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Your Favorite Straight-to-Video Films


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A film that is released straight-to-video is one which has been released to the public on home video formats before or without being released in movie theaters or broadcast on television.


Direct-to-video releases can occur for several reasons. Often a production studio will develop a TV show or film which is not generally released for several possible reasons: poor quality, lack of support from a TV network, controversial nature, or a simple lack of general public interest. Studios, limited in the annual number of films they grant cinematic releases to, may choose to pull the completed film from the theaters, or never exhibit it in theaters at all. Studios then recoup some of their losses through video sales and rentals.


In modern popular culture, there is often a stigma associated with direct-to-video productions. General stereotypes include low production values, poor acting and shoddy effects work. While not necessarily true, these prejudices can often hurt sales and lower review scores.


In Japan, the direct-to-video movement carries different connotations, being a niche product rather than a fallback medium. 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 straight-to-video 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. V-Cinema releases are subject to fewer content restrictions and less creative dictate 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 television series and movies. They are often used to tell stories too short to fill a full TV season, and were particularly common in the early 1990s. Sometimes OVAs garner enough interest to justify commissioning a full television series, like Tenchi Muyo!, One Piece, and El Hazard. 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 series. For instance, the DVD release of a TV series might include a bonus episode that was never broadcast as a sales hook.


As the DVD format supplants the videocassette, companies have increasingly released movies in DVD format rather than VHS, causing the term "direct-to-DVD" to replace "direct-to-video" in some instances. However, the word "video" does not necessarily refer to VHS cassettes. The new term used is DVDP ("DVD Premiere"). Such films can cost as much as $20 million (about a third of the average cost of a Hollywood release) and feature actors like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal. Salaries for such actors range from $2 million to $4 million (Van Damme) to $4.5 million to $10 million (Seagal). According to Variety, American Pie: Band Camp sold a million copies in one week, despite retaining only two actors from the original trilogy. In recent years, DVD Premieres have become a substantial source of revenue for movie studios. DVDPs have collectively grossed over $3 billion over the last few years, and have matured enough that DVDP divisions of studios now option their own films. Studios realized that DVDP movies can be shot on a smaller budget, thus allowing studios larger profits with the combined revenues of home video sales and rentals, in addition to licensing movies for television and for distribution abroad (where some DVDP movies do see theatrical releases). Distributing DVDPs is not a practice reserved solely for larger Hollywood studios. Several companies, such as The Asylum, MTI Home Video, and York Entertainment distribute DVDPs almost exclusively. The budgets for films distributed by these companies are even smaller than those of ones distributed by a larger studio, but these companies are still able to profit off their sales.


What are your favorite straight-to-video films???

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