Home Theater

Major Hollywood studios are in discussions with Time Warner Cable to offer movies on demand in people’s homes just 30 days after films hit the multiplex. The concept is being called “home theater on demand”, with the idea being that consumers would be offered the recently released movies in High Definition for $20 to $30. The formal pitch was made during a cable industry convention last week.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

“That proposal is still being debated and talks are fluid. People close to the matter say that several studios could sign on to a version of it as soon as the fall, making the first movies available on such a system by the end of the year or early 2011. Among the studios who have reviewed the proposal are Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., Walt Disney Co.’s Disney Studios, General Electric Co.’s Universal Pictures, Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures, Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures and News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox. … Despite concerns over theater owners, some studios could decide to test a Time Warner Cable’s proposal with smaller movies—what one media executive called a “trial balloon.” That would give other studios a chance to gauge the level of theater owners’ opposition, along with the damage the offering would do to DVD sales. “

Hollywood movie studios have previously promised theater owners not to release the films on home video until four months after the theatrical release. Early this year, Disney announced that they would release the DVD of Alice in Wonderland almost a whole month earlier than usual, shortening “the exclusive theatrical window” to three months. Theater owners were upset and against the move, noting that a lot of films do big business after the first month of release. The idea is if the window is shortened, consumers who see movies five or six weeks after release might decide to wait it out for the home video option instead.

So it is very doubtful that they will be happy about this new concept if any of the studios sign on. Some exhibitors might even refuse to show films that will be offered through “home theater on demand”.

Right now independent distributors like Magnolia and IFC offer films on demand the same day and date as the theatrical release. And while this type of on demand distribution allows consumers outside of the major cities to see independent films which they might not normally have access to otherwise, it still hasn’t caught on in the mainstream. I think it will take a big tentpole Hollywood film to be available on demand before consumers will take a service like this seriously.

Discuss: Would you pay $20 to $30 to watch a movie on demand 30 days after its theatrical release?

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