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Warner Bros.' Meyer touts release of movies into home before DVD release

June 23, 2010 |  2:14 pm
Meyer In an otherwise predictable presentation supporting the federal government's plan to combat piracy, Warner Bros. Entertainment Chief Executive Barry Meyer let slip remarks that are likely to further inflame major theater circuits.

Meyer, who was speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on Wednesday, said Warner Bros. is at the "forefront of modifying the traditional distribution windows."

Translating the corporate-speak into plain English, that means viewers will get a chance to watch movies in their home before they are available through Netflix or Blockbuster.

As Meyer noted, a recent ruling by the Federal Communications Commission clears the way for studios like Warner Brothers to narrow the "window," or period of time, between the release of a movie in theaters and when it's available at  home via TV video on demand.

Currently, movies are available for people to watch at the home three to four months after their theatrical release and when, or soon after, they come out in DVDs. Time Warner cable has even proposed a service that would make movies available to consumers only 30 days after their release in theaters for a "premium" price.

As a result of the FCC ruling, Meyer said, "we are actively pursuing opportunities for an early window release of our films over cable and satellite systems in advance of DVD and Blu-ray."

Such statements, however, aren't likely to sit well with exhibitors. Their trade group, the National Assn. of Theater Owners, recently took out ads in the Hollywood trades cautioning studios about attempts to collapse traditional windows, which they fear would discourage consumers from going to the theater to watch movies and hence weaken ticket sales.

-- Richard Verrier