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Direct to Video

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Exactly as good as it sounds.

"Land Before Time VI Released Straight To Landfill"

This is the practice of skipping theaters/television and just going straight to home video as the first release. This is generally not a good sign in terms of quality (especially if it was originally going to be released theatrically, but was consigned to video)—the term "direct-to-video" or "straight-to-video" often gets used as slang for "cheaply made, rushed, low quality", and in extreme cases, "complete bucket of crap".

In the United States, while there have been plenty of direct-to-video films and such since the advent of home video, they were usually things that were considered financially unsound to release in theaters, like instructional videos, specialized documentaries, foreign films, films with controversial or niche subject matter, Z-grade low budget horror films, cartoon compilations, concert films, longform music videos, and pornography. The practice of creating and releasing regular fiction specifically for video didn't really take off until 1994 with Disney's Aladdin: The Return of Jafar and Universal's The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure, neither of which were intended to hit theaters at any point in their production.note  Other studios started following suit, hardly limited to child-oriented animation. In particular, independent studios and filmmakers quickly picked up on this distribution model, due to its lower distribution costs and reduced censorship (video stores will often stock unrated films that theaters won't touch).

There is a distinct business model that drives the direct-to-video industry, particularly when it involves lower-quality films. One might think that churning out mediocre-to-bad movies on purpose would be a dumb idea, until one looks at the sales and rental figures. A cheap 70- to 90-minute film can be produced for as little as a few thousand dollars if you hire obscure actors, crew and writers (often non-union, and barely getting minimum wage), everything gets shot around the studio, and nothing is required that can't be obtained from the studio's stock wardrobe and props. Or, as has been trending since the mid-2000s, animation will now be done as pretty cheap CGI movies. The studio then usually makes about $3-5 million off this, most of it from sales to rental chains. It floods the market with tripe into which nobody put any true effort, but it still makes money in the long run.

It's the modern equivalent of the B-Movie; in fact, many of these would be B movies if double features were still a regular thing. Some direct-to-video flicks will try to make lemonade of their lemons by claiming that their movie is "too intense", "too scary", "too well-written", "too sexy", or "too lavishly budgeted" for theaters; usually the viewers don't fall for it. It may be a sign that a series or franchise the movie is associated with has long since jumped the shark, or is about to very soon. Alternately, the movie could be a shameless ripoff of an existing, highly profitable franchise.

A film that had a theatrical release in its home country might be released direct-to-video internationally note . This may be due to several factors: it might be a sign that the film was a complete failure in its home country, or it might be because the subject matter or style limit its appeal in a particular foreign market. It's also common for a film made and released direct-to-video in its home country to be released theatrically in other countries — for instance, Bambi II and Honey 2 were both released straight to video in the US and Canada, but given theatrical runs in Europe and Argentina.

Further still, works that were originally intended to be direct-to-video end up getting retrofitted to show on television or in theaters. Usually, only some minimal editing is done to make it fit for theaters, but there have been cases where the project was intervened midway and beefed up to make it quite a bit better. An example of the former is Doug's 1st Movie, which was put into theaters after the success of The Rugrats Movie. A famous example of the latter is Toy Story 2, on which Pixar expanded tremendously for its theatrical release, along with another Disney film, Recess: School's Out.

In Japan, where the business model is referred to in wasei-eigo as Video-through (ビデオスルー), OVAs follow the same model of distribution, but have the opposite expectations in terms of their quality. In short, while "direct-to-video" means "too bad for theaters" in the West, OVA means "too good for television" in the East. With larger budgets and without Executive Meddling or the strict requirements of the Media Watchdogs, OVAs are expected to be significantly better than television-based anime. Live-action direct-to-video, known as "V-cinema" overseas (although this is technically a trademark of Toei Company), also has a much better reputation in Japan. This is due mainly to the number of established filmmakers who use it for their more "experimental" or unusual work, enjoying the greater creative freedom and lack of censorship. In addition, some Japanese dubbed versions of foreign films or TV series also go direct to home video without getting a theatrical or TV release first — for example, the Japanese release of Family Guy.

With home video being slowly replaced by streaming services, direct-to-video has become more loosely defined as any film that skips theaters for a release through streaming or the general web. Because of the rise of original programming for services like Netflix and Hulu during the 2010s, with shows like Stranger Things boasting production values and A-list talent on par with cable offerings, the line has become blurrier between "theatrical" and "direct-to-video" content. This became especially true in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, when it became common for films originally intended for theaters to be released directly to streaming instead.

In a further expansion of the phenomenon, it has become increasingly common for Missing Episodes of shows that were canceled early to first see the light of day on home video or streaming.

See also It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars, the Ghetto Index, Sequelitis, It Will Never Catch On, and Audience-Alienating Premise.

Direct-to-video releases (examples by source media)

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The American releases of the Pokémon movies, beginning with the sixth one; the closest they get to a theatrical release now is a premiere on Cartoon Network or Disney XD.
    • Since there were two versions of Pokémon: The Movie Black/White (a "black" version and a "white" version, much like their corresponding games Pokémon Black and White), The Pokemon Company International used the opportunity to premiere one version in a limited theatrical run (the "white" version) while the other premiered on Cartoon Network (the "black" version). Both were released to DVD in a double-feature.
  • Most theatrical anime movies are released direct-to-video in the US. Before digital cinemas, it was very expensive to put a movie in theaters since it meant spending thousands on just one 35mm film print, much less hundreds. Some anime films got a very limited run at art house or convention screenings if they were lucky. Now with almost all cinemas in the US having digital projectors, it's much cheaper to release a film in theaters, and now most major anime movies get a limited release here before being released to DVD and Blu-ray, though quite a few still skip the theatrical run completely.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes, being 110 episodes long (i.e. longer than most TV series) was — to many viewers' surprise — an OVA released straight-to-Laserdisc. The result is a tight script with virtually no Plot Hole nor Filler. Limited animation budget somehow effectively avoided Stock Footage usage throughout long-winded space battles... almost (Stock Footage was used occasionally, but the interval between each usage can easily be wide up to tens of episodes that you won't notice it once it's in effect).
  • The Animatrix is probably the second best thing that ever happened to The Matrix franchise (with the sequels rarely on fans' favorite list, the video game adaptations fall victim to the typical syndrome and the graphic novels largely forgettable). Most of its success can be credited to bold exploration into the Matrix mythos, a return to the Cyberpunk theme (that was never revisited by the sequels) and the excellent hand-drawn as well as CGI animation.

    Comic Books 
  • There have recently been a series of Marvel Comics direct-to-video animated adaptation such as Ultimate Avengers and Hulk Vs., which in practice are more like OVAs: both better animated and less-censored than their television counterparts.
  • DC Comics has a similar line of such productions, including Superman: Doomsday (adapted from The Death of Superman) and Wonder Woman. There's also the little-known 1998 animated film based on Gen¹³, Gen¹³: The Movie, the series's only venture outside of comics.
  • The Beano Video and its sequel were both Direct to video. These were a number of animated shorts featuring characters from The Beano.
  • The Hellboy Animated series comprises two films: Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron. (Both films did air on Cartoon Network shortly after they were released on DVD.) In spite of having much of the voice work provided by the same actors from the Guillermo del Toro Hellboy live-action films, Animated is a distinct continuity. If anything, it's closer to the original comics.
  • Gold Digger: Time Raft was released directly to DVD. Being a home made project, it was initially released in parts. In 2010, the whole thing was complied into one full movie.

    Comic Strips 
  • In the run of Peanuts animated specials:
  • The CGI Garfield movies Garfield Gets Real, Garfield's Fun Fest and Garfield's Pet Force were all released this way. However, the Regal Free Family Film Festival did show the latter two films in the summer of 2009.

    Films — Animation 
  • The third and fourth An American Tail movies, which take place between the first one and Fievel Goes West by putting Fievel back in New York City.
  • Bartok the Magnificent, the technically-not-a-sequel to Anastasia, was released this way.
  • Films by Blue Sky Studios got this treatment in Japan (with two exceptions).
  • Both sequels to The Brave Little Toaster were released straight to video. The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue is the immediate follow-up, but America had to wait until the second sequel, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars, was already released.
  • Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic shutting down theaters, Trolls World Tour went straight to video on demand, skipping theaters (bar a few drive-ins). SCOOB!, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run note , Soul, Luca and Turning Red followed suit.
    • Some of these films did wind up getting theatrical releases:
      • After getting releases in select major cities around the time of their Disney+ releases, Soul, Luca and Turning Red got theatrical releases nationwide in 2024 following the delay of Elio to 2025.
      • Trolls World Tour got released at select AMC Theaters locations beginning in April of 2021, as either a selectable movie for their private watch parties or as a standard $5 Fan Favorites release. In addition, the film was shown at three summer kids' movie programs: Regal's Summer Movie Express, Cinemark's Summer Movie Clubhouse and Megaplex Cinema's Kids Summer Movies.
      • SCOOB! got a release nationwide on May 21, 2021.
  • The 2006 Curious George film had three sequels that were released this way in 2010, 2015, and 2019.
  • Disney Animated Canon
    • The first direct-to-video movie Disney ever made specifically as a Direct-to-Video sequel would be Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, released in 1994. It proved to be an immense success, becoming one of the best-selling VHS tapes in history with 15 million copies sold. This led to not only Disney producing dozens more direct-to-video movies, but also inspired every studio in Hollywood to release substantially more Direct-to-Video content, leading to a boom that lasted nearly two decades.
    • Disney has released direct-to-video sequels to a significant portion of its animated canon, animated by the company's various television animation units. At first they were follow-ups to The Renaissance Age of Animation titles, but they gradually shifted back to films from the Golden and Dark ages. There are also a few titles based on Classic Disney Shorts characters and Winnie the Pooh. Three movies (Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World, Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and Atlantis: Milo's Return) were Compilation Movies consisting of completed episodes of an aborted TV spinoff. A fourth, Tarzan and Jane, did get picked up for a full series. John Lasseter cancelled all future direct-to-video sequels after taking over Disney (likely in part due to the rise in 3D animation at the time) although he did allow a few already in production to become completed. In The New '10s, Disney's only efforts in this vein were the Tinkerbell CGI films.
    • There have been a couple Disney sequels that have gotten theatrical runs: The Rescuers Down Under, Peter Pan: Return To Never Land, and The Jungle Book 2. The financial failure of The Rescuers Down Under resulted in the start of the company's Direct-to-Video trend in the 1990s. The failure of the latter two convinced the company to continue it in the 2000s, abandoning plans for theatrical releases of Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch and The Lion King 1 ½ (hence why they have higher production values)note . The company has decided to venture again recently into theatrical sequels, starting with Ralph Breaks the Internet in 2018 and Frozen II in 2019.
    • And the Tinker Bell movies (with the exception of The Pirate Fairy, thanks to Muppets Most Wanted coming out at the same time) were shown at the El Capitan so they could be hypothetically nominated for an Oscar, thus padding the list of eligible animated films. note 
  • Dorothy Meets Ozma of Oz is a 1987 direct-to-video special.
  • DreamWorks Animation:
    • After Megamind flopped because it was released on the same weekend as the Tohoku disaster in 2011, DreamWorks decided to release their films in Japan in this matter. The only recent DreamWorks films to not be released this way were The Boss Baby and Trolls World Tour. In the case of the latter, it was also released on VOD in the United States and Canada due to the Coronavirus Pandemic closing down most, if not all, movie theaters, save for drive-ins.
  • The Emoji Movie was released this way in Japan.
  • The Land Before Time series, with 13 sequels that all went straight-to-video. (And an animated TV series.)
  • The Littlest Light on the Christmas Tree was released straight-to-video.
  • Mumfie's Quest had its movie-length epic "Mumfie's Quest'' was initally released this way after airing as a Made-for-TV Movie on pay per view.
  • The Weinstein Company was aiming to release the American dub of Metegol in 2015 as The Unbeatables (the movie was issued in the UK with another dub featuring British voices), but it wound up going to Netflix and DVD instead in the summer of 2016 after they pulled it from their schedule to avoid competition with Ant-Man.
  • The CGI compilation series The Mind's Eye was released this way, on several formats no less.which formats?
  • In both South Korea and Japan, this happened to My Little Pony The Movie. South Korea got it on video on demand and streaming services, while Japan got a DVD release.
  • Norm of the North was originally intended to be this, but for unknown reasons, the film averted this and it was put into theaters. Most would agree that the final product still feels like it was supposed to be a direct-to-video film (mainly due to its very outdated animation).
    • Originally, two sequels were in production that were intended to go straight to DVD, but for some reason, they just decided to splice the two films together so it could get a limited theatrical release, resulting in Norm of the North: Keys to the Kingdom.
  • Most of the Open Season franchise, starting with Open Season 2, and going from there.
  • Ratchet & Clank's extremely underwhelming performance in the US and Canada meant that it was pulled in most other countries to be released on DVD later.note  Notably, in Japan it was bundled with the game based on it as a Limited Collectors Edition.
  • The Japanese dub of Sausage Party was released straight to DVD, with the theatrical release being the original English version of the film with subtitles.
  • The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue.
  • A majority of the pre-1997 Studio Ghibli catalogue, with four exceptions, got released to home video first in the United States.
  • Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back was released direct-to-DVD after the failure of the first movie.
  • The Halloween movie Spookley the Square Pumpkin was released direct-to-DVD.
  • Most mockbusters, especially those by Vídeo Brinquedo, Dingo Pictures, and Spark Plug Entertainment, get released this way.
  • Golden Step-Ahead Videos in the 1980s were released on video tapes, including Journey Through The Of Jungle Words.
  • We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story was released that way in the United Kingdom, with the film having the (dis)honor of being the only movie in recent memory with Steven Spielberg's name on the credits to do so.
  • Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil didn't get a UK theatrical release in 2011; eventually getting a UK VOD release in 2022.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blood Cult, a 1985 Slasher Movie, was the first DTV film ever made.
  • Most of National Lampoon's later films have been released direct-to-video. Not surprisingly, this coincides with the steep fall in quality that their films have taken.
  • Slumdog Millionaire was almost released this way until Fox Searchlight signed on as distributor.
  • Controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike loves using direct-to-video V-cinema for many of his more unusual movies, because of the creative freedom this provides him. Miike is often touted as part of the reason for V-cinema's good reputation overseas.
  • Paranormal Asylum was released on DVD in 2013.
  • All of the Puppet Master franchise was released straight to video. This was because producer Charles Band thought he would make more money going this route instead of taking it to theaters. In fact, most of Full Moon Entertainment's works are direct-to-video.
  • Theodore Rex was intended to be a theatrical release, but after some complications, including a few failed test screenings, it was released straight to video. Having a budget of $33.5 million, it was the most expensive direct-to-video release of its time.
  • Most mockbusters use the DTV market in order to dupe unsuspecting customers.
  • Elf-Man: The movie was released on DVD, likely a given result of its nature as a Christmas movie.
  • All of Ernest P. Worrell's films after Ernest Rides Again.
  • The live-action Casper film produced several. They could hardly even really be called "sequels" seeing how they disregarded the continuity of the original movie so completely that the presence of Casper and his uncles was literally the only similarity to the feature film. They haunted a different house in a different town and all movie-based characters were dropped, all without explanation. And, of course, there was also the expected downgrade in the quality of the CGI. (It should be noted that Amblin, ILM and Universal were not involved with the sequels, with Saban Entertainment and 20th Century Fox producing them instead, though Universal and Amblin did produce the better-received animated series.) Incidentally, the Casper "sequels" gave a very young Hilary Duff in her first acting role as Wendy in Casper Meets Wendy.
  • All Nollywood movies are like this, although with the rising popularity of streaming many of them are now direct to YouTube or similar sites.
  • The Universal Soldier franchise is an interesting case of this. A pair of DTV films (Brothers In Arms and Unfinished Business) were released in 1998 sans any of the original cast members, and focused on lead character Luc Deveraux's attempts to stop the UniSol program from smuggling diamonds while helping reporter Veronica Roberts clear her name after the events of the original film. The DTV sequels were subsequently retconned by 1998's theatrical Universal Soldier: The Return. That film, in turn, was retconned by 2010's DTV Universal Soldier: Regeneration, which disregards everything except the original.
  • In the Electric Mist, an acclaimed crime drama with Tommy Lee Jones and John Goodman and directed by Bertrand Tavernier, had the misfortune of going straight-to-DVD after failing to find a distributor. However, it did manage a brief theatrical run after the film rented well.
  • You would think that a movie starring Michael Jackson put out in 1988 would have no trouble getting a theatrical release — and you would be right... except that Moonwalker wound up going straight-to-video in the US after Jackson's then-manager Frank DiLeo asked for an exorbitant share of the box office takings.
  • An interesting case is the 2006 thriller The Contract, which starred John Cusack as a school coach who unwittingly ends up having to escort an assassin (played by Morgan Freeman, no less) during a camping trip and avoid a group of the assassin's cohorts while he tries to bring him back to police custody. Despite having several major film and television stars attached to the project, the production (which cost $25 million) was shut down after 50 days by Millennium Films, leaving the director to finish the project with money out of his own pocket. The resulting film was unceremoniously dumped on DVD stateside after a limited theatrical showing — in France.
  • Millennium Films also produced the Morgan Freeman/Antonio Banderas heist film The Code (a.k.a. Thick As Thieves), which revolved around a veteran thief recruiting a younger crook to help him pull off a final job to pay off the Russian mob. Despite attracting some top-tier talent — Mimi Leder (Deep Impact) directed and Tom Hardy co-starred — the film was also dumped on DVD without a theatrical release (it was however the top-renting movie the week it was released on DVD, giving sort of a happy ending for the film).
  • The Maiden Heist was released straight to DVD after the distributor Yari Film Group went bankrupt.
  • The first film version of The Punisher (1989) was planned for a US theatrical release by its makers New World Pictures, but the new owners decided to focus more on television and elected to sit on this, Warlock (1989) and Meet The Applegates (although all three did open as planned outside the US through other distributors). The other two did get American theatrical release eventually, but The Punisher spent two years on the shelf before going to video.
  • As if being shelved by DreamWorks SKG/Paramount for years before its 2012 theatrical release wasn't enough, Paramount cancelled the British release of A Thousand Words following its terrible American reception — and thus it went straight to DVD.
  • The 2004 film Envy, starring Ben Stiller and Jack Black, was released straight to DVD in all of Europe following its negative American reception.
  • Liam Neeson signed up for Taken thinking it was going to be released this way.
  • The sixth and seventh installments of the Child's Play franchise, "Curse of Chucky" and "Cult of Chucky".
  • Soldier bombed so badly in the US, that it went for a straight to video release in other countries.
  • Robert Rodriguez originally intended to make El Mariachi for Spanish home video.
  • Two popular movies of the early-'90s — Dennis the Menace and Richie Rich — were given direct-to-video sequels in 1998 from Warner Bros. Family Entertainment. The former received Dennis the Menace Strikes Again, while the latter was saddled with Richie Rich's Christmas Wish. Neither movie featured its predecessor's original cast, nor was either movie nearly as well-received.
  • The same year, Warner Bros. Family Entertainment also put out Addams Family Reunion in the same manner. It fared about as well as the prior mentioned movies, though unlike those, Reunion was not intended as a direct sequel to the first two films in its series.
  • 2013's Blood Ties, despite its impressive cast (Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldaña, James Caan), went straight to DVD in Britain.
  • After it bombed at the U.S. box-office in February 2014, Vampire Academy's British cinema release was cancelled and it went straight to DVD there in early July.
  • In 2008, Entertainment Weekly released an article entitled "Would You Dump this Woman?" (which you can read here) which detailed the tumultuous production of Amy Heckerling's I Could Never Be Your Woman (starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd) and how it went straight-to-video in the first place.
  • Captain America (1990) did receive theatrical distribution in some foreign markets, but it went straight to VHS in the US due to financing problems.
  • After Sony cancelled the wide theatrical release of The Interview in late 2014, it released the film to YouTube at the same time as a limited release and then to Netflix.
  • In 2006, Warner Bros. made a brand specifically devoted to Direct To Video films entitled Warner Premiere. These consisted of sequels to their live-action output, animated films for Scooby-Doo, Tom and Jerry, and the DC Universe Animated Original Movies (mentioned below), and a few original titles here and there (like the delayed Trick 'r Treat). Due to the growing decline of the DVD market and other economic setbacks, Warner Bros. pulled the plug on the label in 2013. The studio still makes direct to video films, but those are under the regular Warner Home Video banner.
    • Fun fact, Warner Premiere had a sub-label named Raw Feed which made, you guessed it, horror films. It didn't last very long.
  • All of the sequels to Bring It On were released this way. Despite this, they frequently get TV airings on Freeform.
  • Leatherheads is a notable example of the Audience-Alienating Premise-in-certain-markets version, as it was released straight to home video almost everywhere outside North America, despite its star cast, as it was thought that outside the USA and Canada nobody would be interested in a comedy film based around a real-world turning point in the history of American football.
  • Indeed, films centreing on sports events of primarily North American interest are almost guaranteed to meet this fate in certain markets — Miracle, We Are Marshall, Invincible, The Greatest Game Ever Played...
  • Trench 11: A 2017 Canadian-produced horror film set in the final days of World War I was released direct-to-DVD.
  • The Live-Action Adaptation of Disney's Lady and the Tramp was the first of the company's live-action remakes of their animated films to receive a direct-to-digital release on Disney+ when that service launched in 2019. Reports have also indicated that the expected live-action/CGI remake of Lilo & Stitch, which begins filming in 2020, will also receive a digital-only release.
  • Poison Ivy's first film was a legitimately good erotic thriller exploring a Fille Fatale's fascination with her best friend's father and how that affected the people around her. It was critically acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival and, although a Box Office flop, good word of mouth led to it becoming a Cult Classic. In came the direct-to-video sequels. Poison Ivy II: Lily featured none of the original cast, instead basing itself around a girl reading Ivy's old diary and becoming more like her. It too promoted itself around having a Former Child Star in a seductress role (Drew Barrymore in the first, Alyssa Milano in the second) and added a lot of gratuitous nudity. The next sequel followed suit, introducing a never-before-mentioned sister of Ivy's as the protagonist and more nudity. The last sequel was a television movie that of course premiered on the Lifetime network.
  • The Hole was planned to be released theatrically in the US as it was in its native UK, but ended up going direct to video two years later. It has since developed a cult fan base.
  • Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, a spin-off film of High School Musical, originally released as a direct-to-DVD feature before being aired on Disney Channel as one of their original movies.
  • The King of Staten Island was released to VOD and drive-ins simultaneously in June 2020, before it was pulled from theaters the same week without warning. An article from the New York Post revealed the drive-in screenings were booked by Universal on accident, and that the film was only meant to be straight to video.
  • Tremors was released theatrically. All of its sequels—six and counting—have been released straight to DVD, or straight to Neftlix.
  • The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit: Despite having known actors such as Edward James Olmos and Bradbury's name on it, it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival before going straight to VHS.
  • The Circle (2017) demonstrated that Tom Hanks isn't immune this, with this movie bypassing UK cinemas despite also having Emma Watson and Karen Gillan (this was before John Boyega was famous, if you're wondering) — and going straight to Netflix instead.
  • Operation Delta Force
  • Stiletto
  • Rise of the Scarecrows
  • All of the Japanese-made Godzilla films from 1989's Godzilla vs. Biollante to 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars were released straight to video in the west, with the sole exception of Godzilla 2000. Biollante was handled by HBO and the rest by Sony Pictures, who also handled 2000's theatrical release and distributed the American-made Godzilla (1998). The 2016 reboot Shin Godzilla broke the trend by getting a limited American theatrical release by Funimation, prior to its video release.
  • In an effort to accommodate those who are unable or uncomfortable with venturing out, many studios have taken a modified approach to this in the wake of theaters reopening after the pandemic-forced shutdown, releasing movies in cinemas and on-demand either simultaneously, or very soon afterwards rather than several months later as was done before. For example, No Time to Die was released on-demand within a month after it finally opened in the US, and became available on DVD by December 21.
  • Due to the cinemas in the UK still being closed due to Covid, School's Out Forever was released straight to streaming in February 2021, before getting a Blu-Ray release the following April. It's US release in June 2021 was also straight to streaming.
  • Boxing Day was released straight to Amazon Prime in the US, two weeks after it's theatrical release in the UK.
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League premiered on the HBO Max streaming service first (and on HBO partner streaming/VOD sites internationally), then came out on physical home video. It had a limited IMAX theatrical run with profits going to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
  • Home Alone: None of the films that followed Home Alone 3 were released in theaters.
  • Whilst Knights of the Zodiac was initially supposed to have a UK theatrical release on the 28th July 2023, to point where it was still listed as such on some cinema's websites right up until the day of release, it was silently cancelled and instead the film made it's UK debut on DVD a few months later on 9th October.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Little Hardhats is a live-action direct to video series on showing kids about what adult jobs are like.
  • The pioneer of this for spin-offs of TV series was probably the Babylon 5 spin-off The Lost Tales, which was intended to be the first of a series of DVDs until J. Michael Straczynski decided that he couldn't tolerate the artistic limitations created by the low budget (which many cynical people translated as "not even enough completist fans bought it for it to make any money").
  • Stargate SG-1 has two direct-to-video sequel movies: Stargate: Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum.
  • Super Sentai:
    • The annual team-up films that started with Ohranger vs. Kakuranger were originally straight-to-video releases until Go-onger vs. Gekiranger, in which they started getting theatrical premieres instead.
    • Gogo-V had a tie-in video titled Clash! The New Super Warrior (aka Gogo-V vs. Zeek), which focused on a new hero created just for the movie in order to make up for the lack of a Sixth Ranger in the actual show.
    • Every Sentai since Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (with the exception of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger) had a "Come Back!" special that were released on home video after their respective finales were aired.
    • Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger and Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, two of the more popular seasons, have received "Ten Years After" DTV movies which reunite most of the primary cast.
    • Its Western counterpart had an unintentional example: The finale for Power Rangers Samurai was first released on Netflix almost a week before it aired and as part of the DVD boxset days later. Saban had planned the DVD to release days after the finale aired, but Nickelodeon pushed the show back a week when it came back from hiatus so the DVD got out first.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue was a direct to video movie.
    • Also, in the Heisei era, there are Hyper Battle Videos/DVDs, which act as clip shows for the respective show and usually has an alternate form or piece of equipment that never appears anywhere else. They also tend to be a good bit sillier than the original show.
    • Starting with Kamen Rider Double, several series have had direct-to-DVD movies that focus on a different character while the hero only appears in a reduced capacity; the movies are often Darker and Edgier and/or Hotter and Sexier because they don't have to worry about appeasing Media Watchdogs. Double's movies focused on Accel and Eternal.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim got four movies whose stars were chosen by a poll; the winners were Zangetsu and Baron for the first pair, and Knuckle and Duke for the second.
    • Kamen Rider Drive started with one for Chaser, then two more for Mach and Heart, the first time a non-Rider got his own movienote .
    • Kamen Rider Ghost had the "Specter V-Cinema", focusing on the origins of Specter himself.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid had the "Another Ending" trilogy focusing on the rest of the Riders (Brave & Snipe, Para-DX with Poppy, and Lazer vs. Genm), with protagonist Emu Hojo playing only a supporting role and never transforming into Ex-Aid. The triolgy is set two years after the series' end and addresses a major hanging plot thread: Kuroto Dan's villainy being swept under the rug as greater threats reared their heads.
  • Ultra Series
    • Ultraman: Towards the Future was released this way in 1990 in Japan under the title Ultraman Great. It did eventually air on Japanese TV in 1995 though.
    • Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero had the same fate in 1993 when it came out as Ultraman Powered, but like Towards the Future, it was finally aired on Japanese TV in 1995.
    • Ultraman Neos was released as such in 2000. Notably, it was originally meant to be the first Ultra Series of the Heisei era until it got shelved in favor of Ultraman Tiga. However, it did manage air a few episodes on TV in 2002 when then-ongoing series Ultraman Cosmos had to be taken off their air for a few weeks due to the lead actor getting caught in some controversy.
  • Many BBC panel games in The '90s made special episodes only released on VHS, including Have I Got News for You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. The "will never be seen on TV" advertising was sometimes mocked by the later examples with jokes along the lines of "...except when you watch it by putting the tape into the VCR".
  • As British fans of Breaking Bad, Damages and other American TV series have discovered, it is possible for them to go direct to DVD in the UK once their broadcasters (FiveUSA for the former, BBC1 for the latter, and FX for both) have dropped them and if no other channel picks them up (although Netflix has since come to the rescue for both of these shows, among others (Drop Dead Diva, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Once Upon a Time, Pretty Little Liars etc). A particularly annoying example was Orphan Black, whose last two seasons went Straight to DVD in the UK despite having been made by BBC America.
  • Any edutainment special about potty-training will be released straight to video. Some examples include the Animated Adaptation of Once Upon A Potty, It's Potty Time! note , I Gotta Go! note  Potty Powernote , No More Diapers note  and Elmo's Potty Time.
  • Barney and the Backyard Gang, the series that was the basis for Barney and Friends, was released this way. Several episodes of the show also aired as specials on Disney Channel, and "Barney In Concert" aired on PBS at least once during a pledge drive.
  • The Kids For Character series, which teaches the six pillars of character through clips of popular children's shows from that time period (some of which were exclusive to the videos themselves), was released this way.

  • The critically acclaimed Baby Songs Music Video series. The individual videos also aired as segments on Disney Channel's Lunch Box block.
  • Parachute Express had two direct-to-video concert films: Parachute Express: Live in Concert and Parachute Express: Come Sing with Us.
  • Most concert videos. While films in the past like Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same, The Band's The Last Waltz and Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense have had theatrical releases, they haven't really been box-office blockbusters, but the artists have loyal audiences for live footage. Hence, direct-to-DVD makes a lot of financial sense for these live videos.
  • Frank Zappa started doing this from the late 1980s on, with Does Humor Belong in Music? (1985) as his first release. In his case it made sense to directly bring it out on home video, because his music was only popular with a cult crowd and wouldn't sell much tickets in the theater.
  • Rock band Mindless Self Indulgence have a song called "Straight to Video" which plays off of this trope.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppets have appeared in a number of direct-to-video productions:
    • In 1985, Playhouse Video released ten compilations featuring the best clips from The Muppet Show, with original linking footage.
    • In the late-1980s there was A Muppet Babies Video Storybook, with Kermit reading three existing Muppet Babies (1984) storybooks (sometimes to Robin).
    • 1988 brought Jim Henson's Play-Along Video, in which the Muppets encourage the viewers to do the activities featured in the videos.
    • Muppet Sing-Alongs were made in the early 1990s, with Kermit hosting.
    • Muppet Classic Theater had the Muppets doing their own versions of six fairy tales.
    • Kermit's Swamp Years focused on 12-year-old Kermit.
  • The cast of Sesame Street have appeared in a number of direct-to-video productions:
    • In 1986, Random House Home Video released My Sesame Street Home Video. They were basically mini-episodes featuring some of the best clips from the show itself. The releases came with an activity book.
    • In 1987, Random House also did Sesame Street Start-to-Read Video, where Big Bird narrates various Sesame Street storybooks. He even imitates his friends!
    • In 1990, Random House released Sesame Songs Home Video, which was similar in format to the first series, only focusing on songs from the series. The releases came with a song lyrics poster.
    • After taking over from Random House, Sony Wonder commissioned more Sesame Street direct-to-video specials under the regular branding, like Elmo's Potty Time.
  • The Adventures of Timmy the Tooth, a direct-to-video puppet series about the adventures of a tooth and his pet toothbrush as they went on adventures fighting villains based off things that are bad for your teeth starring Phil Baron as the titular tooth. It's well-known for being featured in one of the American Pie movies and having some of its characters reused on Greg the Bunny.
    • The series did air on television at least twice to promote the tapes: once in syndication and another time during the Nick Jr. block.
  • Toby Terrier and His Video Pals was a 1990s direct-to-video series about Toby Terrier and his friends, a group of dogs who work in showbiz and run their own television station. The show had the gimmick of being compatible with a Toby Terrier toy which would interact with the cassette as you played it on the television.
  • Three of the Allegra's Window VHS releases (Storytime Sing-Along, Play Along with Allegra and Friends, and Sing Along with Allegra and Lindi) were direct-to-video episodes featuring songs from different episodes with new linking material, with the latter two videos being released after production on the show itself ended.

  • In a rare example of a decent DTV, the BIONICLE films.
  • Almost every single Bratz movie was straight to DVD, the sole exception being the controversial Live-Action Adaptation.
  • The My Little Pony G3's "Core 7" shorts (except for Twinkle Wish Adventure and the movies) and Spin-Off Babies G3.5 Once Upon a My Little Pony Time shorts.
  • The Barbie films. However, quite a few of them were shown as part of Kidtoons, and a few have been aired on Treehouse TV.

    Video Games 
  • The majority of video game franchises from the 1980s and 1990s originally began as arcade games and are nowadays released directly to consoles. Even during the "Golden Age" of the arcades (the 80s and 90s), some of these franchises already had a few made-for-console sequels.
  • Game Player Game Tape was a series of VHS tapes and Betamax tapes that helps gamers learn the tips and tricks on each video games.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • The Strong Bad Email "unlicensed" parodies this and The Mockbuster. Strong Bad talks about movies with titles like The Secret Princess and Her Oppressive Authority Figure 4 and Jungle Animals in Decidedly Non-Jungle Situations ("So straight-to-DVD it hurts") that are put in grocery store check-out lines to trick grandmothers into buying them.
    • Also mentioned in the Strong Bad Email "best thing" which is about Limozeen starring in a failed Saturday morning cartoon. At the end of the pilot, band member Larry says, "Join us next time, kids! In syndication! Or maybe on DVD!"

    Western Animation 
  • The Once Upon A Potty potty training video, based on the book by the same name.
  • The Family Guy feature Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story and the four Futurama direct-to-DVD movies were made with intent of ultimately cutting the episodes up for airing on TV as three-parters and four-parters respectively. Though in the case of Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, the movie is considered the definitive cut and as such, the TV edit "episodes" are omitted from DVD releases. The DVD also has about 20 minutes of bonus footage (involving the "premiere" of the movie in theaters and a fourth-wall breaking after party where the characters discuss the real-life cancellation of the series) that was not shown on TV. The four Futurama movies sold so well and got such a positive reaction from fans that they continued the series.
  • Humorously, in Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation, the credits claim it went straight to video because "it's that darn good" (which is probably more true than they're joking, since the movie is basically an OVA, as it was done by TMS in Japan).
  • Animaniacs Alternate Universe film, Wakko's Wish.
  • A few Phineas and Ferb episodes were released on DVD before airing on TV.
    • "One Good Scare Ought to Do It!" made its US debut on the DVD The Fast and the Phineas, over two months before its US TV premiere on Disney Channel.
    • "Unfair Science Fair" and "Unfair Science Fair Redux" (Another Story) made their US debut on the DVD The Daze of Summer, around a week before their US TV premieres on Disney XD.
    • "The Doof Side of the Moon" made its US debut on the DVD A Very Perry Christmas, three days before its US TV premiere on Disney Channel.
  • Recess:
    • Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade and Recess: All Growed Down were both DTV movies, consisting of unaired episodes and linking material.
    • Recess: School's Out was planned as this, but Disney wanted a theatrical release due to the show's popularity. With an expansion of the plot and an Animation Bump, it turned out to be a success. In a few foreign areas, it was released as this, though, particularly in areas where Recess wasn't much heard of or not as popular than in other countries.
  • All of the Tom and Jerry films except for the first and fifteenth ones.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a borderline case. Intended as DTV, it received a short theatrical run with no alterations.
  • DC now has a whole series of direct-to-DVD animated films, from Warner Premiere. The fact that they are Direct to Video has absolutely no bearing on their quality. Some are made for adults like All-Star Superman, Batman: The Killing Joke, and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Some are made for families like the DC Super Hero Girls movies, the Batman Unlimited movies, and any Lego projects.
  • Rugrats had a few, notably the hour-long special Vacation (later broadcast on TV), and the Tales From the Crib movies, made long after the series ended in a (failed) attempt to make it popular again.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie, while released in the U.S. theatrically (and sadly bombing due to lousy marketing from Warner Bros.) was released in foreign markets straight to DVD. Subsequently many of Cartoon Network Made-for-TV movies were also released this way as well.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks has three: Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman and Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks.
  • Scooby-Doo has a long-running series of direct-to-video features. It's the longest running part of the franchise, as far as time goes. At least one film has been made every year since 1998, seeing many changes to the character designs, animation style, story tone, and voice actors. The series currently has 34 entries and counting. Some of which have surprising quality (Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, Scooby-Doo: Camp Scare, Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur), others are just okay (Aloha, Scooby-Doo!, Chill Out, Scooby-Doo!...). The very first entry, Zombie Island is considered a classic in its own right, and one of the most well-received entries in the entire Scooby-Doo franchise.
  • Several SpongeBob SquarePants episodes were released on DVD before they aired on television.
    • After season 3 wrapped up, the series proper went on hiatus for two years in order to produce the movie. This was also the same time the show started being released on home video. Nickelodeon bought time by reshuffling and spreading out the remaining episodes — some of which ended up first being released on DVD months before official airtime. Notable examples include "Graveyard Shift" and "Club SpongeBob" on Nautical Nonsense and Sponge Buddies, "I Had an Accident" and "Born Again Krabs" on Tales from the Deep, and the final pre-movie episodes, "SpongeBob Meets the Strangler" and "Pranks a Lot", on The Seascape Capers.
    • "Gary Takes a Bath" has one of the stranger release histories. It's officially the sister short of the season 2 episode "Shanghaied", which first aired by itself in March 2001 as a double-length special. Both of them showed up on the Sea Stories DVD in November 2002. "Gary Takes a Bath" didn't actually air on TV until mid-2003, over two full years after its sister and a year after its DVD debut. note 
    • Nick hyped up the "lost episode", "The Sponge Who Could Fly"'s airdate heavily as a special event, but it actually showed up on a DVD called Lost at Sea a couple weeks before airtime.
    • An extreme example would be the DVD Bikini Bottom Adventures — at the time when the DVD was released, none of the episodes were on television.
    • "New Leaf" was released on the "Karate Island" DVD two months before it aired on TV.
    • Every season 4 episode that aired in 2007 had already been released on "Season 4 Volume 2" DVD before they aired on TV.
    • Even some of season 5's episodes had been released on DVD before their official airtime on TV such as "Friend or Foe?" ("The Original Fry Cook", "Night Light", "Fungus Among Us", and "Spy Buddies"), "Season 5 Volume 1" ("Fungus Among Us"), "Bikini Bottom Adventures" ( "Boat Smarts", "Good Ol' Whatshisname", "New Digs", "Krabs à la Mode", "Roller Cowards", "Bucket Sweet Bucket", and "Breath of Fresh Squidward"), "WhoBob WhatPants" ("Goo Goo Gas"), and "Season 5 Volume 2" ("Goo Goo Gas").
    • The Japanese dub of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie was released this way, with the theatrical version being subtitled and shown as a limited release.
    • The Complete(asterix) Twelfth Season DVD notably contained several episodes that hadn't been aired on American Nickelodeon at the time of its release, like "My Two Krabses", "Bubble Bass's Tab" and "Kooky Cooks".
  • Most seasons of Thomas & Friends have some episodes released on video or DVD before they are broadcast on TV. Most notably, the third season had sixteen episodes (over half a season's worth) released on video the year before they were actually broadcast, and the fourth season had eight episodes released on tape the year before they were shown on TV. Notably, the music and sound effects present in these episodes were altered in the TV airings and all subsequent video releases, making the early season 3 and 4 videos more sought-after than most. The early Season 3 episodes even had their entire narration redone after the initial video release. The majority of the feature-length specials are given a limited release in select cinemas (mostly via Kidtoons Films and at the Theater at Mall Of America during Toddler Tuesdays, both of which are now defunct) before the DVD release, but Calling All Engines was released on DVD and VHS without a theatrical release.
  • After the first two films in the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls series had limited theatrical runs, future films were relegated to streaming services or television before going straight to video. The third film, Friendship Games did receive a theatrical release in the United Kingdom, however.
  • Disney releases Disney Sing-Along Songs as a direct-to-video series. The series has songs from various Disney films and television shows, and kids at home can sing-along by following Mickey the Bouncing Ball as it bounces on the lyrics.
  • A few other companies aside from Disney did sing-along videos based off their properties as well:
    • Jim Henson had Muppet Sing Alongs, which had a spin-off of its own called "Things That...", which was a series of sing-along videos featuring the Muppets singing about different kinds of vehicles.
    • Warner Brothers had two of these videos: one was a Looney Tunes sing-along, and the other was a tie-in to Quest for Camelot, which also included songs from The Wizard of Oz on it.
    • Fox released two of these: one contained Shirley Temple songs, and the other was themed around Anastasia.
    • Alvin and the Chipmunks had two of these releases: Ragtime Cowboy Joe and Working On The Railroad.
    • Madeline also had two releases: Sing-a-Long with Madeline and her Friends and Sing-a-Long Around the World with Madeline, originally released by Lionsgate in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
  • The Wacky Adventures Of Ronald Mc Donald, an animated series based off the McDonaldLand characters produced by Klasky-Csupo.
  • Another series of long running direct-to-video releases is the Barbie film series, beginning with Barbie in the Nutcracker in 2001. The most recent release is Barbie: Video Game Hero in 2017.
  • Postman Pat had several direct to video edutainment titles released this way.
  • The North American release of the individual Noddy's Toyland Adventures episodes, which had VHS exclusive music videos play every few stories. This was different from how they were broadcast on TV in the country, where one ten minute segment was played as part of The Noddy Shop.
  • Episodes of VeggieTales were originally released straight to VHS tapes and DVDs before it got a movie in theaters and TV airings courtesy of qubo and TBN. However, PBS Kids aired "The Star Of Christmas" before it was released to DVD and video as a special event, and PAX ran a Christmas special based on the series before its VHS release.
  • Throughout the 90's, a few direct-to-video animated specials were released to promote short-lived toylines. Examples of this practice include Shadow Strikers, Barnyard Commandos (in America; in France, the full 13-episode run was aired on television) and Sgt. Savage and his Screaming Eagles.
  • This happened to the Dragon Tales episode "Cowboy Max" as a result of Schedule Slip. The episode was released on the DVD/VHS release "Whenever I'm Afraid..." nine months before it aired on TV.
  • Jingaroo's stories went straight to VHS.
  • Artisan Entertainment and Family Home Entertainment for Kids released three Christmas Specials all named after Christmas Songs on VHS/DVD, produced by Hyperion Pictures, in 1999, as part of the Christmas Classics Series:
  • While The Real Ghostbusters never aired on TV in Japan, it did however get five episodes note  dubbed and released on VHS.
  • Jay Jay the Jet Plane began life as a series using models similar to Thomas & Friends. The videos containing these stories were sold via a special hotline that was advertised on television.
  • The first season of The Animals of Farthing Wood was released that way in the US as a movie called Journey Home: The Animals of Farthing Wood, which had some redubbing to have Ralph Macchio replace Rupert Farley as Fox and also have Fiona Reid voicing Adder and Weasel instead of Stacey Jefferson and Sally Grace respectively. It was also edited to have songs and many of the death scenes (save for three of them) cut out in order to make it child-friendly.

Alternative Title(s): Direct To DVD, Direct To Streaming