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Theater Group Balks at Premium VOD Plans

31 Mar, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

NATO Discontented with Premium VOD Windows

The National Association of Theater Owners expressed outrage March 31 following numerous reports that four of the major studios would open a premium VOD window with DirecTV and other outlets, possibly by the end of April.

Warner, Sony, Fox and Universal reportedly are ready to offer some films to DirectTV customers 60 days after the films’ theatrical debut, with a $30 rental fee for 48 hours of availability. Comcast and Vudu also are on board with the new window, several news organizations reported.

“We are still in talks with the studios about doing this but many details are still in flux,” a DirecTV spokesman said.

Both Disney and Lionsgate have mulled the idea as well.

“Theater operators were not consulted or informed of the substance, details or timing of this announcement,” NATO said in a statement. “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 statement went on to suggest the premium VOD window would hurt overall film revenues, give pirates easier access to content, and hurt the relationship between theater owners and studios.

“In the end, the entire motion picture community will have a say in how the industry moves forward,” the statement reads. “These studios have made their decision in what they no doubt perceive to be their best interests. Theater owners will do the same.”

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