4/26/11: Bloomberg is reporting that Comcast is now in talks with studios to release films on VOD only 6-8 weeks after they've opened theatrically.
4/20/11: NATO released an official letter this morning that includes statements from various filmmakers. James Cameron had this to say:
"You can argue about VOD windows all day long, but what you can't deny is that there is an overwhelming outcry from the theater owners that they feel threatened by this. The cinema experience is the wellspring of our entire business, regardless of what platforms we trickle down to. If the exhibitors are worried, I'm worried. We should be listening to them. 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."
Read the full letter here.
The following directors also signed an open letter about protecting the cinema experience:
Guillermo del Toro
Gale Anne Hurd
4/19/11: THR reports that Just Go With It will be made available on DirecTV starting on Thursday. The cost is $29.99 and it will be available for two weeks.
The Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston rom-com opened on February 11, 2011, which means that it will be available in homes 59 days after its theatrical debut. The Sony/Columbia release has raked in a solid $103 million during its domestic run.
4/14/11: Variety reports that DirecTV will launch $30 premium video on demand option in time for Easter.
Just Go With It, The Rite and Cedar Rapids among titles expected to be available.
NATO Responds To Erroneous Reports of Threatened Boycotts (4/14/11):
Washington, D.C. -- The National Association of Theatre Owners does not and could not encourage its members to engage in any boycotts of any movies distributed by any company. Recent press reports to the contrary are completely false.
In an article published on April 13 in The Guardian, it was suggested that NATO indicated that cinema operators were prepared not to screen movies, and specifically referenced the coming Harry Potter film. No one from The Guardian contacted NATO before the original article was published. At our request, The Guardian did later change the article to remove the erroneous reference to the Harry Potter film.
Then later on April 13, the blog "Business Insider" entitled "Harry Potter 8 Dropped From Theaters?" suggested that NATO "is threatening to drop some of this summer's biggest blockbusters" and that "screens under NATO are threatening to boycott upcoming studio releases, starting with Warner Bros. sure to be box office-gargantuan Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2." Again, these stories, and others that have followed, are completely false and no one from the organizations responsible for the stories contacted anyone at NATO.
NATO has often articulated our concerns about the possible release of "premium VOD" movies in an early window. Our association issued statements on June 16, 2010 and again on March 31, 2011 regarding those concerns. But as our 2010 statement made clear, "individual theater companies must and will make decisions about release window changes in their own company's interest." NATO cannot and will not make those decisions for them.
This statement may be attributed to:
President & CEO
Official Statement from AMC on 4/8/11:
We at AMC feel movie theatres are a critically important business to many parties: the 200+ million guests we host year after year who choose to view films on the large screen; the communities of which our theatres are an integral part; the artists who create the movies we show; and ultimately the entertainment industry for which our theatres generate the highest quality source of revenue.
We believe the theatrical experience has a bright future, and we are aggressively investing to prepare for it. We are in the midst of a multi-year, multi-million dollar rollout of digital projection and 3D, IMAX and our own proprietary ETX format. We are also introducing a new guest rewards program, better-for-you items, enhanced food and beverage offerings, dine-in theatre options and alternative, engaging programming for our guests to enjoy in our comfortable, state-of-the-art auditoriums. All activities we are currently engaged in have common goals - to increase attendance at our theatres and maintain the health of our industry.
The p-VoD world as currently defined threatens that health. As such, we have notified studios of our expectations regarding economic arrangements on movies that go p-VoD. It is not wise to discuss details in the press, and Company policy precludes it, but as these windows shrink and threaten our industry's future, it is only logical to expect AMC to adapt its economic model.
The future is bright, even as it promises to be different, and we look forward to the success that lies ahead for all parties.
Regal CEO Amy Miles:
"Based on the recent announcement regarding Premium Video on Demand, we are amending our policies for support of films from studios participating in the new VOD model. It is simply not in Regal's best interest to utilize our resources to provide a marketing platform for the release of Premium Video on Demand movies."
Cinemark CEO Alan Stock:
In THR: "We are not here to market movies for DirecTV and VOD. We are demanding they tell us upfront what movies those are. Our goal is to promote and advertise movies for their theatrical run."
James Cameron on PVoD:
In The New York Times: "'I do feel it's not wise to erode your core business,' said Mr. Cameron. The problem, he said, is not that on-demand offerings will overlap with the theatrical run, since most films are out of most theaters within a month. Rather, he said, many potential viewers might skip the theatrical experience, knowing that a movie would soon be available at home."
Todd Phillips (director of The Hangover) on PVoD:
Speaking to exhibitors at CinemaCon: "I'm on your side in this whole VOD business. If I wanted to make movies for TV I would have become a TV director."
NATO's statement on 3/31/11:
On March 30, it was reported that Warner Bros., Fox, Sony and Universal planned to release certain of their films to the home 60 days after their theatrical release in "premium" Video on Demand at a price point of $30. On behalf of its members, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) expresses our surprise and strong disappointment.
Theater operators were not consulted or informed of the substance, details or timing of this announcement. It's particularly disappointing to confront this issue today, while we are celebrating our industry partnerships at our annual convention - CinemaCon - in Las Vegas.
NATO has repeatedly, publicly and privately, raised concerns and questions about the wisdom of shortening the theatrical release window to address the studios' difficulties in the home market. We have pointed out the strength of theatrical exhibition-revenues have grown in four of the last five years-and that early-to-the-home VoD will import the problems of the home entertainment market into the theatrical market without fixing those problems.
The studios have not managed to maintain a price point in the home market and we expect that they will be unable to do so with early VoD. They risk accelerating the already intense need to maximize revenues on every screen opening weekend and driving out films that need time to develop-like many of the recent Academy Award-nominated pictures. They risk exacerbating the scourge of movie theft by delivering a pristine, high definition, digital copy to pirates months earlier than they had previously been available. Paramount has explicitly cited piracy as a reason they will not pursue early VoD. Further, they risk damaging theatrical revenues without actually delivering what the home consumer seems to want, which is flexibility, portability and a low price.
These plans fundamentally alter the economic relationship between exhibitors, filmmakers and producers, and the studios taking part in this misguided venture. We would expect cinema owners to respond to such a fundamental change and to reevaluate all aspects of their relationships with these four studios.
As NATO's Executive Board noted in their open letter of June 16, 2010, the length of a movie's release window is an important economic consideration for theater owners in whether, how widely and under what terms they book a film.
Additionally, cinema owners devote millions of hours of screen time each year to trailers promoting the movies that will play on their screens. With those trailers now arguably promoting movies that will appear shortly in the home market to the detriment of theater admissions, we can expect theater owners to calculate just how much that valuable screen time is worth to their bottom lines and to the studios that have collapsed the release window. The same consideration will no doubt be given to the acres of wall and floor space devoted to posters and standees.
In the end, the entire motion picture community will have a say in how the industry moves forward. These studios have made their decision in what they no doubt perceive to be their best interests. Theater owners will do the same.