It’s not uncommon for independent movies to debut on video-on-demand the same day they are released in theaters. Most of the time, however, such low-budget films are playing in only about half a dozen theaters nationwide.
That wasn’t the case, however, with “Margin Call.” The Wall Street drama debuted in 56 theaters three weeks ago and simultaneously became available to cable subscribers who wanted to watch the picture from the comfort of their own homes. The movie has since expanded to 178 theaters and has brought in $2.5 million since its opening, according to an estimate from distributor Roadside Attractions.
Because video-on-demand results lag about a week behind theatrical ticket sale figures, Roadside will not be releasing any VOD data on “Margin Call” until December. However, the distribution company’s co-president, Howard Cohen, wrote in an email that “based literally on the first three days of VOD, which is all we have, my sense is that a comparable number of sales were made on VOD as movie tickets sold in the same three days.” He added that the company’s research indicated that those who bought movie tickets were unaware that the film was available for purchase at home.
Cohen said he believed the movie — which centers on an investment bank during the recent financial crisis — had also been boosted by the Occupy Wall Street protest.
The movement “put Wall Street behavior in the news, [and] we believe that made a difference for people’s interest level in the film,” he said.