Those Comcast digital subscribers in Portland and Atlanta who were hoping to spend Thanksgiving weekend gathered around the TV, watching Tower Heist with the family will be disappointed to learn that Universal has cancelled their plans for the limited Video On Demand release, or at the very least, they're willing to delay it.
Universal had planned to make the comedy Tower Heist available on demand three weeks after its November 4th release, which, if I’m not mistaken, is the Friday after Thanksgiving. This early release was only going to be made available to 500,000 homes in two markets, however local theaters began to complain about the plans, threatening not to show the movie at all if Universal proceeds with their plans.
According to Deadline today, Universal backed down, announcing that in response to the complaints (or “request”) from theater owners, they’ve decided to delay the Video on Demand release. They did not specify when they’d eventually release the film, however the statement did say:
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.
It’s not surprising that theaters would take issue with having to compete with on demand video. Granted, the $59.99 price-tag Universal had set for the cost of a private at-home viewing of Tower Heist wasn’t exactly huge competition against the cost of a few movie tickets, had the experiment proved successful, it’s likely they’d try this again on a wider scale, and just as likely that other studios would get on board.
The option to see a movie at home could benefit people on two fronts. For one thing, those people who don’t want to deal with sticky floors and a crowded theater would be able to relax and watch the film from the comfort of their own home. And it could prove to save people money, especially those who like to eat snacks while they watch movies and families/groups with more than five or six people.
It’s disappointing that Universal is backing off on this. The home video market has become more competitive in the last decade, due in large part to streaming video services and DVD rental companies like Red Box, which have resulted in less expensive and more convenient ways to see movies after they’re out of the theaters. Meanwhile, the cost of going to see a movie in the theater only continues to rise, making the option to wait and rent seem more appealing to those of us on a budget.
Maybe it's a long-shot to hope for this, but as someone who would prefer to see more movies in the theater if it wasn't such a big expense, On Demand video could present just the kind of competition to theaters to encourage them to offer more reasonable rates, perhaps dropping the cost of tickets for films in the later weeks of their release or offering other discounts that would entice movie-fans on a budget to see a movie in the theater rather than wait to see it at home.