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Closing the Window on Disc Release

23 Feb, 2009 By: Stephanie Prange

Stephanie Prange

Much has been made of the idea that video-on-demand viewings should be available at the same time discs hit stores; obviously, it’s a win for VOD providers who’ve traditionally been upstaged by packaged media. Certainly, Summit Entertainment seems to be playing no favorites when it comes to VOD vs. disc on the hit Twilight. The studio will reportedly offer the title the same day on VOD and disc, as have other studios on occasion.

My question is: Why do VOD providers get to close the window on disc while the disc doesn’t get to do the same to the theatrical window?

After all, DVD has traditionally made more money for the studios than they make at the box office. Why not let the disc have the same window as theaters?

Certainly, this wouldn’t work with blockbusters that are meant to make a splash on the big screen. But with smaller, more intimate character pieces, might it not make more sense to close the window for disc? Why can’t Frost/Nixon come out on disc the same week — or very close to it — that it hits theaters? If you are talking about satisfying consumer demand, it only makes sense. 

This month I had some free time and went to see Frost/Nixon but could only find it at one theater in my area. There I found a long line of patrons — the couple in front of me said they were seeing it for the second time — who would have been more than willing to purchase the film on disc at the local Wal-Mart or bookstore rather than wait in line at the only theater showing the film in the area.

If these same folks had purchased the film on DVD or Blu-ray, not only would it have meant more money to the studio, but it would have come in the first week of release, rather than weeks later as patrons waited for the crowds to subside. Also, the studios might have captured more viewers. Who knows how many viewers couldn’t find the time to go to the one theater in their area showing Frost/Nixon, but who were willing to buy it on disc instead?

Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein noted in his recent column that Oscar nominees haven’t seen much of a bump at the box office this year. He also noted that Frost/Nixon’s theatrical release lost venues because blockbusters sucked up all the theaters.

The disc could have satisfied that demand.

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