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Theaters Strike Back Against Early VOD Releases

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Theater owners are naturally nervous about plans from Sony and Warner Bros to push the window from the time a movie hits theaters to the time you can watch it at home even narrower. As little as 30 days from theatrical release, a new film could be playing in your house for a premium price of $30-60, just as the revenue split between the studios and the theaters approaches even-steven. Gathering a group of investment houses and bigwigs like James Cameron who doesn’t make movies with the home experience in mind, the exhibitors hope to show the studios that they’re going to stab themselves in the foot with this new venture

I believe that premium VOD is inevitable, and that studios abandoning theatrical exhibition in favor of it is a longshot at best. Nothing says revenue like a breakaway hit with legs like Avatar, The Dark Knight, or (gah) Twilight, and they know it. So what’s the likely compromise? Theaters will of course demand a bigger piece of the initial pie (which typically goes from 0-15% of ticket sales first week), and maybe even some kind of rebate if a film bombs. Theaters need to do their part partnering with the studios as well; for too long they’ve been very passive participants in bringing people into the theaters, and they need to give people a reason to visit their chain instead of the competition. We’re already tortured with pre-show fare like “The Twenty” that takes advantage of a captive audience to feed us infomercials; why not fill that with exclusive content instead? Wouldn’t it have been cool with a Fantastic Four and Spider-Man movie hitting in the same year (studio politics aside), to have an exclusive, multi-part Spidey-Human Torch encounter right out of the classic comics? One of SyFy’s more successful shows at the moment, Sanctuary, was plucked from a web serial — isn’t this a great venue to test new movie concepts in short form? And better yet, your ticket stub or loyalty card could unlock the shorts on a future Blu-ray disc version of the film. By partnering together, people will keep going to the theater to see great films on the big screen where they belong, and the not-so-great spend less time hurting everyone’s bottom line. Pipe dream? Probably knowing this business, but one can hope, right?

Source: [LA Times]

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