Movies Released Straight to DVD

14 Mar

By Lurker

Have you ever stopped to consider why a studio would release a movie straight to DVD? We did and decided to take a deep dive and investigate movies released in 2010. By referencing our go-to site, we looked for movies that were categorized as DVD-premiere for our starting point. An important note that DVD sales totals are sketchy and many are not reported. So while in previous articles we examined box office sales, we won’t be able to provide that same analysis. So let’s see what statistics we were able to find and see where we end up…

In 2010, 129 movies were released straight to DVD and had no theatrical release. Animated movies totaled 24 or counted for 18% of these movies. A sizeable number considering Disney’s 4 movies were the top sales of all the animated features. Disney’s Tinkerbell and Christmas Paws made a combined $78 mil. In fact, Disney first pioneered the concept of animated sequels with Aladdin’s Return of Jafar in 1994. Universal Studios had 2 big hits based on the Barbie doll and Warner Bros had 2 movies with Scooby-Doo. It’s shocking that Barbie made $31 million off 2 movies in 2010. Other animated movies were either based on toys, comic books, or video games in the case of Halo Legends.

In scouring the rest of the movies, 62 or 48% carried an R-rating, This is significant as many of these movies fell into horror genre and were classified as ‘graphic’. Three movies that had significant star power begged for further investigation: Unthinkable with Samuel L Jackson, Hurricane Season with Forrest Whitaker and Tenderness with Russell Crowe.

IFC’s recent movie article articulates an interesting perspective on why movies go straight to DVD[1]
“… generally meant they posed too much of a marketing challenge. As in, the films were either too odd, too original, too archival, too subtle, too something”.
So what went wrong with the three movies above?

Unthinkable has a terrorist plot with the terrorist being a Muslim and also touches on torture, maybe a bit too controversial? Very likely and here’s another example. In 2002, The Sum of All Fears, a Tom Clancy novel was adapted into a film starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. However, in the book the terrorist is from the Middle East. The screenplay was retooled and the terrorist became a rogue European with Russian ties. Russia is still an acceptable ‘bad guy’. Torture for investigation has been a hot topic. Recall the polarizing aspects of ‘waterboarding’. Although the average critic score was a 7, it’s apparent the studio thought it was too controversial and opted to pass on a theatrical release.

Tenderness with Russell Crowe was generally reviewed with a 5/10 stars from most critics. It’s adapted from the novel with the same name. However the main character is a teen murderer. Might this be too much of a marketing challenge?

Hurricane Season with Forrest Whitaker also centers on a catastrophic event, Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. One critic’s review summarized it as “clinging to the traumatizing image of Hurricane Katrina” [2]. It was also stated that it did not ‘test well’ [3]. Therefore, Weinstein made the decision to release it straight to DVD . Which brought me to another widely discussed movie Remember Me which was theatrically released with very little marketing support. The movie ending is what made it a challenge, Sept 11th.

So it seems that there are several factors in play when producers are trying to decide to release a film. They have ‘test screenings’, critic’s reviews, and the ultimate decision of ‘how to market the film’. If the topic is generally polarizing to many consumers they may steer clear of the box office. If your audience is generally the older market segment, you basically run the risk of cutting box office returns in half. Factor in the costs of a marketing campaign and there may be no hope of recouping the original investment. So from a business perspective, if you already perceive a loss why would you throw more money into a marketing campaign?

Please join us to discuss on Tuesday March 15th 7pm E /12 UTC

1 IFC’s links are copyright protected. Source taken from article “The 10 Best Straight-to-DVD Movies of 2010”.

83 Responses to “Movies Released Straight to DVD”

  1. Parisienne March 14, 2011 at 7:58 AM #


    Awesome article. 🙂 IMO, all of the movies that you mentioned except for Remember Me went straight to DVD because they hit a nerve with the studio. The studio couldn’t figure out how to market the film in a “favorable light”. With Remember Me, IMO, the movie was very well written and 9/11 wasn’t the main focus. The characters were well and plot lines were all very well thought out. The consumer becomes invested in the characters and then 9/11 happened. Do you remember the film about one of the planes that went down in 9/11? I can’t remember the name of it but if I remember correctly it didn’t do very well because the subject was to straightforward, IMO.

    • Open Book March 14, 2011 at 6:14 PM #


      ITA!! In Remember Me 9/11 was not the main focus of the film. However, I wanted to say RM was poorly marketed and could have been so much more successful if it was. I believe in this particular case the marketing department hesitance and disregard cost them in the end. Yet, what’s impressive! The film still managed to turn a profit, which reveals two things. The main focus (a love story) and characters were stronger than what they had initially invested in.

      With that said. I wonder? How many more films have business departments made bad calls on?

    • Lurker March 14, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

      Yes! United 93 was that movie name and it did pretty well at the box office. Paul Greengrass (Bourne) was the director with a budget of $18mil. The movie grossed $31mill US and $44mil overseas with roughly $17mil in DVD sales. So while not a box office rock star it appears to have made a profit.

  2. kim March 14, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

    Great article. Its funny though that there is money to be made in the straight to dvd release think of the Olsen twins their multi-millions were made from direct to dvd market.

    Can’t wait for the discussions.

  3. Littlebells March 15, 2011 at 10:42 AM #

    I rented Unthinkable months ago, but I remember thinking, “Hmm, don’t remember this in theateres.” I actually enjoyed it very much. It was incredibly disturbing, the torture was very believable, and I really believed the terrorist was ca-ra-ra-zy! Michael Sheen played the nutjob. Anyway, I can see why it went straight to DVD. The ending left me thinking,”Seriously? That’s it?” If you haven’t seen it don’t scroll down:
    there’s still one more bomb and the city of LA blows up. Well I think it’s LA. Can’t remember, but I thought that sucked.

  4. ozzie20 March 15, 2011 at 12:15 PM #

    Dropping by early to say it’s a great article. I always wondered why some films went straight to dvd.

    Anyway, I probably won’t be here tonight. Had another sleepless night and I’ll probably be asleep by time the discussion starts. So I hope you all have fun and I look forward to catching up tomorrow! 🙂

    • Littlebells March 15, 2011 at 1:40 PM #

      Ozzie, that’s insane!!! I do hope you get some sleep. My family and I are all sick, so I don’t know if I will be here either. 😦

      • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 5:44 PM #

        Hope u get well soon!! We will miss u and Ozzie great comments tonight. But u ladies can catch up later!!

        Take Care!!

      • kim March 15, 2011 at 7:03 PM #

        Everyone is fighting something right now. Hope your family feels better soon.

    • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:06 PM #

      Ozzie take care of yourself!

    • kim March 15, 2011 at 7:03 PM #

      Sorry I missed you Ozzie.

  5. Open Book March 15, 2011 at 5:35 PM #

    Welcome visitors to our discussion tonight. Please feel free to jump in if u would like to add to our discussion or have a question!

  6. Open Book March 15, 2011 at 5:42 PM #

    Great article Lurker!!

    What was your finding regarding films that were PG-13 that went straight to DVD? Were there many? If so were they comedies or dramas mostly?

    • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:06 PM #

      So there was 22 movies that were rated PG13.
      Seem like a wide variety of topics – animated Justice League, a Jackie Chan movie, Stomp the yard sequel, 2 superman movies and other movies. Really a mixed bag.

      • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:08 PM #

        Oh! so no real trend.

        What did u learn the most from researching this topic?

        • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:14 PM #

          Great question. A number of things actually.

          The animated sequels and children’s movies have a big audience (barbie? – who knew)?

          That the MPAA and critics reviews can kill a movie from being seen in a theater. How does one get to these ‘test screenings’ anyway? Never been to one, ever. Must be like those polls they show on CNN. They never ask me!

          That even with significant actor critical acclaim (SL Jackson, F Whitaker, RCrowe) if the subject matter proves too much, the fate is sealed.

          Seems like producers do not subscribe to the ‘any news’ is good news like actors who are always in for the shock and awe of gossip. Controversy spells box office doom.

          • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:21 PM #

            Yes, mpaa rating can be quite damaging. however, some filmmakers appeal there ratings all the time.

            A lot of time it requires them to make changes to get a pg-13 rating.

            • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:23 PM #

              I also wonder how big a role the marketing dept plays in getting critics to screen movies? Do they prep them or do they go in sight unseen?
              Maybe the marketing dept’s need to be more creative?

              • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:36 PM #

                well many get top critics to do a early screening. then go back and do minor adjustments or editing before a films released.

      • Littlebells March 15, 2011 at 6:25 PM #

        Just popping in real quick! It seems to me these movies are ones that most people would think, “Eh. Don’t really care.” Is that a possibility? Maybe test audiences thought they were lame? I would love to go to a test screening too, btw! That would be awesome. And if one got an Oscar, I could think, “Yeah, I made that happen.” heehee 🙂

        • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:30 PM #

          Quite possibly – that might explain the Stomp the yard 2 sequel. Maybe it didn’t test well either?

          • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:52 PM #

            Also, a lot of times there’s no music score to the films at these test screenings. I think this could really help audiences better understand the mood and tone etc..

            • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:54 PM #

              So they start test screening pretty early it sounds like? How does that factor in with special effects? I would think they take a lot of time?

              • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:57 PM #

                Yeah! Usually about one or two months before a films released!!

              • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:59 PM #

                Well special effect films are not that bad. The only problem they often run into is continuity. That always seems to be a major thing they have not cleaned up yet.

                • kim March 15, 2011 at 7:02 PM #

                  Ah continuity. My favorite thing to watch now when I am actually bored with a film. Have to say the last 2 movies that I saw actually captured my attention enough that I didn’t watch for continuity. (I am Number Four) and (127 Hours)

        • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:43 PM #

          i use to go to a lot of test screenings. usually the films are roughly edited and it can be jarring at times. so it’s hard to give a real critique sometimes. anyway they give u a questionnaire at the end and sometimes do panel discussions etc. it can be pretty interesting to hear what they were trying to go for versus what audiences responses are!!

  7. Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:16 PM #

    I’m always shocked to see films u hear some good buzz about a film that go straight to dvd, or either they come out in theaters for two weeks and then vanish.

    • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:19 PM #

      Yeah why is that? the 2 week thing?
      I sort of figure they have some magic sales figure that if they don’t reach it they pull the movie.

      It’s a guess, because they must know how much it costs to leave a movie in a theatre, i would assume there some profit/loss numbers that are being looked at.

      I could be totally off base -but that would make sense to me.

      • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:26 PM #

        well i imagine now i’m assuming so don’t quote me. lol however i think because many films make the most money the first 2 weeks they are out. then after that begins to bottom out. so if the return falls under a certain percent they cut there losses rather than begin loosing more money. does that make sense?

        • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:28 PM #

          Yes completely. I think there’s definitely alot of heavy financial analysis that goes on when a movie is released and the numbers are scrutinized daily.

  8. Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:26 PM #

    I also wanted to bring up one other movie not from 2010 though. Paranormal Activity has a ground swell of fan support before it was widely released. It had very little marketing support if any and made huge box office numbers.
    So a good film that appeals to audiences doesn’t always have to be ‘sold’ thru such intensive advertising.

    • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:32 PM #

      oh! i absolutely agree. thats why many have begun using the internet to advertise a film. thats what happened with natalie portman and ashton last film. they targeted females on twitter and facebook.

      • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:35 PM #

        Oh i didn’t know that! Interesting, but a very good approach.

  9. Lurker March 15, 2011 at 6:38 PM #

    Well and here’s another example, that sort of illustrates the why pull a movie or not release it? Outside factors!

    Hereafter was just pulled from the cinemas in Japan.
    A Clint Eastwood movie, reason? Subject matter (a tsunami)
    That’s not saying there’s anything wrong with the movie per se, it’s that the timing is now just incredibly horrible for it.

    • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 6:46 PM #

      of course u always have to factor this in as well. great point.

      • kim March 15, 2011 at 6:59 PM #

        Actually there were some movies that 9/11 caused that to happen to them too, plus Columbine and V tech,

        • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 7:02 PM #

          Yes! U are absolutely right.

  10. kim March 15, 2011 at 6:57 PM #

    Sorry I’m late, had a late dinner.

    Great article. Like I said earlier, I know Disney does a lot of direct to dvd with some of their children’s movies. Most be a great profit for them. Plus, Olsen twins made multi-millions with direct to dvd when they were younger.

    • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 7:04 PM #

      No problem!!

      So is there anything about this article that was shocking to u that u did not know about?

      • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:10 PM #

        Maybe the reasoning why some films just went to dvd first. Its funny bc its a joke around the house when we figure certain movies will just go right to dvd, usually the sequels to something bad or something bad in the first place.

        Never realized that they could be good movies that just didn’t get a chance. There are times though when we watch a movie and think that we didn’t see go to theaters, or it wasn’t at theaters long and can’t understand because it was a really good movie, but those are far and few between.

        • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

          I’ve been thinking about that 2 week thing in the theatres and looking at the release schedules for 2010, the movies almost have zero chance of having long legs with all the competition! There are so many movies released each week trying to grab ticket sales maybe that 2 week window really is all they have?

          • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:20 PM #

            Yep!! Plus u add to that most movie theaters begin to loose money if they have a empty house. So if they can fill up these theaters with a blockbuster guess what happens?

            • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 8:24 PM #

              Well the movie that can fill the seats is the one that will be shown.

              • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

                Exactly!!! So u see why the campaigns really have to be strategic before a films released otherwise it does not stand a chance.

                • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 8:35 PM #

                  I have a question.
                  When I got the movies there are always 15 minutes of trailers and previews.

                  DO the studios have to pay for placement of those trailers?
                  I’ve never really looked to see if the movie previews were all from the same distributor before.

                  • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:39 PM #

                    So if u are watching a Warner Brothers film, than yes all the trailers are WB.

                  • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:41 PM #

                    Also, u can be watching a Warner Brothers film and they can have one of their subsidiaries trailers if say u are watching an arthouse film etc…

                    • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

                      So the distributor is hocking his own upcoming movies. Gotcha.

          • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

            Yeah I know that’s why when we see previews in the theater we usually go through with a pass, maybe see it in theaters or wait for dvd.

  11. Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:09 PM #


    Have u ever been to a test screening? I think they are doing them where u are!!

    • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:12 PM #

      The only test screening I have been was for a t.v. series and it was very interesting. I would love to go to screenings for movies. I think it would be really interesting. I also have done test for some commercials for different products through some of the survey and poll sites I have volunteered for.

  12. Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:14 PM #

    Heres a place u can check to see where u can go to a test screening in your town.

    • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

      Thanks I will definitely check that out.

    • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:17 PM #

      the passes are free. if u have to pay than its a scam!!!

      • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

        Thanks I will keep that in mind.

  13. kim March 15, 2011 at 8:33 PM #

    Well I’m assuming the next step will be straight to direct streaming instead of dvd, which will probably even be less of an expense for them than to make the dvds.

    • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:37 PM #

      Do u think studios will be able to charge more on streaming videos than theater tickets. Also, how will they effectively prevent pirating once this happens? Then still charge the maximum amount?

      • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:40 PM #

        Well I know at&t right now has a feature where you can watch certain movies that are in theaters right now and you pay about $10 for them. Now known of these are the big films in theaters but the smaller ones.

        So I imagine if this is the wave of the future than yeah they will do something to prevent pirating and of course make sure they get their money back.

        • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

          but then u have competitors offering it for less. how do u prevent that?

          • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

            Well, that’s a good question. If I had the answer I would be well sought after wouldn’t I. 😉

          • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

            I think pirating would loose it’s appeal if it was released the same time as the theater release. Pirating is sort of an evil due to the time lag for the release to DVD or other media.

            I think that would dry up the black market, but no one has yet wanted to test that theory. It’s been floated before.

        • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 8:45 PM #

          Well AT&T just announced it’s tiering its home DSL bandwidth and Uverse accounts starting May 2.
          So if you consume a lot of bandwidth streaming media, you’ll be paying more for service.
          I think that’s going to choke off streaming.
          I might for me, I’m a heavy user here working from home with a nailed up connection to my corporate enterprise. It won’t be cheap for me to us Netflix or any other streaming any more.

          • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

            Yeah see I don’t know why they do that. They offer these things and then oh sorry we don’t have enough space to send all of this info, so we’ll just charge a ton for it and give it to those that have money.

            • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 8:49 PM #

              Yeah and then factor in HD movie files are much much bigger, and you know a few movies later and you’ve reached your limit.

              I think these changes at the carrier level will profoundly affect user consumption. Too soon to tell the full impact, but it certainly will have an impact.

  14. Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

    Also, Im not talking about these marketing campaigns that throw a lot of money down the drain that’s not always good campaign. No, I’m talking about really targeting the audiences and making the connection between the film and the audience to sell the film. Does that make sense?

    • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 8:41 PM #

      Well I noticed that the previews for TRON that I sat thru were heavy CGI and 3D almost exclusively. Way different than other movies I go to so it’s seems they are using the movie previews as a way to capture a particular segment.

      At the end of IronMan2 was the 15 sec’s of Thor teaser.
      So that’s a great tactic of using the ‘same market segment’ to tease for upcoming movies.

      • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:44 PM #

        See that makes sense for the CGI and 3D or the same type of movie.

      • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:48 PM #


        U need to know your niche!! Otherwise u end up missing the boat. I think that’s what happened to Remember Me!! They totally did not sell that film well. IMO.

        • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:51 PM #

          Exactly. Which was a shame because it was a really good movie that didn’t get a chance.

    • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:42 PM #

      Yeah I know what you mean, its funny some studios or production companies really know what they are doing while others use tricks and other means to get the ticket sales. Or plan miss the marketing all together. Those are the ones that frustrate me the most, you go to see what you think is the movie and it being something totally different.

      • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

        Exactly!! I think it also backfires because audiences feel mislead. So then u get a bad buzz going from that not good.

        • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:50 PM #

          Well I can say that a certain production I kind of cringe when I see that they have anything to do with a particular movie. I even go to the point that I don’t even want to go see any movies that they are involved with even if it looks like a good movie. I don’t trust their marketing.

          • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:54 PM #

            Well I think people don’t like to be boxed in or feel like puppets. I mean there is no secret they want u to see a film. There is no need for games. Either people are going to love it or hate it. There is no amount of smoke and mirrors u can do if a film sucks!!

            • kim March 15, 2011 at 8:57 PM #

              Yeah I agree, but I was just thinking there has been several films released that I refused to see once I saw who was the company behind them.

              Your right though if the movies is bad no matter what the marketing I won’t go see it either in the theater or dvd.

              • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 9:02 PM #

                Yep!! Someone brought home the A-Team the other night. I won’t name names. I cringed and had to leave to make sure I did not convulse. LOL!!

  15. Open Book March 15, 2011 at 8:59 PM #

    Well we have five more minutes, any final thoughts or questions?

    • Lurker March 15, 2011 at 9:03 PM #

      None here!
      I hope you enjoyed the article!

      See you Thursday!

  16. kim March 15, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

    Great article and discussion as usual. Until next time. Have a great night.

    • Open Book March 15, 2011 at 9:03 PM #

      Good Night!!

      Great discussion and research Lurker!!

  17. Littlebells March 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM #

    I love reading/listening to you ladies! You always ask the greatest questions and come back with fantastic answers.

    speaking of streaming: I freakin’ hate it! I have netflix and depending on the day, time, and if you have shut down all internet throughout the house, movies stop and start all the time. It’s incredibly annoying. Hopefully with time, it won’t matter when you want to watch a movie, you won’t have to wait for the movie.

    One of my favorite movies, and this totally shows how mental I may be (hee hee), is “Gentleman Broncos”. It was pulled quickly from the only two theaters it was playing after critics creamed it. And you know, it will probably do better in DVD than it ever would in a theater.

    Thanks again Lurker! Hopefully i will be around for the next one.

  18. ozzie20 March 16, 2011 at 5:52 PM #

    Interesting comments! I must admit when I think of straight to DVD films I assume the reason is due to it being bad. I didn’t know there were so many reasons. I’ll think twice about them in the future!

    I hope you and your family get well soon, Littlebells!

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