Posted on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 by Ben Pearson
One of the most intense business challenges Hollywood has faced during the past few years is dealing with the way the home video market has evolved. In an effort to breathe new life into it, some studios are now reportedly considering the idea of offering $30 home movie rentals after a film plays in theaters for a few weeks. But would you pay that price to watch a movie at home?
Variety says the studios have been individually discussing possible changes to the release window with exhibitors for over a year, though none of them have reached a deal yet. Let’s take a look at what each major studio is proposing.
The Mouse House is the only power player that isn’t interested in altering the existing structure – largely because they produce the types of films that consistently benefit from it the most. Marvel films, Star Wars movies, and big animated features tend to play well in long theatrical runs, so changing things wouldn’t be in their best interests. But for the rest of the studios, shortening the exclusive theatrical release window (which is currently 90 days) would give them a better bang for their buck in the advertising department. Instead of paying tons of money to launch a campaign when a film hits theaters and then dropping tons more to reintroduce audiences to the movie months later when it arrives on home video, a shortened window would let them save money and keep their film in the back of audience’s minds.
WB CEO Kevin Tsujihara wants to cut exhibitors in on digital revenues if they shorten the release window (the time when a movie exclusively plays in theaters) from its current 90-day period down to just 17 days. WB was initially looking to charge a $50 home rental fee for that option, but they’re also reportedly exploring a $30 rental fee to see a film 30 to 45 days after it opens theatrically.
WB and Fox are both open to different release patterns for different movies, which means “bigger franchise films that tend to have longer runs in theaters might be held back from release on demand.” Things like the DC superhero movies or an X-Men film could earn more in theaters, while smaller movies could bump to home video earlier once they’ve made their impact on the big screen. But Fox, who is looking for a 30-45 day release window, doesn’t like the idea of asking people to pay $50 to rent a movie at home.
Universal and Fox both think customers would balk at WB’s $50 initial asking price for a rental, so they’re pushing for a $30 fee instead. Universal is not as flexible about treating its films differently, so they want all of their movies to be available in the 20-day range.
Sony appears to be somewhere in the middle. They’re reportedly “in favor of an early on-demand debut that’s somewhat later than the one being floated by the likes of Universal and at a higher price point.”
As for the exhibitors, if they agree to shorten the release window, they want the studios to keep the window for lower cost rentals at 90 days. They’re also struggling to adapt to the shifting landscape, so they want the studios to try not to change the traditional home entertainment distribution model for between five and ten years. Again, no deal has been made yet, and the details on all of this are still being being hammered out. This whole discussion reminds me a lot of one we were having last year when The Screening Room first came to prominence, but nothing much seems to have happened with that in the interim.
Whether you’d pay to see a movie at home or in the theaters has a lot to do with priorities. It clearly makes more financial sense for a family of four to stay home and drop $30 on the latest animated hit, and I wouldn’t blame them for taking that option. But for people who have time/money on their hands and value the theatrical experience – even in spite of the occasional talker or texter you may encounter – it’s worth it to head out and sit in a room full of strangers to soak these stories in the way they were intended to be seen.
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