Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ong-Bak 2 gets U.S. website, release strategy

There's now a U.S. website for Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak 2, and distributor Magnola/Magnet is planning a release for cable-TV video-on-demand, Amazon and Xbox on September 25, a month ahead of the theatrical release on October 23.

Not content to wait? There has been buzz about the Korean DVD, but now it looks like there's no subtitles.

There's the Malaysian DVD. But if you order that version, what do you really gain in the long run? You might have your Ong-Bak 2 now, but what about future efforts by Tony Jaa and company? Will the North American release of future Thai action and genre films be jeopardized by gray market DVDs and fan-subbing efforts, which facilitate illegal downloads?

Kung Fu Cinema's Mark Pollard comments
on Magnolia's strategy:

This forward-thinking and diversified approach is a smart move by Magnolia that I only wish could have happened sooner since many fans have already tracked down overseas editions and pirated copies of the film. While Ong-Bak 2 would undoubtedly look great on a big screen, the reality is that it's getting harder for distributors to put niche movies into theaters and turn a profit and harder for audiences to tear themselves away from their home entertainment systems and computers.

If successful, I wouldn't be surprised if this gradually becomes the new model for distributing niche movies. Films could be released sooner and at lower cost to the distributor, in turn making it more likely that we might actually see more licensed foreign films brought into the U.S. If films began to be released worldwide on VOD services in a timely fashion and at a reasonable cost, this could go a long way in combating revenue loss through piracy and cross-border, gray-market sales. Films will still have to be released to DVD and Blu-ray to satisfy collectors though.

I guess I agree with what he's saying. Sometimes the gray market is the only way you can get a semi-legal English-friendly release of a Thai movie. But if the gray market didn't exist, would the film be more likely to be picked up in North America and the U.K.? Would there be motivation for companies like Sahamongkol to offer an English-friendly multi-platform worldwide concurrent release of its films in theaters, on its Mongkol Channel and other cable channels, Internet streaming and DVD/Blu-ray? It's a conundrum.

The U.S. release of Ong-Bak 2 should have happened already, following closely after the film's appearance at South by Southwest, which could have been a promotional platform for a theatrical, VOD, DVD release. Ong-Bak 2 should have been a summer movie, not a fall movie. It'll be interesting to see how this works out.

I also wonder if there will be any special features or commentary tracks on the Magnet disc? Will the quality be okay? How about Blu-ray? Worth getting? I'm willing to wait to hear more. How about you?


  1. I still say that Thailand would be wiser to take a close look at the Korean Film industry approach to this perceived "problem".

    Most films in Korea that are released to DVD in their own domestic Region 3 market are subtitled into English. Despite this, they have little problem managing to license their product for release in other Regions.... and they usually sell there very well. So the argument that failing to subtitle them "protects the foriegn licensing possibility" is false. Region coding already exists supposedly to do just that.

    My feeling is that by being stubborn about the issue, Thailand actually encourages the piracy by forcing Fansubs to be done, (and which then usually get used for the illegal avi rips floating about the internet long before a legitement or semi legitement release with subs comes along.) Not everybody is going to find those subs and be willing to then also buy the disc from Thailand like this lil' Catgirl.

    Realistically... the "camcorder" versions of these films are so attrocious that the only people DLing and watching them are those who would never take the time or effort to seek out a Thai DVD from a reputable source anyway.

    So.... why then do the Koreans (and the HK DVD makers) succeed and the Thai efforts fail? My feeling is that the Korean industry knows full well that making their discs "english friendly" actually means that more english speakers will watch their films and spread the word about them, thus raising the overall visibility of those productions making them actually MORE attractive as licensing properties.

    The shrinking markets for sales in the last year or so means fewer releasers are going to want to take a chance producing a DVD without knowing their is a rabid fanbase already making it known they are interested in it and ready to plunk down cash. Like any merchant... they are inherantly conservative and unwilling to take chances on an unknown film.

    Magnolia makes an effort to produce a class DVD for most any film they license. They suceed in a tough marketplace by going the extra step. They try to include a good english audio dub as well.... (Think about it.... even more accessability for an audience and even more incentive to try a film...) It's the main reason I own TWO copies of "Chocolate". When Ong-bak 2 comes out, I'll probaly grab it too.

    Anyway... I'll stop my rant and just say this in conclusion: This lil' Catgirl sure wishes Thai DVD's were more like they used to be in 2000 than they are now in 2009....

  2. there's always going to be a situation where it's simply not possible to time releases to simultaneously happen; the majority of the world's films are much more modest that the model set by hollywood, which it then holds up as a basis for how other less financially-capable models should fit, so budgets are the one major, obvious factor to consider.

    that is, people will develop an interest in a film as and when they find out about it and decipher whether they'd like to see it. if they can do this through legitimate sources, this bypasses the need for illegtimate sources, but only to some (but potentially larger) extent, and might even turn the tide against alternative financial models that people using illegal sourcing will also probably find hard to stick to, even though it's quite a common call from this section of the so-called fanbase. downloading music legitimately - supported directly or indirectly by financial gain to support the costs of production - is seen as the primary or only non-legislative course of action in that particular field, so a similar thing could be said of films too, i suppose.

    korea (and to a lesser extent HK) shows that it's possible to provide domestically and internationally for it's films (as mentioned above), generating an interest in the underground that sometimes transcends into crossover, probably because, ultimately, the vast majority of people consuming films are much more casual (and always will be) than the several minorities which collectively apply more time & effort (download or purchase) to locating films, amongst their choices sometimes being films that could have a wider appeal if the publicity and other factors convened effectively enough.

    i would have thought that any company producing a product which isn't making the money which reflects the level at which it's being consumed would welcome any source of money, perhaps any amount, which would directly feed back towards it. removing options for consumers to pay this money towards their businesses only seems to play into the hands of those not willing to pay, and disappoints those who would have spent their money happily - and much earlier, too - if allowed to.


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