It looks like the window between theatrical release and video on demand may be shrinking, as Variety reports that Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers are “showing greater flexibility with timing.” While most major films are currently available to digitally buy 70 days and rent 90 days after theatrical release, Warner Bros’. CEO Kevin Tsujiihara has expressed interest in shortening that window to 17 days with a $50 rental premium on films.
That $50 premium, however, was seen as too high for Fox and Universal, who would like to have a longer theatrical run, about 30 to 45 days, and a lowered at-home rental cost of $30. Universal, in fact, expressed willingness for a 20 day window on a $30 rental. One company that is not interested is Disney who, with “Star Wars,” Marvel, and their own films, do quite well for longer runs at the box office.
It’s no surprise with the combination of expensive marketing, shrinking home video revenues, and the sometimes short theatrical run of mainstream films, that movie studios would want to close the gap between cinemas and getting movies directly to customers. As Variety points out, it is a cost effective way to run a theatrical and home video marketing plan simultaneously. Additionally, with Netflix, Amazon, HBO and other on-demand services allowing consumers to access content wherever and however they want, film companies are rethinking how best to deliver their films. One thing that will not be changing though is the 90 day window for lower cost rentals and physical copies.
Personally, given the option between seeing a film in a theater or at home, I would always choose theater. Yet, it would be nice to see some films that I would probably skip in the theater earlier than the current 90 day window allows. This has been an ongoing story for some time now as different film companies and third party start-ups (remember Sean Parker’s rental startup The Screening Room?) try to figure out best how to give consumers the content they want while also appeasing movie theater corporations. It seems that no deal is imminent, but it’ll be interesting to see how this story unfolds. One question yet to be answered is how the studios will work around piracy, but it’s likely one (very important) detail among many to be sorted out.