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David Poland

By David Poland

A Modest Proposition On Movie Windows

Truly, this 3-week, $60 a screening window Universal wants to test on Tower Heist is a joke. If they get 100 people to buy it, it will be a bloody miracle. Seriously. 3 figures would be a surprise.

But if they want to test this stupid idea, how about agreeing to test other ideas already?

On Jack & Jill, opening the next weekend in November, try a 3-month VOD window, putting it out at $5 a view and not on DVD for another 3 months and when it does hit DVD, reduce the VOD price to $2 a view. See what happens.

Then, for New Year’s Eve, let’s remove it from theaters on Dec 30, and push it only to VOD on New Year’s Eve… at $20 a view.

And on The Sitter, how about a four month window after theatrical, then release to all post-theatrical platforms on the same day, including pay-TV and Netflix streaming.

Then you’ll have four different kinds of tests and some information to work with. Make the detailed information about sales available to NATO…. and the press (please!).

Put your money where your tests are! You want to mess with the window? Fine. Don’t put all the risk and blame on exhibition. Both sides risk in these tests. Be honest about the results.

And then, the future can be discussed as an industry.

And if you had real faith in these reindeer games, let’s see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol go day-n-date to boot. Public agreement that there will be no “you let us do it once, so we have the right to keep doing it” crap. Test it. Let’s see how it works. $25 at home. Regular prices at the theater. Popular movie. How many people would watch it on opening weekend at home.

I support and believe in exhibition, but let’s push this thing! If day-n-date makes sense, let’s find out and figure out where the chips will fall over time. I believe that windows will prove to be the best way to maximize revenues (and enjoy movies, btw). But if it isn’t, studios should want to push.

All this tippy toeing does nothing but create trouble, distrust, and animosity.

Iron Chef: Movie Distribution
Secret Ingredient: Public Preferences

Allez! Cuisine!

18 Responses to “A Modest Proposition On Movie Windows”

  1. James says:


    these are all reasonable ideas, but thats probably why they wont happen any time soon. They are so afraid of cannibalization, and you are (in their minds) taking revenue away from some revenue source

    Tower Heist at $60 a pop in “secondary” theatrical DMAs (really, lazy, high VOD/rental DMAs) is an attempt to see if people who wouldn’t see this theatrically will shell out $60 at home. You’re right of course they won’t. Sticker shock, not lack of intent. No one will pay $60 for Tower Heist even if thats actually what they ended up spending on an evening out to see Tower Heist.

    At some point, we will see them abandoned to some extent, some of their revenue streams, and then we will see something similar to what you are proposing.

    We’re at DEFCON 3. DEFCON 5 is abandonment.

  2. film fanatic says:

    Much like home video was a boon to the porn industry, because it removed the potential shame of being seen in public buying a ticket at a porn theatre, the $60 VOD for TOWER HEIST makes a lot of sense for cineastes who want to see the film because of the cast but are willing to pay a premium of 5x the ticket price for the luxury and peace of mind of knowing they won’t be “outed” in public while paying money to see a film directed by Brett Ratner.

  3. Proman says:

    “If they get 100 people to buy it, it will be a bloody miracle.”

    You have no clue how these things work. I am betting that the number of people paying for this would be in the thousands. From Las Vegas hotel rooms alone.

    Besides, it’s a Brett Ratner/Eddie Murphy movie so there will be interest.

  4. anghus says:

    60 bucks for a movie at a hotel?

    Seriously. Who here is in the 1%?

  5. Joe Leydon says:

    Actually, Proman, I don’t think this is the kind of movie you pay $60 for in a hotel room. if you receive my meaning, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

  6. I was kinda-sorta with you until $25 for MI:4 day-and-date. Not a single theater chain would participate that… even though it would still be a cash-cow for them nonetheless. At $25, you’re charging LESS than two adult tickets in a big city. You’re still charging less than the average American suburb if you factor in gas and other factors.

    I believe that exhibitors’ fears of a VOD takeover are severely overstated. If we don’t see significant theatrical hurt on IFC and Magnolia movies because of VOD, it’s probably safe to assume we wouldn’t see it on many larger releases (teenagers, especially, are just as devoted to the theatrical experience as cinephiles–for different reasons, of course).

    Now, if you did the DirecTV Premiere Cinema deal ($30–more than the $25 for MI:4 you stated), but bumped it up to day-and-date, you’d see a LOT of adult-skewing films (say, Blind Side or Up in the Air) losing some serious box office cash, I think… There is definitely a common conception out there, especially among 35-60ers, that non-action films don’t need the big screen. But these kind of mammoth hits with the adult market are few and far between…

    But exhibitors simply will NEVER give it a shot if the cost is equal, if not cheaper, than a night at the movies for a couple. And as long as they have that leverage, they shouldn’t give it a shot.

    The $60 thing, though? The exhibs are waging a publicity war. As you say, nobody is going to buy the thing.

  7. David Poland says:

    The IFC and Magnolia models, which work for those distributors, has kind of proven that it does kill theatrical prospects. I don’t think they’ve had a single $10m grosser since the day-n-date VOD started.

    They are happy, it seems, to make their profits on VOD and not risk bigger marketing dollars. But there is a real question about whether they will ever have a theatrical breakout again with this system.

    And you’re certainly right about the day-n-date thing… but heck… why not shoot the moon?!?!

  8. IFC has only had 2 $10m+ movies (BIG FAT GREEK & Y TU MAMA) ever and Magnolia has none…

    Yes, IFC and Magnola’s biggest recent successes–CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS and I AM LOVE (both $5m movies)–were not VOD. Their VOD titles generally don’t break $3m. But you could easily argue this is because both got to play in more theaters — AMC, Regal, etc allowed them at their artier sites because they weren’t VOD. If you look at the NY/LA theater agerages opening weekend, there’s no big statistical disparity between day-and-date VOD and theatrical-only releases. IN THE LOOP was d&d and it still pulled $192k from 8 sites… ALL GOOD THINGS still pulled $37k from 2… etc etc. You could argue it hurt stuff like TWO LOVERS, which set d&d release records on VOD, but would the majority of VOD purchasers have really gone out to an art-house anyway?

    But hey, I say the studios should go for VOD and let the chains boycott. It’ll really help independent theaters. Wouldn’t it be great to see the Glendale Exchange or the Culver Plaza selling out again for the first time since the ’80s, all because they were the only ones to get the latest blockbuster?

  9. Edward says:

    You’re all thinking this wrong…

    Comcast, the cable television service provider who owns the studio releasing Tower Heist,, is looking for this PVOD test to fail. It’ll only add to their “proof” that PVOD does not hurt the box office, and work to push the windows even smaller, with PVOD releases closer to day-and-date and with a lower price point. Eventually, they will find the combination that works best for them, regardless of who else it hurts, all in the pursuit of keeping their top sheet looking good each quarter.

  10. Edward says:

    And Danny, it’d be impossible for the Glendale Exchange to be selling out for the first time since the ’80s, since the Exchange wasn’t even built until ’91 and they were selling out their biggest house (#9) with movies like Sex and the City and The Dark Knight even after the Americana opened.

    And your argument is exactly what Comcast wants. If Cinemark and the other top theatre chains boycott Tower Heist, they know there’ll be the smaller and indie exhibitors who will be more than happy to pick it up. They’re looking forward to dividing and conquering the exhibitors.

  11. Bennett says:

    I wonder what the numbers for Red State are? It’s not the same as PVOD, but I am curious if it would have been more successful if it had done a traditional theater run. I have not seen the flick, but as a test into a different way to release the film it would be an interesting case study. Of Course, I would be more intrested in the numbers without Smith’s road show, since I believe that a live Smith road show(with his rabid fans) would be the exception to the rule.

    I think a successful PVOD launch would be in the 25 dollar range. Maybe the film companies could take a little less in rentals to make the exhibs happy. There seems to be some sort of compromise.

    Maybe a better test would be a 25 dollar test on something like a Idles of March/Warrior/Drive/The Help. Adult oriented films that parents like myself want to see without kids, but do not want to go through the hassle of getting a babysitter. I think that there is an untapped market out there of adults who want to see the latest films but cannot make it to the theater. At 25 dollars it would be more than a ticket(prices here are 10 bucks for evening shows), but not so cost prohibited that I wouldn’t do it.

  12. David Poland says:

    Thing is, Edward, there is already a strong history of VOD not working at any price point, in terms of wide release numbers.

    So yes, agree that they don’t really expect a win here. But killing theatrical is not really in their interest… however they might drool at the prospects.

  13. hcat says:

    I can only think of a few things sadder than people watching New Years Eve on New Years Eve. Its like renting Bachelor Party to watch at a Bachelor Party.

  14. cadavra says:

    “The IFC and Magnolia models, which work for those distributors, has kind of proven that it does kill theatrical prospects. I don’t think they’ve had a single $10m grosser since the day-n-date VOD started.”

    Well, duh. Those theatrical runs, at least in L.A., are one week and out (or maybe a one-show-a-day holdover) in one theatre. Pictures like BURKE AND HARE, THE WARD, SALVATION BLVD., etc, all with big-name casts and/or directors, would certainly have merited better exposure had they not been competing with the at-home option. Indeed, the Carpenter film played exactly one show a day (at 4:45) for its one week, which meant there was literally only one day I could see it. That’s not even giving the film a chance to find a theatrical audience.

  15. Danny Baldwin says:

    But Cadavra, those are hardly comparable BECAUSE the theatrical releases were total afterthoughts… Look at a movie like IN THE LOOP, which got the proper treatment on both platforns — works out just as well, I think.

    Look, I see everything in theaters and don’t want to see them hurt, but I say let the market sort this one out.. If studios want to suffer the consequences of a boycott by exhibs, let them test the waters and see what’s adventageous. I don’t think people will stop going to the majority of movies in significant numbers unless the price-point was so low that it actually hurt the studios’ bottom line. On the contrary, a little pressure on exhibitors might force them to step up on presentation and customer service…

  16. David Poland says:

    I think there is a lot of “chicken & egg” on this issue.

    You do the heavy VOD route to avoid marketing costs… but you also limited your theatrical upside and your VOD and DVD with it as well.

    Would a movie like In The Loop have become a $25 million theatrical surprise without the VOD angle? No way to really know.

    There is a principle when small movies are sold to big studios that the studio is only really worried about grossing enough to make their money and unless it’s a very rare situation – see: Slumdog Millionaire – they aren’t going to go the extra mile to chase box office. This doesn’t mean they’re not passionate about those films, but the incentive is just very different than when there is $50m or $100m on the line.

  17. Triple Option says:

    $60 is the price of an event. A Manny Pacquiao fight is an event. A Ben Stiller movie is not. Sure it might be cheaper for a family or even worth the hassle for the ease of having date night in, but the key is the movie. But even a family would almost undoubtedly choose a $6 movie before resorting to a $60 one. I was saying before, offer up a Sex in the City, Harry Potter or Batman movie at an even higher price for a day & date and see if people won’t pony up for it. I think the price and date for a New Year’s Eve movie would work but not after the film has been out a month. Just a single day of current theatrical releases offered at a higher amount might attract some additional VOD people for that feeling of a special type of nye entertainment. Otherwise, I think most people will see the title, see the price, and skip over it without a second second of consideration.

    I did see In The Loop on demand. It wasn’t the same day or w/e of initial release. I doubt I would’ve caught up to it in the theater. That was a great film for home theater. Talky comedy. I wouldn’t want to do a Michael Mann film or other director known for wide scape shots on VOD as the first view. Even if it’s a film I’d buy on blu ray, I’d like the theatrical experience first. I can’t really see calling the boys over to watch a VOD movie. The more likely scenario would be dudes over, hanging out, and then decide to watch a movie but I since I have Netflix streaming we’d start there. There was a group of us who went to the Thursday night Midnight showing of Kick-Ass, I suppose that’d be something we’d do as a VOD but again, that would be an event. Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day…yeah, there’d be a chance. Latest comedy that’s not opening day?? I’m sure at $60 I/we’d wait.

  18. Modest Movie says:

    I am interested to see how this plays out – I’m predicting <2000 rentals of Tower Heist for $60 though. It's going to be a colossal failure, letting the theatres breathe a sigh of relief for the time being.

    That being said, while I'm interested in the $25 price range, and the idea of launching more mature movies on VOD for parents to watch without the hassle of getting a babysitter, I think it's mostly an irrelevant effort. A lot of television viewers are moving away from the traditional format (cable) and using other services (Netflix, BitTorrent).

    I'm not sure if $25 VOD rentals will do anything to change that trend. Probably not.

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