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Hollywood firming up launch plans for premium video-on-demand

March 31, 2011 |  1:13 pm

Hollywood's plan to start offering $30 video-on-demand rentals of movies about eight weeks after they hit theaters is expected to start around late April through satellite television provider DirecTV.

Though a precise launch date and plans have yet to be finalized, Sony Pictures' Adam Sandler comedy "Just Go With It" will likely be among the first movies offered, according to people familiar with the matter. Others under consideration are 20th Century Fox's low-budget comedy "Cedar Rapids" and one of two pictures recently released by Universal Pictures: the Matt Damon thriller "The Adjustment Bureau" or the alien comedy "Paul." Warner Bros. is also expected to be one of the suppliers in the first wave of so-called "premium VOD" movies from DirecTV. Likely candidates from the studio include the comedy "Hall Pass" and the drama "Red Riding Hood."

As previously reported by The Times, DirecTV has emerged in the last few months as the company that will first launch premium VOD. Sony, Fox and Warner Bros. were always expected to take part, but Universal has changed its position after initially keeping its distance, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

Other cable television and Internet providers are expected to follow DirecTV's lead in offering movie rentals for $30 about two months after they hit theaters. People at studios familiar with the situation said they would offer only certain movies via premium video-on-demand. They would typically be pictures that have already disappeared from theaters and appeal largely to adults who rarely rush out to see movies in the first few weeks and would be willing to pay a higher price to watch in the comfort of their own homes.

Theater operators have been publicly blasting the plan, arguing that it would discourage consumers from buying movie tickets if they know they could watch the picture in their living rooms within a short period of time. A report about the plan in Variety on Thursday generated outrage in Las Vegas at CinemaCon, where theater owners and studio executives are gathering this week for the exhibition industry's annual convention.

"Theater operators were not consulted or informed of the substance, details or timing of this announcement," the National Assn. of Theatre Owners said in a statement. "It's particularly disappointing to confront this issue today, while we are celebrating our industry partnerships at our annual convention -- CinemaCon -- in Las Vegas."

A spokesman for DirecTV declined to comment.

-- Ben Fritz

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