Comcast and IFC Entertainment will today announce their deal (first outlined by Karina a month ago) to simultaneously release independent films in theaters and on television, via video-on-demand. Kicking off on March 24 with American Gun, the agreement will have films in theaters across the nation (in IFC's theaters as well as in Mark Cuban's Landmark Theaters; negotiations are on-going with other chains) while they are being offered to Comcast subscribers in 22 major markets for $5.99/viewing. Despite the fact that the agreement lacks a DVD element, Comcast's reach is dramatically greater than that of the HD Channel on which Bubble aired, and there's a good chance that Comcast/IFC's films will be seen by a much larger audience than Soderbergh's film.

Because VOD is very hard to pirate, and because Comcast could theoretically pick and choose the markets in which these films are offered, it's hoped that the Comcast/IFC approach will be less threatening to supporters of traditional distribution than the Bubble experiment. IFC actually quietly test the system with a day-date release for C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America this month, and the film, despite being available via VOD to Cablevision subscribers, has done record business in IFC theaters - this, too, should suggest to studios and theater owners that the approach is not necessarily a death knell for exhibition. Among the two dozen or so films IFC and Comcast will release are I Am a Sex Addict, Three Times (by Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien, whose work is virtually impossible to see in the US), and The Russian Dolls, which stars Amelie's Audrey Tautou).

Look, the fact is that fans of independent film want to see these movies - to some degree, this is going to work. Day-and-date releasing is not going away, and it's time for theater owners and studios to stop whining and, instead, figure out how they can get involved, and use the approach to their advantage. Times change. Deal with it.