TheWrap‘s Brent Lang is reporting today that over twenty big-name directors and producers — including James Cameron, Michael Mann, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, Gale Ann Hurd, Michael Bay, Brett Ratner and Hangover director Todd Phillips — have signed a letter urging studios to reverse their much-debated VOD plan that would release films on DirectTV 60 days after their theatrical release.
The argument for the plan is that anyone with a pulse is going to catch any new film worth seeing in a theatre within three to four weeks, or more likely within one to three weeks, and what does it matter if it hits VOD after eight weeks? Most films are completely over at the box-office after five or six weeks. The argument against is that moviegoers outside the hardcore urban areas will now be more likely to skip theatrical exhibition altogether, knowing it will only be two months before a given film will be available on demand.
People in the hinterlands have long argued that smaller, highly recommended films never even show up at their local theatre, and that early VOD windows would therefore be very welcome and a life-saver of sorts. I can understand that. I’ve heard this complaint over and over among HE readers.
Discouraging moviegoers from patronizing films at theatres could indeed by disastrous for exhibitors. The filmmakers are probably right when it comes to major-league, well-reviewed, high-interest features like the ones that Mann and Del Toro and Cameron make — they shouldn’t be VOD’ed 60 days after release. But what about the not-so-great mezzo-mezzo films?
Theatre owners have arguably done much to already discourage attendance by failing to compete with the high-quality viewing experience available to anyone with a 50″ high-def screen, a Blurayplayer and a sound system of some kind. It seems to me that if smaller, cooler, more interesting films like Super are available day-and-date (or close to that) by IFC Films and Magnolia and others, it might not be fatal for lower-rated movies that most of us wouldn’t see in theatres anyway to be viewable on home screens after 60 days.
Lang summarizes that studios “have privately maintained that premium VOD is the best way to stabilize the home entertainment market and reestablish a price point that’s been depressed by dollar rental kiosks and subscription rental services such as Netflix.”
The filmmakers’ letter reads in part, “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.”
As Lang reports, “The premium VOD platform kicks off on Thursday with the release of Just Go With It. For $30, DirecTV customers can rent the title for 48 hours. Four studios — Fox, Sony, Warner Brothers, and Universal — are making their films available through the new windows.”