Oscilloscope's Movie Subscription Plan -- Can These Things Work?

Oscilloscope's Movie Subscription Plan -- Can These Things Work?

Oct 26, 2011

Oscilloscope Labs logoAs the business of making movies continues to grow and evolve thanks to advances in technology making it easier (and cheaper) for almost anyone to get their vision on film, the marketplace for movie fans has become increasingly more crowded.

To get noticed in this veritable sea of films, some crafty filmmakers and studios have started subscription services. Indie director Joe Swanberg is testing out a system wherein investors get early access to all of his films and ultra rare collectibles for an upfront fee, but Oscilloscope Laboratories was ahead of the curve, starting their own subscription service "way back" in 2009.

Reviewers who received screeners of the company’s latest releases (including Bellflower) were treated to a reminder of this service, thanks to an insert asking the viewer to join the Oscilloscope “Ring of Trust.” The ring is basically a subscription service that allows fans early access to Oscilloscope’s new releases for a small fee.

The deal gives subscribers access to ten Oscilloscope films a week ahead of their retail release, and a 50% discount on catalog orders, all for the price of $150. Not a bad deal if you like the indie-fare the company releases (and we do).

The real question is, will these subscription-based services ever work? The pragmatist amongst us finds it unlikely. As FSR points out, there’s a certain amount of risk involved in putting money up for movies that haven’t been announced yet. With many distributors and studios making films that aren’t linked particularly well in terms of content, cast, crew, or genre, one could be spending money on movies they have no interest in seeing in the first place.

However, at some of the smaller prodcos and distributors out there, places like Oscilloscope or Magnet or genre boutique labels like Blue Underground, we could maybe see this working. If the deal were sweet enough, we’d sign on for a Magnet or Blue Underground subscription service in a heartbeat. The key here is the deal. Swanberg’s offer of not only new films in advance but rare collectibles seems like the way to go. Meanwhile, Oscilloscope’s deal is nice – too, particularly on the back catalog. Who doesn't like saving money?

With VOD and streaming and all these other ways to get movies, it remains to be seen if most film fans will actually make this kind of commitment to a company or filmmaker. These other services tend to make finding and viewing films easier, while also making them feel more disposable. Something like a subscription service is a commitment – and we’re not sure most viewers are ready to take that sort of plunge.

What do you think? Would you consider signing up for a studio or distributor’s subscription service? If you’re on the fence, what kind of deal would make you do it? What studios or companies would you want to subscribe to in the first place? Share your answers with us below. 

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