Yahoo Inc. has struck a deal with Weinstein Co. to release the film company's "One Chance" ahead of its theatrical debut this fall.
"One Chance" will appear on Yahoo's on-demand video streaming service, Yahoo Screen, for 10 days before opening in theaters. The movie, based on the true story of opera singer Paul Potts, will be offered free to users during the exclusive run.
The distribution pact, which was finalized July 17, is the latest in a series of moves by Yahoo that illustrate its intentions to be a major player in the digital video space. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In June, Yahoo renewed to the television sitcom "Community" for a sixth season. The show, a cult favorite, had aired on NBC until the network canceled it in May. It will now appear on Yahoo Screen. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company also recently announced two original television series — the comedies "Sin City Saints" and "Other Space."
The "One Chance" deal could be a boon for Yahoo, but it also has drawn the attention of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, the trade group whose members include the major film exhibitors. It has butted heads with studios in recent years over the early release of films on home entertainment platforms.
Patrick Corcoran, the theater group's spokesman, said that distribution arrangements such as the one struck for "One Chance" are "not good for the movies released that way" because "they leave revenue on the table."
"It doesn't make much sense for theaters, and our members will make their own decisions on whether or not to play it," said Corcoran, adding that Weinstein Co. did not discuss its release plans for "One Chance" with the association.
Weinstein Co. declined to comment, but the New York company's chief operating officer, David Glasser, said in a statement that technology has "changed the landscape of how many people watch movies and TV."
"Our partnership with Yahoo has allowed us to adapt and expand our reach to limitless audiences," Glasser said.
With the rise of video-on-demand services in recent years, film companies have experimented with different distribution models in an effort to gain an audience at home as well as the multiplex.
In February, movie studio Lionsgate released on the same day the horror film "Nurse 3D" in theaters and on VOD platforms. It was the first time a film produced by a major studio received a concurrent release in theaters and on VOD services.
Film companies Magnolia Pictures, Roadside Attractions and Weinstein Co.'s own Radius-TWC label are known for releasing many films simultaneously in theaters and on VOD platforms.
But Corcoran said that "simultaneous release cannibalizes theatrical sales. It's an approach that seems to say they don't have faith in the theatrical prospects for a particular movie."
Although a release date for "One Chance" has not been set, it is expected to begin its theatrical run in late September or early October on a limited number of screens. It could ultimately appear in roughly 600 theaters.
Radius-TWC employed a similar release strategy for its recent action picture "Snowpiercer," which debuted in eight theaters in late June before expanding to more than 350 by mid-July. That film, directed by Bong Joon-ho, premiered on video-on-demand platforms two weeks after its theatrical run began.
"One Chance" centers on Potts, a former shop assistant who became an opera singer and won the reality television show "Britain's Got Talent." The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year.
The movie was co-produced by Simon Cowell, the creator of "Britain's Got Talent" who is best known in the U.S. for his long run as an ornery judge on "American Idol."