Play­ing soon on a TV near you: newre­leases

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Anousha Sakoui

The span be­tween a movie’s the­atri­cal de­but and home- video re­lease is likely to get shorter— as soon as this year.

As movie the­aters and stu­dios con­verge this week in Las Ve­gas for an an­nual gath­er­ing, the loom­ing change to the in­dus­try will be heavy on ex­ec­u­tives’ minds. Theater chains have long re­sisted the idea of let­ting stu­dios re­lease movies di­rect to con­sumers any sooner than 90 days af­ter the films ar­rive in the cin­ema plex, but re­al­ity is start­ing to set in.

In 2016, DVD sales fell nearly 10 per­cent to $ 5.49 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Dig­i­tal En­ter­tain­ment Group, but the over­all home- en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try grew 1.4 per­cent, thanks to stream­ing and dig­i­tal sales. Stu­dios get a higher profit mar­gin from dig­i­tal sales and would rather make their films avail­able sooner rather than let­ting them linger in the­aters for weeks mak­ing di­min­ish­ing re­turns. A shorter win­dow could also help save on ad­ver­tis­ing spend­ing, elim­i­nat­ing the need for a sep­a­rate cam­paign for home ren­tals.

One an­swer is charg­ing view­ers a higher fee for a chance to see amovie at home just a fewweeks af­ter its the­atri­cal re­lease— what’s called a pre­mium on- de­mand win­dow. Among the ma­jor stu­dios, Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures, Warner Bros. and 20th Cen­tury Fox have been the most pub­licly vo­cal about this ap­proach. Ex­ec­u­tives have floated rental prices from $ 25 to $ 50, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

“Our stance here is that we be­lieve the­atri­cal win­dows are set to change in 2017,” Robert Fish­man, se­nior as­so­ciate at Mof­fett-Nathan son said in an in­ter­view .“We’ re just wait­ing for the an­nounce­ment at this point.” He es­ti­mates the par­ties will even­tu­ally set­tle on a $ 30 rental fee.

AMC En­ter­tain­ment Hold­ings Inc., Re­gal En­ter­tain­ment Group and Cine­mark Hold­ings Inc., the largest theater own­ers in the U. S., have said pub­licly in re­cent months that they are open to talks with stu­dios about cre­at­ing a PVOD win­dow. In pre­vi­ous years, ex­hibitors have thwarted ex­per­i­men­ta­tion by stu­dios by boy­cotting their movies. But the theater chains rec­og­nize the pres­sure on stu­dios is too great and are now try­ing to cut the best deal they can for them­selves, Fish­man said.

The in­dus­try has had a strong start to the year in North Amer­ica, with movies such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Lo­gan” and “Kong: Skull Is­land” far­ing bet­ter than ex­pected. Last year, box of­fice rev­enue in the U. S. and Canada grew2 per­cent to $ 11.4 bil­lion, even with at­ten­dance flat, ac­cord­ing to the Mo­tion Pic­ture As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. But big- bud­get movies are still risky ven­tures, with heavy pro­mo­tional costs, so stu­dios are look­ing for­ways to eke out more profit.

Ap­ple has also been press­ing for ear­lier ac­cess for movies, which could help its iTunes down­load store stand out in a crowded on­line mar­ket.

Sev­eral ob­sta­cles still stand in the way of the PVOD win­dow. In ad­di­tion to price, stu­dios and theater chains have to work out the length of the wait for home video.

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