movie Online Before You Can See It In Theaters
The Freakonomics documentary, based on the book of the same name by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner and directed by a small stable of big-name documentarians, has a bold release strategy of the sort we wish more Hollywood movies would attempt: You’ll be able to download and watch the entire film on iTunes starting September 3, almost a full month before its theatrical debut on October 1.
While the indie, brainy Freakonomics isn’t likely to be a big box-office powerhouse (nor, for that matter, do we know if it’s any good), it’s refreshing to see a movie’s distribution conducted with the experience and convenience of its viewers in mind rather than by movie theater chains. And it’s in keeping with the contrarian ethos of Freakonomics itself.
As TechDirt‘s Mike Masnick points out, this strategy isn’t without its risks: In the past, theater chains have attempted to strongarm film distributors into delaying DVD releases — sometimes by refusing to show their movies. In one particularly egregious recent case, Odeon Cinemas based in Europe refused to show Alice in Wonderland because Disney planned to release the film on DVD ‘just’ 12 weeks after its theatrical debut: The theaters demanded a window of 17 weeks.
One final tidbit which intrigues us: On his blog, Dubner says that “There’s another neat wrinkle to the release schedule, but I can’t spoil the surprise.” Totally speculating for a moment, could this mean a torrented release, either donation-driven, a la Radiohead’s In Rainbows, or even totally free? It’s worth keeping in mind that there are two books in the mix, Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, and that the authors could conceivably conclude that letting anyone see the movie for free will spur interest in the books enough to make up for the potential losses in ticket sales. Of course, the filmmakers (and lots of other people) would presumably want to see some sort of cut — perhaps by download volume — to make a scheme like this work.
Below, the trailer for Freakonomics:
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