Straight to DVD

Direct-to-video (also known as direct-to-DVD, direct-to-VHS, direct-to-digital, made-for-video, straight-to-video, shot-on-video, or straight-to-DVD) refers to the release of a film to the public immediately on home video formats rather than a theatrical release or television broadcast.[1] Because sufficiently inferior sequels, prequels, or midquels of larger-budget films may be released direct-to-video, references to direct-to-video releases are often pejorative. Despite this, direct-to-video releases have become something of a lifeline for independent filmmakers and smaller companies.[2]

Reasons for releasing direct-to-video

A production studio may decide not to generally release a TV show or film for several possible reasons: poor quality, lack of support from a TV network, negative reviews, controversial nature, or a simple lack of general public interest. Studios, limited in the annual number of films to which they grant cinematic releases, may choose to pull the completed film from the theaters, or never exhibit it in theaters at all. Studios then generate additional revenue through video sales and rentals.[3]

Direct-to-video releases have historically carried a stigma of lower technical or artistic quality than theatrical releases.[4] Some films released direct-to-video are films which have been completed but were never released in movie theaters. This delay often occurs when a studio doubts a film's commercial prospects would justify a full cinema release, or because its release window has closed. A release window refers to a timely trend or personality, and missing that window of opportunity means a film, possibly rushed into production, failed to release before the trend faded. In film-industry slang, such films are referred to as having been "vaulted".[5]

Direct-to-video releases can be done for films which cannot be shown theatrically due to controversial content, or because the cost involved in a theatrical release is beyond the releasing company.[6]

Animated sequels and feature-length episodes of animated series are also often released in this fashion.[6] The Walt Disney Company began making sequels of most of its animated films for video release beginning with The Return of Jafar (the sequel to Aladdin) in 1994. Universal Studios also began their long line of The Land Before Time sequels that same year.

Studios may also release sequels or spin-offs to a successful live action film straight to DVD. These are commonly referred to as "cheapquels"[7] due to the lack of quality and budget in comparison to the original. Examples are the Behind Enemy Lines series of films.

The family film segment is a major part of direct-to-video sales. According to the LA Times,

"Often, the downfall of live-action family films at the box office is their strength on video. Their appeal is to families with young children, who may go to only a couple of movies per year but who will watch many videos multiple times. The teens and young adults who drive blockbuster box-office statistics stay away from family movies."[8]

During the Golden Age of Porn in 1970, many films were released in theatres, some of which became some of the highest grossing films in their release years and in the porn industry altogether. Towards the 1980s porn began to shift to video release, because video allowed the producers to work on extremely low budget, and neglect some film elements like script. During the 1990s porn began releasing through paysites on the internet, which made distribution easier to millions of customers around the world, but also created a problem as it became an easy target to piracy and posting in free porn sites.[original research?]

Physical format releases

Direct-to-video films screened theatrically

Occasionally, a studio that makes a movie that was prepared as a direct-to-video film will release it theatrically at the last minute due to the success of another film with a similar subject matter or an ultimate studio decision. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is an example of this. However, despite the movie's critically acclaimed success, its box-office performance was very poor, which has been attributed to its last minute decision to be released theatrically. The film had much better commercial success in its subsequent home video releases. Another example which garnered a large cult following is the 2001 psychological thriller Donnie Darko, which was originally slated for a direct-to-video release. Doug's 1st Movie was also intended as a direct-to-video release; however, due to the success of The Rugrats Movie, it was instead released theatrically in March 1999. While the film did poorly with critics, it was a moderate box-office success. Big Idea's The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie was intended to be a direct-to-video release, as well.

Other times, a direct-to-video movie may get a limited theatrical screening in order to build excitement for the actual release of the video such as was done for 2010's Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and Planet Hulk.[9]

"DVD Premiere"

As DVDs gradually replaced videocassettes, the term "direct-to-DVD" replaced "direct-to-video" in some instances.[10] However, the word "video" does not necessarily refer to VHS cassettes. Many publications continue to use the term direct-to-video for DVDs or Blu-ray Discs. The new term sometimes used is DVDP ("DVD Premiere").[11] Such films can cost as much as $20 million[12] (about a third of the average cost of a Hollywood release[13]) Some direct-to-video releases also feature formerly well-known actors, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ray Liotta, Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Ving Rhames, Val Kilmer, Rose McGowan, 50 Cent, Maggie Grace, Christian Slater, Vinnie Jones, Forest Whitaker, Steven Dorff, Vivica A. Fox and Cuba Gooding, Jr..[12] Salaries for such actors range from $2 to $4 million (Van Damme) to $4.5 to $10 million (Seagal).[12] According to Variety, American Pie: Band Camp sold a million copies in one week, despite retaining only two actors from the original trilogy.[14]

As of 2005, DVDPs collectively grossed over $3 billion annually.[12]

Digital releases


Direct-to-iTunes is an online distribution method that avoids all upfront DVD production, marketing and distribution costs as well as upfront cinema distribution and marketing costs. It has revolutionized short film distribution and on occasion has been used for feature length films.[15] Apple distributes the film for 30% of the revenue, while an additional 10-15% may go to the person who formats the film for iTunes compatibility.[15] The first independently produced feature length motion picture to pursue the direct-to-iTunes marketing scheme was Ed Burns' Purple Violets, which debuted on iTunes on November 20, 2007. It was the first feature length film to "premiere exclusively on iTunes". It was distributed exclusively on iTunes at a price of US$14.99 for a month before being made available through other distribution channels.[16] The movie, which was produced at a cost of $4 million, had premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where it was reviewed positively, but only received modest distribution offers.[15] At the time of the Purple Violets release, most studios were not distributing via iTunes early in the process and only Walt Disney Studios, which was the first movie studio to distribute via iTunes,[15] was distributing at iTunes simultaneously with DVD distribution.[17] It was not very common for consumers to make digital movie purchases at the time.[18] The Polish brothers' 2011 For Lovers Only, which had virtually no production costs and was released to iTunes on July 12, is regarded as the first profitable feature length direct-to-iTunes product.[19] The direct-to-iTunes method is also becoming common with both books and music.

When Purple Violets was released, several short films had already been distributed through iTunes. Previously, marketing of short films had been prohibitive. However, Apple distributed the February 25, 2007 79th Academy Awards nominees for the Animated Shorts, Live Action Shorts and Documentary Shorts as well as half of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival shorts, beginning a new era.[15]


Due to the growth of YouTube and other websites, premieres of long-form films increasingly occur through online streams, . Long-form films to premiere on YouTube or other sites include Home (2009), The Cult of Sincerity (2008), Life in a Day (2011), Innocence of Muslims (2012), Eyes and Ears of God: Video Surveillance of Sudan (2012), Girl Walks into a Bar (2011) and Zeitgeist: The Movie (2007). In 2010, Striker was the first Indian film to premiere on YouTube on the same day as it was premiered in theaters.

The V-Cinema and OVA markets in Japan

In Japan, direct-to-video titles referred to as "Original Video" (オリジナルビデオ) carry different connotations, being a niche product rather than a fallback. Despite having lower budgets than features intended for theater release, Japanese direct-to-video productions are rarely marred by the poor storyline and lower quality production often associated with the DTV market in the US. So-called V-Cinema has more respect from the public, and affection from film directors for the greater creative freedoms the medium allows. DTV releases are subject to fewer content restrictions and less creative dictates than other formats.

In the case of anime, this is called Original Video Animation (OVA or OAV), and their production values usually fall between those of TV shows and movies. They're often used to tell stories too short to fill a full TV season, or to take creative risk without pressures from TV studios and sponsoring companies[20] and were particularly common in the early 1990s. Sometimes OVAs garner enough interest to justify commissioning a full TV show, such as Tenchi Muyo!, El Hazard, and Read or Die.

With the advent of the 13 episode season format, OVAs are less common now. The majority of OVAs released in today's market are usually continuations or reworkings of recently completed TV show. For instance, the DVD release of a TV show might include a bonus episode that was never broadcast as a sales hook.

See also


Further reading

External links

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