IFC Seals Devilish Pact With Blockbuster

IFC has inked a “devilish” multi-year exclusive distribution deal with Blockbuster, says Chicago Sun-Times blogger and editor of RogerEbert.com, Jim Emerson.

From IFC/Blockbuster’s press release:

Under the terms of the agreement, IFC and Blockbuster will share rental revenues from IFC titles. Blockbuster will have an exclusive 60-day rental window, including both the physical and digital rental distribution channels, for each title as it becomes available. During this period no title will be available on a retail basis in any format. After the 60-day period, the IFC titles will be available on a non-exclusive basis both for retail and digital distribution. However, Blockbuster will retain the exclusive physical rental distribution rights for IFC titles for three years after each street date.

Considering Blockbusters’ draconian NC-17 policy, the retailer seems like an odd choice for IFC, says Emerson:

If you were to check into the availability of films on DVD at Blockbuster Online, among the titles you will not find are “Crash” (David Cronenberg,1997), “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” (Russ Meyer, 1970 — screenplay by Roger Ebert), or “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” (Kirby Dick, 2006), an IFC Films release. They’re not even listed, because they were rated NC-17 and Blockbuster will not make such films available through their stores or online service. (See David Edelstein’s article, “Blame Blockbuster, not the MPAA.)

You will also not find the theatrical releases of Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution,” Takeshi Miike’s “Audition,” John Waters’ “A Dirty Shame,” Peter Jackson’s “Dead-Alive,” Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers,” Abel Ferrara’s “The Bad Lieutenant” and many other films that are only available in cut versions (in some cases heavily cut versions) that have been re-submitted to the MPAA for an R rating just so they could make it onto Blockbuster’s shelves during their first few months of release. You tell me if 2001’s “L.I.E.,” directed by Michael Cuesta (“Six Feet Under,” “Dexter”), starring Paul Dano and Brian Cox, is available from Blockbuster Online. There’s no box art, no description, no credits info, but there’s a page for it here.

Does IFC think its core audience doesn’t care about the integrity (or lack thereof) with which a company like Blockbuster treats the movies it rents and sells? I mean, if they don’t, who does? You’d think the core IFC constituency would be precisely the “movie consumers” who, in principle, would not patronize a place like Blockbuster, any more than they would order a Domino’s pizza.

A joint-press release from Blockbuster and IFC is strikingly hilarious:

“We’re delighted to join with BLOCKBUSTER as we continue our mission of making independent film available to the widest possible audience,” said Lisa Schwartz, IFC’s senior vice president of sales and business development.

Yes, because exclusivity agreements always make things available to a wider audience. Oh wait, maybe she was calling Blockbuster members fat. That’s just rude and uncalled for.

Is Blockbuster trying to start a Netflix/Blockbuster format war?

IFC signs pact with devil Blockbuster [Scanners Blog]
IFC Entertainment and BLOCKBUSTER Sign Two-Year Exclusive Rental Deal (Press Release) [Yahoo!]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Ilovemygeek says:

    Ha ha ha, this cracks me up, no movie distribution deal could ever make me leave Netflix for Blockbuster. No way, no how.

  2. harumph says:


  3. scoopy says:


  4. UpsetPanda says:

    I should write DirecTV and my parents a letter for never exposing me to the “wonderful” IFC or Sundance or any other of those annoying indie film channels. I’m perfectly capable of going to my local theater to see an indie film or to go to a smaller mom/pop theater for showcase films. I don’t need IFC telling me what is avant garde…and definitely not Blockbuster now. Netflix, you’re still my first movie love.

  5. If people want amateurish, lame videos, they’ll go to YouTube. Sorry, IFC, you’re too late.

  6. CaptRavis says:

    I’ll email TPB and make sure they don’t track any IFC rips because of the exclusivity deal with blockbuster…oh wait, that may not work.

  7. Bladefist says:

    I canceled block buster today. I am one of the last ones to leave them I think, I stayed long past the rate increases. Screw’em. I had a whole queue that said ‘short wait’ so i went to netflix, now that same queue says ‘Available’ all the way down.

  8. backbroken says:

    Hmmm. So now I can’t get your releases off of Netflix? Thanks for removing my moral ambiguity about getting them from TPB then.

  9. MeOhMy says:

    IFC slogan: “Always,Uncut”

    Someone better reevaluate that.

    PS – not being able to get Crash (we’re talking about the James Spader/Holly Hunter WTF-fest, not the one with the Academy Awards) is a Good Thing.

  10. bohemian says:

    This move is worthy of Sears.

  11. they should cut a deal for IFC rentals getting a KFC coupon, or a TGIF gift card.

  12. KelbornCmd says:

    Wow, that is horrendous. I love Netflix, and wouldn’t consider switching to Blockbuster, but that just makes me mad at all of the parties involved. lame.

  13. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    Wow. I thought that Blockbuster would be content limiting the availability of films in their own stores. Nice to know the lengths they’ll go to in ruining things for everyone. Still not wrenching me away from Netflix, though!

  14. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    So, the movies will only be permanently available to pirates? Great.

  15. copious28 says:

    What is IFC?

  16. UpsetPanda says:

    @copious28: Independent Film Channel. They have a cable/satellite channel and they also produce independent films. http://www.ifc.com

  17. We should all trust Blockbuster. There is nothing better than a company abbreviated BB which uses a blue-and-yellow color scheme and has a wide, semi-rectangular logo tilted approx. 15 degrees and who also distributes DVDs. [I just detected these similarities while reading this thread and it kinda blew my mind.]

  18. PingPongDarts says:


  19. Bye says:

    @Troy F.: Speak for yourself. Cronenberg’s _Crash_ offended me far less than the recent Academy winner.

  20. theblackdog says:

    There was a cute movie I saw a while back at the indie theater called “I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With” Unfortunately thanks to this, it sits in the saved section of my Netflix queue rather than on the list, but the Blockbuster has plenty of copies.

    It still won’t make me give up Netflix, time to hit BitTorrent.

  21. Geekbuster says:

    As a employee for blockbuster, I must say that this is a effort to get more customers in the stores and TA. I tired of these netflix users who like to put out false info (Crash is available in store and online. however there is a long wait for these films.)Plus you can getAng Lee’s “Lust, Caution,” in store (at mine atleast) I think we should applaud that IFC and Blockbuster are shedding light to the indie market. I see a lot more indie flicks being rented and this will help film makers to have a part of this once exclusive club that the studios controlled at one time.

    Just a note I am a netflix member and a in-store blockbuster customer (Vaction-only). I support both companies and I do not pick sides.

  22. csdiego says:

    Hmm. OK, so I am now even less likely to see an IFC film than I would have been before.

  23. parad0x360 says:

    Im sorry but isnt this just another reason to pirate movies? I would NEVER join blockbuster and I will never leave netflix.

  24. Boy Howdy says:

    However, Blockbuster will retain the exclusive physical rental distribution rights for IFC titles for three years after each street date.

    How do they plan to enforce that? First Sale doctrine says that if I buy a copy, I can rent it out. I’m not clear how they can stop Netflix from buying copies to rent out.

  25. alexiso says:

    I hate that “Rent Exclusively at Block Buster”. They’re Nazi’s. We either burn the movies or rent from the Red Box(s) in PA. You can’t beat $1 for 1 day on brand new releases.

  26. Lazlo Nibble says:

    How are Blockbuster and IFC planning to enforce a physical rental exclusivity agreement? US copyright law doesn’t provide for a “rental distribution right” — if some other provider wants to make a “Blockbuster-exclusive” IFC title available for rental, all they have to do is buy a copy.

  27. AMetamorphosis says:

    Who rents from BlockBuster ?

    4+ for a movie when I can get them from RedBox or Netflix waaaay cheaper …

  28. drjayphd says:

    Michael Jackson thinks this policy is “mean … a racist … and very, very, very devilish.”

    …wait, what? Consumerist? (flips “commenting intelligence” switch away from “Deadspin”)

    I’d ask why it couldn’t be, say, Tommy K’s signing the deal instead of a company with Blockbuster’s policies, but they’re down to maybe half a store now. The entire rental industry, save online channels, is pretty much swirling around the toilet anyways…

  29. tomok97 says:

    @UpsetPanda: What are yout talking about? DirecTV has both Sundance and IFC.

  30. cuiusquemodi says:

    @LazloNibble: IANAL, but as I understand it, but renting is different from selling a physical copy, and that renting a DVD (videotape, etc.) constitutes public performance or distribution. To ensure physical distribution hegemony, IFC can agree to only sell the necessary distribution rights to Blockbuster.

  31. storymakerupper says:

    I just saw the Ang Lee movie, Lust, Caution at my local Blockbuster. Weird. I didn’t know about the NC-17 thing. Is that something that is nationwide, or just location specific?

    I’m also an online Blockbuster user, and have never had a problem. I’m impulsive, so I like the ability to to trade in my online rentals for physical movies at a store, especially when I’m jonesing to see Teen Wolf…again.

  32. Actualy, this is great. Now I can have the convenience of going to BB to obtain the movies of the IFC television channel. Which come directly into our homes. [And if you don’t get IFC, what do you know or care about its selection of titles thst would drive you to do business with BB?]

  33. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I haven’t bought or rented from Blockbuster since they refused to carry “The Last Temptation of Christ” about a million years ago, so…

    I guess IFC’s decision means I won’t see any of their movies, even though have enjoyed their channel and films in the past.

    I don’t do business with censors, IFC. Sorry.

  34. The subject of “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” a movie released by IFC films (and mentioned in the article), is the exact reason IFC should want nothing to do with Blockbuster.
    Oh the irony.

  35. MonkeyMonk says:

    This just seems like a really bad move on IFC’s part. I have over 300 movies in my Netflix queue and I’m more than happy to watch those rather than whatever IFC movie I won’t know exists because I can only get it at Blockbuster — a store I haven’t stepped into for over 6 years.

    Hopefully his will go the way of the Blockbuster/Weinstein deal. Although Blockbuster had exclusivity on rentals of their films I could always get them through Netflix within a few days of release.

  36. camille_javal says:

    @cuiusquemodi: actually – § 109(c) of the copyright statute reads, (c) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106 (5), the owner of a particular copy lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to display that copy publicly, either directly or by the projection of no more than one image at a time, to viewers present at the place where the copy is located.

    (106(5) is the copyright owner’s exclusive right to public display).

    The rental limitation seems to just be for computer programs and phonorecords.

    The problem is, it isn’t worthwhile for most rental distributors to pay full retail for the number of copies they would reasonably require for rental – is my guess.

  37. Landru says:

    God, Blockbuster must be paying them a fortune.

  38. Jamie Beckland says:

    @LazloNibble: I was thinking the same thing.

    The only way I think that IFC can enforce the no-rental agreement is for the first 60 days, by refusing to sell the title to anyone but Blockbuster. But, after the 60 day window, they are screwed.

    There is no “physical rental distribution rights”. Under the first sale doctrine (quoted above) there is no way that this would hold up in court if Netflix decided to challenge it. Wait, Netflix should just decide to disregard the exclusive rights, and wait for IFC and Blockbuster to sue them. That suit would get tossed out on its ear!

  39. timd1969 says:

    “We’re delighted to join with BLOCKBUSTER as we continue our mission of making independent film available to the widest possible audience,” said Lisa Schwartz, IFC’s senior vice president of sales and business development. “Blockbuster’s national store network combined with its by-mail and downloading services, made this a particularly appealing agreement for us because it gives millions of customers increased access to our movies.”

    I suspect that Lisa Schwartz will be updating her resume on Monster.com soon. She doesn’t seem to have figured out that IFC’s customers and Blockbuster’s customers aren’t often one in the same.

  40. econobiker says:

    @marsneedsrabbits: Blockbuster sux large! Not Samuri films but large amounts of POS B level movies which have “suggestions of breasts” cover pictures yet nobody has ever heard of…

  41. Brien says:

    At the Blockbuster I used to work at, we carried L.I.E.

  42. dandd says:

    I think all 20 IFC fans will be extremely pissed!

  43. wildness says:

    Blockbuster… Hmmm… Blockbuster… Ummm… Blockbuster? Oh! I remember Blockbuster. Do people still actually rent movies there anymore???

  44. Elijah-M says:

    To: programming@ifctv.com

    I was shocked and dismayed to learn of your recent exclusivity pact with Blockbuster Video. I was also quite puzzled, as Blockbuster hardly seems an appropriate venue for independent film. They have an established record of open hostility towards non-mainstream entertainment, and their customer service is terrible. For those reasons, I have not shopped there in several years.

    While I can appreciate that this arrangement represents an effort to make independent film available to the widest possible audience, in many cases, it will do exactly the opposite. I for one, will not be renting any of the films affected by this arrangement (because I do not/will not shop at Blockbuster). As Blockbuster’s recent fortunes attest, I am far from alone in thie regard.

  45. Elijah-M says:

    in this regard.

  46. SpdRacer says:

    I just felt the need to join the bash blockbuster bandwagon (say that 3x fast), I haven’t rented there since they sent me a collection notice for 6$ in late fees, because I hadn’t rented from them in a couple of months. Guess what, still haven’t gone back and never will. Long live TPB and Netflix!

  47. claming says:

    1. The 60 day window is to combat the fact that the Weinstein agreement has been a complete failure due to “first-sale”. They don’t necessarily plan to do anything after that, 2 months is a pretty long time in the video rental business.

    2. This deal likely has less to do with IFC than it does with Genius Products, the video distributor of IFC Films (among others), a company majority owned by the Weinstein Company. Expect that when the original Weinstein deal expires in a year or two, that the new deal looks similar to this one..