Imagine There’s No Movie Theater

It’s easy if you try. And with the advent of torrents and some other tools for consumers to get their hands on video clips quickly, it’s certainly a possibility. So the media industry is feeling the pinch and trying to get out ahead of the demand. But I’m wondering if moving up the ability to access VOD (Video on Demand) in home is the answer, and some well known names in the business are certainly taking exception to it.

Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Michael Bay and More Write Letter Opposing Premium VOD Service

Peter Jackson and James Cameron write letter opposing Premium VOD Service

This Thursday, DirecTv will launch its new Premium VOD service, which allows viewers to watch new movies from Warner Bros., Sony, Universal, and 20th Century Fox in their homes just 60 days after a title’s initial theatrical release for a fee of $30. Today, 23 of Hollywood’s top directors have published a letter in opposition against this VOD platform.

This letter, which was put together by James Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau in conjunction with NATO (the National Assn. of Theater Owners ), is set to coincide with Thursday’s launch of the Adam Sandler comedy Just Go with It, which will be the first Home Premiere title available to HD customers for $29.99.

Along with James Cameron and Jon Landau, other letter signers include Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, Guillermo del Toro, Roland Emmerich, Peter Jackson, Shawn Levy, Michael Mann, Todd Phillips, Brett Ratner, Adam Shankman, Gore Verbinski, Robert Zemeckis, Karyn Kusama, Antoine Fuqua, Todd Garner, Lawrence Gordon, Stephen Gyllenhaal, Gale Anne Hurd, Bill Mechanic, Jamie Patricof, and Robert Rodriguez.

Here is the letter in full:


We are the artists and business professionals who help make the movie business great. We produce and direct movies. We work on the business deals that help get movies made. At the end of the day, we are also simply big movie fans.

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk by leaders at some major studios and cable companies about early-to-the-home “premium video-on-demand.” In this proposed distribution model, new movies can be shown in homes while these same films are still in their theatrical run.

In this scenario, those who own televisions with an HDMI input would be able to order a film through their cable system or an Internet provider as a digital rental. Terms and timing have yet to be made concrete, but there has been talk of windows of 60 days after theatrical release at a price of $30.

Currently, the average theatrical release window is over four months (132 days). The theatrical release window model has worked for years for everyone in the movie business. Current theatrical windows protect the exclusivity of new films showing in state-of-the-art theaters bolstered by the latest in digital projection, digital sound, and stadium seating.

Read the rest here.

I’ve waxed on elsewhere about artificial scarcities being created where none normally exists, and how that irritates me, and keeping people from VOD is strictly creating a scarcity — or trying. Yet I’m wondering what would be sacrificed (even short term) if we inch open the floodgates some more for access to movies. Oh, you say they’re already open? Well, not quite, but it’s not long before they are, so is there a good reason to keep people from quicker in home access? I don’t know. Will there come a day when we look back at movie watching in a theater as a quaint old custom? Oh, I have lots of thoughts about this, but I’m interested in yours.