Steven Soderbergh is being followed by a Jackass.
Soderbergh, the acclaimed director of such hits as “Erin Brockovich”, “Ocean’s Eleven”, and “Traffic”, tested the traditional delivery method of Hollywood films by debuting the low-budget 2006 movie “Bubble” simultaneously in theaters, on HDNet, and four days later on DVD.
Soderbergh’s experiment was a far cry from the usual practice of debuting a major film in theaters first. One slight deviation has been films released straight to DVD, but those are usually low-budget, low-brow entertainment.
Now Paramount Pictures is releasing what it says is the first studio-backed feature film to premier online. On Dec. 19, the studio will make the latest installment in the “Jackass” franchise — the cleverly-named “Jackass 2.5” — available through Blockbuster’s Movielink service (The New York Times).
“Jackass 2.5” will include footage left over from “Jackass 2”, which earned more than $70 million at the box office, and new antics before “Jackass 3” is released in 2008. “There’s more vomiting, nudity, and defecation,” one executive told The NYT. “The stuff that consumers really want.”
“Jackass 2.5” can be streamed free for one week. It will have 15- and 30-second pre- and post-roll advertisements and, presumably, ads plastered on the Web page. On Dec. 26, the movie can be downloaded from pay-to-own sites such as iTunes and Amazon’s Unbox, with an expected price tag between $10 and $15.
Beginning Jan. 1, Joost and other advertising-supported streaming sites, will let viewers watch the movie for free. In February, “Jackass 2.5” finally reaches cable and satellite TV on-demand services.
At the same time, Paramount Pictures’ fellow subsidiary of Viacom, MTV Networks and the creator of the “Jackass” franchise, will use the film to direct traffic to jackassworld.com for original video content, an archive of the 24 episodes of “Jackass” broadcast on MTV, blogs, and “all things Jackass.”
“We’re trying to assess here not only the potential for a broadband movie online, but also the different ways to distribute,” Thomas Lesinksi, the president of Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment told The Times.
“Within 30 days we’ll have a very good idea where the consumption is coming from,” he said.
A successful premier of “Jackass 2.5” could lead to more Internet-only debuts and simultaneous releases of movies like Soderberg’s “Bubble.” Just in the past few weeks, filmmakers and studios seem interested again in testing new distribution strategies.
Indie filmmaker Edward Burns debuted his $4 million film “Purple Violets” exclusively through iTunes. The latest “Harry Potter” installment on DVD included a downloadable version of the film. And Vudu offered an online HD download of “The Bourne Ultimatum” the day it was released on DVD.
And soon, there will be “Jackass 2.5.”
Couldn’t the studio find another release to experiment with? No matter what you think of the franchise, “Jackass” is a perfect choice considering who is watching Internet TV, spending time in social networks, downloading music, TV shows, and movies, and who like short bursts of bite-sized content.