A Christmas Gift From Bob. The Benefits of the Streaming Release Model for Films.

This critic is a huge fan of the theatrical experience. Given the choice, it’s the option he will always take for new films over any sort of convenience. Cinema provides a good opportunity to escape from reality for a couple of hours. It allows viewers to get out and around supporting what might be ( depending on location) a very important community hub. That said subscribers to schemes that let viewers watch as much as they want for a fixed fee may well have experienced the feeling of watching a new release simply because it is what is available at that location. This brings us to A Street Cat Named Bob. Based on a publishing sensation that was truly unavoidable around the time it broke through its the inspiring storey of homeless heroin addict James Bowen who got himself clean and sober thanks to his bond with a stray ginger cat. The film adaptation stared Luke Treadaway and is precisely what viewers would expect from the premise given the limitations of the mandatory PG-13/12A rating for the film to have the widest audience possible. Treadaway is very solid in the central role but unless viewers are already invested in the central relationship it’s the kind of dime a dozen British feel-good movie that will slide off more critical viewers brains very fast. Seasoned film watchers will appreciate for what it is, slap with a 6/10 and move on to whatever else may be releasing that week. That said the Storey and original film have enough emotional connexion with audiences that Lionsgate thought combining material from the follow-up books and packaging it as a Christmas themed sequel was worth the while. What they couldn’t have predicted at the time of the film’s production was COVID-19. With the majority of big-budget releases having been pushed back to 2021 whatever is left has been released on streaming with varying levels of fanfare. With the greatest of respect to A Christmas Gift From Bob, it falls squarely in the category of films that don’t necessarily see huge benefits from a big-screen presentation. Thus it was released very briefly using an increasingly popular premium video on demand model before the subscription video-on-demand rights were sold to Amazon. Having thought the original was perfectly solid but being perfectly content with watching the sequel at home this critic sat down to watch it with an open mind. As expected it’s essentially a Christmas themed reskin of the first film but it does retain a certain level of charm. Luke Treadaway delivers a strong performance in the central role once again. As before the film’s commentary on the plight of the homeless at Christmas is distinctly neutered but very admirably still attempted. It’s easy to sneer at films like this one that are varying levels of a cash grab but in this case ( as with the original) the sequel is fairly effective at what it stands out to do. If an audience member enjoyed the original they will certainly get something out of this follow-up. Critically though the majority of the audience for the film would not have seen it at the cinema ( there’s no reason to expect Lionsgate would not have given this a full theatrical push if not for COVID-19.) They are much more likely to have watched it on streaming or pay/ broadcast TV in the run-up to Christmas or with a bellyful of Christmas meal as the big day winds down. That’s not a knock against the film or its audience. As this franchise can attest there’s a lot of potential money in mobilising those looking for feelgood material. Films like this demonstrate the benefits of adopting a shortened release window much more so than any debates over the latest prestige Netflix original. Having seen some of those in the cinema during their initial two-week theatrical runs they do generally benefit from being seen on the big screen. Much as the film does have some merit the same can’t be said for A Christmas Gift from Bob. This is why it’s an excellent example of the potential advantages for distributors of adopting a direct streaming model. for a new release.
Film rating. 6/10

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