Earlier this year, Hollywood drew lines in the sand when word emerged that Sean Parker was gearing up The Screening Room, a service that would work in conjunction with the major studios, to bring theatrical releases day-and-date to premium VOD for $50 a pop. Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, J.J. Abrams, and Ron Howard were all in favor of the plan, while folks like James Cameron and Christopher Nolan had grave reservations about the impact it would have on the magic of the theatrical experience. Well, the major studios are still trying to solve the premium VOD riddle, and this time, they might just do it on their own.
Bloomberg reports that both Warner Bros. and Universal are talking with theater operators and exhibitors about reducing the theatrical to VOD window down to a mere two weeks. The plan would be to let audiences at home order up the latest blockbuster for somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 to $50, with the studios using their own services instead of The Screening Room (and thus have one less person in their chain taking money out of their pocket).
It makes financial sense why the studios are looking hard for a solution. With films getting increasingly expensive to make, total box office revenues largely dependent on opening weekend ticket sales, and a thoroughly decimated home video market, finding new ways to make a return on investment on their projects is becoming more important. And making movies available earlier would also be an effective way to fight piracy. However, going down this road is not without its complications.
Theater owners have continued to see the window between theatrical release and VOD/home video releases reducing at a dramatic rate, and if audiences now have the option to see, for example, “Moana” on opening day, or two weeks later in the comfort of their own home, it’s easy to see why the big chains are concerned about what this kind of plan might do to their business. And studios need to be cautious too, because at the moment, box office sales are still the biggest revenue driver for their films.
All that said, how people consume films is changing dramatically, and it appears theater owners are going to have swallow the changes that are coming, as studios are going to be shaking up the game to serve their customers.
“We’re working with [theater owners] to try and create a new window,” said Warner Bros. head Kevin Tsujihara. “But regardless of whether it happens or not — whether we are able to reach that agreement with them, we have to offer consumers more choices earlier.”
Thoughts? Would you rather watch “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” on the couch at home? Hit up the comments section and let us know.