This comedian, Louis CK, made a film of one of his performances, distributed it himself online for $5 a download, and made $200,000.
I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you).
Really, I think this will be one of the main ways for upcoming filmmakers to distribute their movies. Make a cool flick, hawk it with good trailers, stills, posters, etc., allow downloads on your site for a few bucks. There will be those who simply ask a friend for a free copy or download it and sell it themselves, but that's the case today with major Hollywood flicks. I'm thinking most people will be honest, pay a buck or two, and if they like the film will post positive reviews on movie sites. You'd make gobs, fund your next project, and poof -- you're a full-time working director.
What kid starting out would pass on that deal? If you got just 10k views/downloads at two or three bucks each, that's enough to pay the bills for a while and do another movie.
And, it's not such a bad idea for Hollywood movies, either. I just don't get why movie theaters are essential anymore. I say cut the middleman out, make your own popcorn.