Steven Soderbergh's BUBBLE has received a fair share of attention, but all that ink has nothing to do with the film's merits (or lack thereof). No, what has a lot of movie theater owners and studio heads in a huff is that BUBBLE is opening today on screens across the country while also getting two showings on HDNet Movies and being made available for purchase on DVD Tuesday. Theater owners are scared that this distribution model will be the death of their business. Their response to this perceived threat has been a lot of public bellyaching and refusing to book the movie. Landmark Theaters, owned by BUBBLE'S production company 2929 Entertainment, will give the film the majority of its screenings. (In Columbus it will play a one-time members-only screening at the Wexner Center on February 1.)
Mark Cuban, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks and co-owner of 2929 Entertainment, thinks the complaining is a sign that theater owners don't know their business. Cuban makes some interesting arguments about the state of theatrical exhibition on his weblog Blog Maverick. He throws a lot out there, so rather than attempt to condense his overview of the matter, check out his posts "What business are theaters in?" and "Go see Bubble".
One of his better points is that a day-and-date multiple platform model should benefit smaller films. Arthouse films face the problem of frontloaded promotion for their New York and Los Angeles openings and little media presence by the time they filter down to the midsized and small cities, if they ever get there. Cuban's strategy is to make these films available to everyone (assuming a theater in your town opens them) and see if the marketplace will support them on a wider level than the current model. In a way, it's putting Jonathan Rosenbaum's MOVIE WARS argument--more people would watch these movies if provided better access to them--to the test.
I also Cuban's onto something in giving theaters that play these films a percentage of the DVD revenues. Studios practically treat theatrical runs like the first phase of DVD marketing campaigns as it is.