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NATO CEO Stresses Privacy Regarding Premium VOD Discussions

28 Mar, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Universal's nixed PVOD movie 'Tower Heist' in 2011

Despite The Wall Street Journal reporting major studios are moving ahead with plans to offer movies in the home less than 45 days after their theatrical debut, John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, didn’t mention the latest development in the rollercoaster life of premium VOD.

Speaking March 28 in a state of the industry keynote at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Fithian reiterated the strength of the March global box office (up 1% from 2016) and said domestic ticket sales have been growing steadily for the past decade.

Fithian’s reluctance to discuss PVOD and its possible threat to theaters’ exclusive 90-day release window stems in part on the sensitivity of the issue: Undercutting the lucrative theatrical window pushing in-home access priced from $30.

When asked about PVOD, Fithian repeated his trade group’s boilerplate response, namely that theater operators are keen to work with studios on a digital platform that is amenable to all parties.

That could include theater operators receiving a cut in digital sales — a concept Paramount Pictures has experimented with on select releases. Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara and Stacey Snider, CEO of 20th Century Fox, have both publicly advocated for the launch of PVOD.

“It’s tricky but it is doable,” Fithian told Deadline.com.

PVOD appeared dead in 2011 after Universal Pictures scuttled plans to offer action comedy Tower Heist in homes (for $59.99) three weeks following its theatrical bow when distributors vowed to boycott the movie.

A year ago when a proposed third-party PVOD service dubbed “The Screening Room” made headlines, NATO called on studios and exhibitors to work as partners on new-release models that could grow the business for everyone.

“Those models should be developed by distributors and exhibitors in company-to-company discussions, not by a third party,” the trade group said at the time. 

At CinemaCon, Fithian said such discussions should remain private and out of the media — alluding to the “Screening Room” buzz from Napster/Facebook co-founder Sean Parker, who wanted to charge consumers $50 for movies day-and-date with their theatrical debut.

“What you have not seen from exhibitors is public comment about release dates and price points. We’re not going to talk about it publicly and neither are our members. There may be a whole lot more on the table than what they talked about,” Fithian said.


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