The Secret’s Out: A New Gravitas Ventures Release Is Going The Premium Video On Demand Route

Gravitas Ventures of Cleveland is jumping into the hottest corner of the movie distribution business these days — Premium Video on Demand, or PVOD — with a movie that was to have been its widest theatrical release to date.

The movie is “The Secret: Dare to Dream,” a feature film inspired by Rhonda Byrnes’ hugely popular book of the same name. Gravitas late last year acquired North American rights to “The Secret” and partnered with Lionsgate and sister company Roadside Attractions for U.S. theatrical, home entertainment and television distribution. The movie was slated for an April 17 theatrical release on about 1,000 screens nationwide, said Gravitas president Michael Murphy. That number would have been “by magnitudes” larger than a typical theatrical release from the company, Murphy said. Gravitas mostly distributes movies through digital channels, though some films get releases in as many as about 20 markets nationwide.

COVID-19, of course, shuttered movie theaters and got in the way of the April release. And “The Secret” has been in a holding pattern — until now.

Gravitas and its partners announced that “The Secret,” which stars Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas, will be available Friday, July 31, as a PVOD release on all the platforms where you can buy movies to watch in your home, including Amazon, iTunes, Comcast and Vudu. Like other PVOD releases in this year when most movie theaters are closed, the price is higher than standard VOD. “The Secret” will be available to rent at $19.99 for 48 hours.

Murphy said PVOD is a natural home for “The Secret,” a movie that has high built-in awareness from Byrne’s 2006 bestseller and has significant commercial potential. The book was a phenomenon that sold more than 34 million copies worldwide, was translated into 50 languages and appeared on The New York Times bestseller list for 190 weeks. Gravitas previously distributed a documentary version of “The Secret,” which has been one of the most popular movies in the company’s catalog, Murphy said.

The new feature film version, which also stars Jerry O’Connell and Celia Weston, and is directed by Andy Tennant, “follows Miranda (Holmes), a young widow trying to make ends meet while raising her three children and dating her boyfriend (O’Connell),” according to promotional material. “A devastating storm brings an enormous challenge and a mysterious man, Bray (Lucas), into Miranda’s life. Bray reignites the family’s spirit but, unbeknownst to Miranda, also holds an important secret — one that will change everything.”

Movies released this year on PVOD include hits like “Trolls World Tour” and the Judd Apatow movie “The King of Staten Island,” as well as acclaimed independent films such as “New Rarely Sometimes Always” and “First Cow.” Although the current movement toward PVOD is driven by near-term considerations stemming from the pandemic, Murphy said studios “have wanted to do PVOD for years,” in part because, for most movies, the economics “are much better for PVOD than theatrical.”

To underscore that point, this piece from Spy Global notes that with digital releases, “studios keep about 80% of premium VOD revenue versus about 50% of theatrical box office receipts,” according to Kagan analyst Wade Holden.

Another analyst, MoffettNathanson Research’s Robert Fishman, added, “Before the shutdowns, these (PVOD) tests would have been met with strenuous push backs and likely blackouts by exhibitors. Now, even after the theaters reopen, we expect studios will push to dramatically accelerate the windowing strategies that they were contemplating previously.”

Murphy said the distributors are pivoting in their marketing for “The Secret” to get the word out ahead of the PVOD release. Holmes, for instance, will do a virtual press day that will take the place on what would have been an in-person premiere in New York City.

The pandemic is accelerating a “sea change” in the movie distribution business, Murphy said. While Gravitas is a big player in the digital space, Murphy said he’s still a fan of the theatrical experience.

“I hope it (theatrical) comes back. I love to see movies in a theater,” he said. “But it also has to be a safe experience, and for now, that’s going to be challenged.”

Read the full article here.