Posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 by Germain Lussier
This Thursday, DirecTV is launching a revolutionary new service called Home Premiere which will allow subscribers to view movies just two months after they open in theaters. Not only is the National Association of Theater Owners strongly opposed to this, we recently surmised that it could just be the next step in the total and utter death of movie going as we know it. Today, twenty-three high profile Hollywood filmmakers agree.
Why on earth would you give audiences an incentive to skip the highest and best form of your film? My films aren’t going to the home early, but many will, and that will weaken the movie theater industry—and then my movies are threatened.
That’s the sentiment of James Cameron, the director of the two highest grossing films of all time. He and Peter Jackson, Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, Guillermo del Toro, Roland Emmerich, Jon Landau, Shawn Levy, Michael Mann, Todd Phillips, Brett Ratner, Adam Shankman, Gore Verbinski and Robert Zemeckis are part of the roster of filmmakers who have signed a letter expressing the creative community’s problems with this service. Read it in full after the jump.
Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter for running this letter in full:
AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE CREATIVE COMMUNITY ON PROTECTING THE MOVIE-GOING EXPERIENCE
We are the artists and business professionals who help make the movie business great. We produce and direct movies. We work on the business deals that help get movies made. At the end of the day, we are also simply big movie fans.
Lately, there’s been a lot of talk by leaders at some major studios and cable companies about early-to-the-home “premium video-on-demand.” In this proposed distribution model, new movies can be shown in homes while these same films are still in their theatrical run.
In this scenario, those who own televisions with an HDMI input would be able to order a film through their cable system or an Internet provider as a digital rental. Terms and timing have yet to be made concrete, but there has been talk of windows of 60 days after theatrical release at a price of $30.
Currently, the average theatrical release window is over four months (132 days). The theatrical release window model has worked for years for everyone in the movie business. Current theatrical windows protect the exclusivity of new films showing in state-of-the-art theaters bolstered by the latest in digital projection, digital sound, and stadium seating.
As a crucial part of a business that last year grossed close to $32 billion in worldwide theatrical ticket sales, we in the creative community feel that now is the time for studios and cable companies to acknowledge that a release pattern for premium video-on-demand that invades the current theatrical window could irrevocably harm the financial model of our film industry.
Major studios are struggling to replace the revenue lost by the declining value of DVD transactions. Low-cost rentals and subscriptions are undermining higher priced DVD sales and rentals. But the problem of declining revenue in home video will not be solved by importing into the theatrical window a distribution model that cannibalizes theatrical ticket sales.
Make no mistake: History has shown that price points cannot be maintained in the home video window. What sells for $30-a-viewing today could be blown out for $9.99 within a few years. If wiser heads do not prevail, the cannibalization of theatrical revenue in favor of a faulty, premature home video window could lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue. Some theaters will close. The competition for those screens that remain will become that much more intense, foreclosing all but the most commercial movies from theatrical release. Specialty films whose success depends on platform releases that slowly build in awareness would be severely threatened under this new model. Careers that are built on the risks that can be taken with lower budget films may never have the chance to blossom under this cut-throat new model.
Further, releasing a pristine, digital copy of new movies early to the home will only increase the piracy problem—not solve it.
As leaders in the creative community, we ask for a seat at the table. We want to hear the studios’ plans for how this new distribution model will affect the future of the industry that we love.
And until that happens, we ask that our studio partners do not rashly undermine the current – and successful – system of releasing films in a sequential distribution window that encourages movie lovers to see films in the optimum, and most profitable, exhibition arena: the movie theaters of America.
We encourage our colleagues in the creative community to join with us by calling or emailing NATO at 202-962-0054 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guillermo del Toro
Gale Anne Hurd
Pretty powerful stuff. To read more of the ins and outs of this deal, check out our story from yesterday.
Do you think the backing of these filmmakers will do anything to influence the future or are we already on a runaway train?