A year ago, Vancouver’s Reelhouse attracted the attention of both the independent film community and the Canadian start-up world in providing a credible platform for indie filmmakers to showcase their work in a more immersive online experience than they’d previously been able to.
Somewhere along the way, Warner Brothers took notice. The companies have just announced that Reelhouse will run a three-month sell-through test for five Warner Bros. titles. Unfortunately, they’re territory-limited and inaccessible in Canada. But the boost to Reelhouse may mean great things for the future of film distribution.
Although the digital age has not meant the same kind of wholesale destruction for movies as it has for the music industry, neither has the new world of digital piracy been exactly kind to Hollywood. Faced with a threat, though, big-budget films have historically reacted by differentiating themselves, usually for the better.
When television arrived, so did CinemaScope and Panavision. With the internet, Hollywood has responded by creating spectacles that would be difficult to reproduce in a home theatres. The five films included in the Reelhouse pilot project are The Great Gatsby, Man Of Steel, Argo, the Dark Knight trilogy, and Pacific Rim. The platform will enable viewers to access enhanced content of the type usually available as extras on Blu-ray discs. For Warner Brothers, adding an immersive online layer to a film creates viewer engagement, which increases revenue. Debra Baker, VP of Global Business Development for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group says, “Consumers who are engaged with our brands tend to spend more — that’s our hypothesis.”
Reelhouse came to Warner Brothers’ attention through their Media Camp accelerator program.
For independent filmmakers, Reelhouse has been developing a very attractive package, offering a very high degree of control over the process of building a community through viewer engagement, increasing the possibility for a filmmaker to gradually construct excitement around a film through all stages of its release. Experience, after all, is difficult to pirate.