The OVA market was a unique canvas for exploration within the anime industry. They allowed the industry to sell directly to the consumer with a nice markup. This let the industry do experimental projects that would either be rejected from a TV broadcast because they were either to racy, niche, or experimental to be viable. It also let the studios put more time and effort into their productions as they were freed from the demands of a weekly schedule. There were good deal of OVAs made that were both spectacular and horrible but many of them might not have been made any other way. It was propped up by the fact that the single episodes were expensive but hopefully you got what you paid for. But all good things must come to an end. A mixture of piracy, complacency, and competition from other media markets have reduced the OVA market to an oddity. A simple look at the Spring 2011 release chart shows that most OVAs are nothing more than extensions of existing shows. The question is what can take their place?
I have noticed an odd trend lately. While it is hardly rampant there are several series of anime movies that are not based on established anime properties. The 7 Kara no Kyokai, 3 Mardock Scamble, and 6 Broken Blade movies are all based on books or manga that have not been adapted into anime before now. Are these movies an attempt to create an alternative to the OVA market? You can still create a high budget lavishly animated series without the time and content restrictions you would have on TV. You can be as experiential or as edgy as you wish as long as recoup you costs in ticket sales. Also unlike OVAs it is extremely hard to get a lossless quality bootleg of a movie while it is in theaters so piracy is far less of a problem. These movies also seem to be the length that a normal OVA series would be as well. While I don’t think you can be as experiential when it comes to movies given their budget and the overall poverty of the industry this idea might open some new doors. A mixture of movies and ONAs might be the successors to the legacy of the OVA. If these movies are successful it might lead to more short high budget series that I know some English-speaking fans have been demanding.