Theatrical Windows Threatened Again With New Video On Demand Program

By Katey Rich 2010-05-26 08:57:13discussion comments
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We've already crossed the line of being able to find movies in theaters and on TV simultaneously, with the video-on-demand programs spearheaded by indie distributors Magnolia and IFC. But theater owners and movie studios alike are largely still terrified of VOD moving up to include bigger movies, seeing a future in which you don't pay your $13 to see Iron Man 2 in theaters, but spend $20 to gather all your friends and watch it together at home.

This future, though, is pretty much inevitable, and today's Variety is arguing it may happen sooner than you think. Time Warner Cable is currently shopping around the idea of making a new release available on-demand 30 days after it hits theaters, for the steep price of $20 per view. Studios, on the other hand, argue that they'll never agree to such a short window, and have assured theater owners that the shortest theater-to-TV window they'd ever agree to would be 60 days.

You may remember a similar argument playing out right before the release of Alice in Wonderland, when theaters in the UK threatened to boycott the film when Disney wanted to put it on DVD just a few weeks after it hit theaters. Problem with that plan being that the DVD market isn't even all that profitable any more; on-demand is where the cash is, and the studios are going to find a way to make it eventually.

None of this will likely matter for tentpoles along the lines of Iron Man 2, which exist for the opening weekend fervor and will probably have no trouble bringing people in. But the parents shell-shocked by $20 tickets to see Shrek Forever After would be perfectly happy to avoid strapping the kids in car seats and save themselves some money by seeing Shrek at home a month later. Even if the studios aren't quite ready to embrace that future, it's only a matter of time.
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