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NATO CEO: DVD, VOD Windows All About Timing

9 Nov, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Don’t jump to conclusions about what the CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) thinks about digital delivery. He’s all about it.

“Our members are very supportive of VOD,” John Fithian said, speaking at the Future of Film conference. He roots for success of content beyond the theater, from DVDs and Blu-ray Disc to streaming and digital downloads, he said.


“We’re concerned that a [VOD] window that’s too short sacrifices two dimes for one nickel,” he said. VOD releases too close to a theatrical release hurt both the theaters and DVD sales, he said, mostly due to piracy. And theaters guarantee dollars from every person, wheras several people can take advantage of one VOD transaction.

“Every form of home entertainment has started at a price point that’s impossible to maintain,” he said. “You’re already seeing it with Blu-ray.”

It’s not that John Calkins, EVP of global distribution and commercial innovation for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, disagrees. He just sees opportunity in responding to consumer demand for access to content where and when they want.

“The opportunity in digital distribution is that accessibility,” he said. “Each time Hollywood effectively layers in a new window, it opens up new occasions for the product. We have to lead to where the consumer is going and be responsible to what they’re looking for.”

Those consumers include the wife of John Griffin, director of connected electronics for Dolby Laboratories. He relayed a story about being on a honeymoon with her in Hawaii, where she was watching a movie on her mobile phone while sitting on the beach.

“I guess I need to do a better job entertaining her,” he joked. “There’s definitely an opportunity with digital distribution today. If you look at digital distribution a years ago, people had to make sacrifices with [quality].”

David Fenkel, co-founder of Oscilloscope, and Tom Quinn, SVP of Magnolia Pictures, Magnet Releasing, noted that the idea of day-and-date VOD with theatrical might make more sense for independents like them. “We do a different strategy for basically every film,” Fenkel said. “Sometimes day and date makes sense depending on the film.”

“It’s not one size fits all,” Quinn agreed. “Are we gaining access to an audience who wouldn’t have seen the film to begin with? It’s a moving target.”

NATO’s Fithian knows both studios and independents are following consumer demand.

“But if you completely follow the consumer, what they want is everything, when they want it, free,” he said.

Earlier in the day Stacey Snider, CEO of DreamWorks Studios, summed up VOD windows succinctly: “[They] should be far enough that it doesn’t cannibalize [theatrical], but close enough that it creates a premium price. The pressure is on to figure it out.”

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