Parker’s idea reportedly didn’t get a lot of traction since it would introduce a third party into the food chain. In contrast, these latest talks have been directly between exhibitors and studios like Comcast Corp.’s Universal pictures. Cinemark Holdings Inc., the third-largest theater chain in the U.S., had previously boycotted Paramount Pictures for releasing films to home video within seven weeks. Now Cinemark has admitted it held preliminary talks in early November with studios about a “premium video-on-demand window.”
Studios still get close to half their revenue from theater sales, so any program that could reduce ticket sales could harm them just as much as theater owners. While the once 6-month gap between theater and home release has continued to shrink, it will be a challenge to find that perfect window to maintain theater attendance while boosting home sales. A further wrench in the works is that the fees that cable and subscription services pay for movies are based on box-office sales, so any reduction in theater revenue could impact the home market in another way.
Part of the solution may be in limiting the number and type of films that get quickly offered to home viewers. Spectacle films like Doctor Strange that make additional bank on superior 3D viewing could linger in theaters longer, while the arthouse films and/or late-December Oscar bait could quickly capitalize on positive buzz in the home market. Before studios possibly deliver a deadly blow to theater viewing, however, they should look into more of the reasons movie fans often prefer to stay home — specifically the recent decline in quality and variety of films hitting the local multiplex.