Comcast and Universal Looking to VOD to Shatter Release Windows
Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller will be stealing their way into theaters on Nov. 4 with the caper flick Tower Heist. However, many theater owners are likely to think the real crime will occur on November 23 when Comcast and Universal Studios begin offering the movie over video-on-demand. This initial test run will be limited to two markets and be priced at $59.99, so I don’t imagine that anyone involved is expecting blockbuster numbers, but theater owners know this is just the beginning.
Comcast and Universal Pictures will be conducting a trial run that would deliver first-run films still in theaters to Comcast subscribers through video on demand. Movies will cost $60 each and be available for up to 48 hours after ordering.
The release window between theatrical release and VOD and home video release has been shrinking for years, leaving theaters less time to earn money off the movies they run and encouraging moviegoers to hold out for the less expensive home theater experience. Cinemark, the third largest theater chain in the country, is already threatening to boycott Tower Heist in response to the VOD trial.
Personally, I can’t see paying $60 just for the opportunity to watch a movie for 48 hours. I know the right combination of ticket prices and family sizes can make this a justifiable price, but I think in the long run, Comcast and its ilk are more likely to end up being squeezed the hardest by a shrinking release window. There are certain movies that just demand the big screen experience, and movies that don’t justify the expense of a trip to the theaters are not likely to justify the price of VOD either. If the studios are successul in pushing up the release window for VOD, you can bet that DVD and Blu-Ray won’t be far behind.