For many filmmakers, film festivals are a way to potentially secure distribution for their indie films. Maybe a very few will hit the jackpot and land a deal with a big studio. However, most deals are likely to incorporate a limited -- if any -- theatrical release, followed by DVD or increasingly, online distribution or video on demand (VOD). At a brunch hosted by Cinetic FilmBuff during Fantastic Fest, a bunch of film journalists gathered to discuss the future of VOD and alternate methods of distributing films.
The big question we discussed is: How do people watch movies these days? Movies that don't get theatrical distribution are often automatically considered second-tier, and the term "direct to DVD" is still derogatory. But many people do most of their movie viewing in their own homes, either on TV or on a computer or other device, like the iPhone. We watch movies on DVD, but also on cable, through VOD channels that are available through cable TV or online, and through online streaming sites, like Netflix Watch Instantly and Hulu. A month ago, I had the choice of watching World's Greatest Dad on Amazon VOD, or waiting a week to see it in the theater -- this model made it possible for people in any city, not just those getting a theatrical release -- to watch the movie.