Freakonomics: The Movie Out Today on iTunes Only

The Freakonomics movie that premiered this spring at the Tribeca Film Festival is released to the public today — but only on iTunes (and on some Video on Demand cable systems), nearly a month before it hits theaters.


This is a unique release strategy, and we are being given credit for it even though no credit is due. (The same could be said for the film itself: yes, we appear in it, but all the real work has been done by the producers, directors and distributor.) This pre-theatrical release was cooked up primarily by producer Chad Troutwine, Magnolia Pictures (the distributor) and the folks at Apple.

“This is the first real pre-theatrical release for us, and I think it’s a big deal,” Glenn Bulycz from iTunes Marketing told me. “I believe consumers feel like there is some cachet to being able to talk about a film that’s pre-theatrical (the premiere or ‘screener’ effect). Portability is a key message for us here – iPad, Laptop, etc. lets people get and watch anywhere anytime.”

Here’s Troutwine talking about it in a press release:

Global theatrical attendance remains strong, but the emergence of new technologies and the frantic pace of their adoption have expanded film consumption habits. The Freakonomics distribution model embraces technology, allowing us to engage filmgoers who understandably prefer a theatrical experience, but to also reach a wider film audience who consume content through digital platforms.

It will be interesting to see the effects of this strategy, and whether it’s copied by other distributors and studios — or if, perhaps, they all think the idea is totally daft. It is easy to compile arguments on either side of the issue. On the pro side, there’s: accessibility, buzz, and “cachet”; on the con side, there’s — well, I’ll let you fill in the blanks. Your thoughts?


cool- can u tell us which bootleg sites will be carrying this?


You can watch this movie at via their video on demand service. I've seen the film and enjoyed it. Only 1 segment was meh.


Is there anywhere we can get this in Canada?

Doug Huisken

This film is also available on the Roku, t.v.-top device, which is primarily used for Netflix streaming.


I watched it On Demand in HD. Ran me $10, but I got to see it on my TV in HD instead of on my computer (and I may have a coupon for $5 off any on-demand title)

I liked it. Basically a visual representation of the book, except the Sumo part makes a lot more sense with interviews and footage. At least to someone not familiar with Japanese culture


It's available on Comcast ONDEMAND for $9.99 -- probably less than what it would cost to see it in the theater next week.

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

I predict this moviie will go BLOCKBUSTER and even out perform Hollywood glamour action-adventure Special Effects Pictures released this weekend like The American with Geo Clooney.
**** For Certain Nerdy Subgroups.

Witty Nickname

"Left Behind: The Movie" did something similar in the late 90's / early 2000's. It was a Christian movie about the Rapture and the book series had sold millions.

They released it on video and DVD before they put it in the Theaters hoping people would tell their friends how great it was, and then they would go see it in the theaters.

As I recall, the videos SOLD well, but the movie was OK, not terrible, but not great. It bombed in the theaters. They didn't make any more films despite their being around 12 books in the series.

I always thought it would have made more if they had put in in the theaters first. Hopefully yours is a good movie, and this experiment works well for you!


I really hope you guys report sales figures related to this new distribution model.

I believe that the days of charging for content that can be reproduced to near infinite levels are over. Regular economics teaches that price drops towards the marginal cost of producing an item. The cost of producing a digital movie is zero. So sales will have to gravitate towards scarcities associated with the movie.

I'm interested in seeing whether the cachet (a nice intangible scarcity), will produce sales. I can certainly imagine a movie generating fans like this by having certain periods of advance viewing.


Is it a one-time streaming, or is it a download?

If it's a download, is it time-limited / does it expire?

If it's not time-limited, is it Digital Rights Management (DRM)-free, or is it locked to a computer / iPod / etc...

If it's a download with no expiration date and no DRM, I'm all over it.

If it restricts me in some way, I can wait for the DVD.


I was looking forward to this for some time, but it's concerning me that I'm still not finding the film on iTunes, at 7pm on the release date....hopefully this is an idiosyncrasy, and not indicative of a problem with the distribution model

Sheri Candler

I mentioned this film in one of my Tweets when I saw how it was being released (the tweet was picked up in Techdirt and DocumentaryTech). I personally think it is genius to release this way for many low budget indie films and I too hope that sales data will be released on how it did because it is useful for all in the indie world to be aware. Traditional theatrical is NOT the way of the future for us and I think this is a perfectly viable option.

I know I will buy it because Freakonomics is not going to play a theater near me and I don't want to buy physical DVD anymore, but I do want to see it.


$10 for a rental? Really?


I will rent this "Pre-Theatrical Rental" not because of a perceived "cachet" of any kind, but because there is nothing in the theater anywhere near me that is of any value. The social aspect of movie going is lost on me in the same sense.

Let's consider a new marketing angle here. People who rent this may not have the opportunity to see it anywhere else.

Bill McGonigle

@Dan: I believe the Amazon version is video-on-demand (streaming).

So, what the hidden meaning of a post saying 'iTunes-only' when obviously Amazon isn't a niche player?


It's up on iTunes now. And it's 9.99$ for the SD rental version and 10.99$ for the HD rental.

In related news, I can't wait for the Blu-ray release!


hi there, Ive just checked here in Canada but its not on itunes today?


I'm sure the movie will be great. The books were.

But $11 to "rent" it for 24 hours? I'd have probably bought it for $20. 24 hours just isn't enough utility for me.

Plus, it just feels creepy. Like a motel with an hourly rate. :)

Nick Partridge

$11 to rent - this is an experiment right?


it's a download with no expiration date and no DRM, I'm all over it.