Right now I can’t help but believe theater owners have shot themselves in the foot by threatening to boycott distributing Tower Heist if Universal went through with their plans to release the film On Demand three weeks after it was released in theaters at the hefty price of $59.99.
I say this as Universal has announced it has canceled its decision to release the film On Demand and in a press release says “in response to a request from theater owners, [Universal] has decided to delay its planned premium home video on demand (PVOD) experiment in which Comcast digital subscribers in Portland and Atlanta would have had the opportunity to rent Tower Heist on demand just three weeks after its theatrical release on November 4, 2011.”
In response to the decision, National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian was quoted in a separate release saying, “NATO would like to thank Universal for responding to various theater owners’ concerns and cancelling the PVOD test it was contemplating. They have been engaged with individual exhibitors on this test, and while it was something that many theater owners could not ultimately support, the open and collaborative nature of the dialogue is appreciated. NATO recognizes that studios need to find new models and opportunities in the home market, and looks forward to distributors and exhibitors working together for their mutual benefit.”
Getting back to the point in my opening paragraph, I may already have to contradict myself. I guess any studio progress working against the distribution of movies in theaters is detrimental to exhibitors so it may be best it was canceled. After all, it’s a “test” to gather information, information attempting to find new ways to distribute new films, ways that do not include movie theaters. While I doubt the “test” would have been successful in terms of making much money, it would have served as a good opportunity to explore audience demand and interest in such an option all of which leads to the potential releasing of movies anywhere but theaters.
Question now is, what’s next?
When Fithian says he “looks forward to distributors and exhibitors working together for their mutual benefit” what is he talking about? Exhibitors have already cut their theatrical windows down to 120 days, Universal was attempting to cut that two approximately 21 days. Is there a happy medium?
Universal seems to believe so, adding in their release, “Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future.”
Unless there is revenue sharing (and why would there be unless chains such as Cinemark, AMC, Regal, etc. got into On Demand distribution) I don’t see how the two can work hand-in-hand. Once you give people an option to do something easier they are likely to take it. If people can be given an opportunity to do anything and everything from the comfort of their couch… I believe the majority will take that opportunity. Essentially, yes, I cynically believe the majority of the world wants to mimic what we saw in WALL•E.
Care to disagree?