Long the bane of cinematic bombs is the four-month (and shrinking) theatrical to home video window. The movie splits from your local theater in as little as two weeks, and an expensive asset sits there gathering dust until it lands on Netflix. While such classics as Cool as Ice hit video with record speed, Hollywood studios think that there’s an untapped market for people who refuse to go to the theater, lack access to a decent one, or are tightening the financial belt. While the exact delivery method (cable, streaming, etc.) has yet to be decided, the plan supposedly calls for movies to become available a mere four weeks after opening day for a premium price of $50 (roughly four to five times the price of a standard cinema ticket, depending on your locale), with the price slowly decreasing to $24.95 after day 60. Similar systems have been running on independent movies for awhile now, 3-4 weeks in the theaters and then right to OnDemand, Amazon and iTunes. (Or even before their theatrical debut, if you have access to HDNet Movies and a penchant for Magnolia Pictures.)
There are all sorts of interesting implications if this sort of deal comes together. Typically, cinemas make very little money on the actual ticket sales from any film until the fourth week of release, right when these rentals would become available. That said, I am intrigued by the possibility for a more symbiotic relationship between the theatrical and home media markets. Imagine a deal where you go see a film in the theater opening week, and then have the ability to apply your ticket price toward the premium rental, or if you go for the $50 you get free matinee tickets to see it in the theater, or the Blu-ray for the cost of shipping. The marketing possibilities are limitless.
Where this is undeniably going to rob from the the theaters and give to the studios, though, is in the children’s market. Instead of dragging the little one and his five buddies down to see the new Winnie-the-Pooh for $100 after tickets, popcorn, and soda, parents will now be able to drop $50 to Disney a few weeks later and let the rug rats run around and scream all they want in the comfort of home.
As with any huge paradigm shift, there are pluses and minuses to this idea: while it certainly offers convenience to the consumer, I lament the further loss of the theatrical tradition, the social experience, and the feel of seeing something special with a lot of other people. The benefits? Maybe fewer screaming babies at 10PM showings of R rated films!