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Directors yell 'Cut!' on studios' premium VOD plans

Nearly two dozen Hollywood directors and producers criticized plans by the major studios to release movies in the home closer to when they debut in theaters.

In a open letter released Wednesday by the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, some of Hollywood's biggest filmmakers, including James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Gore Verbinski, lashed out at imminent plans by four studios to offer movies via video-on-demand just eight weeks after their theatrical release.

"As a crucial part of a business that last year grossed close to $32 billion in worldwide theatrical ticket sales, we in the creative community feel that now is the time for studios and cable companies to acknowledge that a release pattern for premium video-on-demand that invades the current theatrical window could irrevocably harm the financial model of our film industry," according to the letter.

The letter comes in the wake of plans by DirecTV, the El Segundo-based satellite television provider to launch premium video on demand Thursday with the Adam Sandler comedy "Just Go With It," 69 days after the film debuted in theaters. Consumers will pay about $30 to rent the Sony Pictures movie for 48 hours. Similar premium-priced VOD releases also are planned for Warner Bros.' comedy "Hall Pass," Universal Pictures' thriller "The Adjustment Bureau" and Fox Searchlight's quirky comedy "Cedar Rapids."

Currently, movies are available on VOD about the same time they become available on DVD, about 130 days after they debut in theaters.

Premium-priced VOD is foreseen as a new revenue source for studios looking to offset declining DVD sales, as well as a boon for cable companies that have been stymied in their efforts to deliver movies into the home earlier in part because of concerns it could cannibalize home video sales. Studios are looking to experiment with new business models at a time when DVD revenue is down about 40% from the market high and box-office revenue and attendance is off 20% this year.

But theater owners contend that the early release of movies on VOD could hurt their business by encouraging consumers to watch movies at home rather than in the theater.  Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment and Cinemark Holdings, the nation's three largest theater chains, have all said they won't play trailers for movies that are offered on premium VOD and may take other retaliatory economic measures.

In their letter, 23 directors and producers -- also including Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow and Robert Zemeckis -- raised a variety of concerns about the plans, saying they would negatively affect consumer buying habits, exacerbate film piracy and severely limit the ability of specialty films to remain in theaters long enough to build audience awareness.

"If wiser heads do not prevail, the cannibalization of theatrical revenue in favor of a faulty premature home video window could lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue," the letter stated.

In a separate statement, Cameron added: "The cinema experience is the wellspring of our entire business, regardless of what platforms we trickle down. If the exhibitors are worried, I'm worried. We should be listening to them."

-- Richard Verrier


DirecTV to launch premium video on demand Thursday with "Just Go With It"

DirecTV poised to launch premium video on demand as theater executives voice outrage


Comments () | Archives (24)

The studios just want more revenue. But you have to think, if the theater revenue is down 20%, maybe it's the content they're shoveling out that keeps people away. The folks against this are right though. Direct TV is just trying something stupid. I mean, I can wait 160 days.

Who would pay $30 to rent a movie for 48 hours? This may service larger families or those otherwise unable to suffer the noisy, sticky theater going environment of today. It will not impact whether people spend $30 on a Blu-Ray copy of a crap movie like "Just Go With It."

Studio execs: make something better if you want to increase your revenue!

This industry is run by people with some of the dumbest ideas!

Why would someone pay $30 to watch a mediocre Adam Sandler movie when they can buy the DVD for $15 or see it in theaters for $10?
Are people really that anxious to see a movie on their couch?

I agree with the directors. There are so many films -- especially during the summer -- I'd much rather watch on the big screen. Granted, most of them SUCK, including Cameron's Avatar, but they are still a better experience in the theater than on DVD no matter how big of a TV screen you have.

I do not go to the theaters anymore because of the manners of the patrons. I would buy them and watch them on my home theater.

Hey genius filmmakers! What killed movie going was that crap you think is great. There's a reason AMC plays Godfather 1 & 2 endlessly. Do you really think AMC will ever loop Transformers 1 & 2 for future generations. Art peaks, then plunges when hacks take hold. And the audience grows up and realizes the artist has no clothes. Yeah, that's YOU Mike Bay.

Who cares what the directors think. People need start realizing who is actually the boss. I would have told them either they agree or I will find another more talented director to take your place for less pay. There is always someone out there to replace you. Always.

Some things never change. In LIFE magazine's Feb. 20, 1950 issue, there was an article about "pay as you see TV" that the movie studios opposed. 61 years later, they still do.

The article states, "Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment and Cinemark Holdings, the nation's three largest theater chains, have all said they won't play trailers for movies that are offered on premium VOD ... ."

This is wonderful news! Who isn't sick of the endless barrage of garbage thrown at paying customers before the movie? It's gotten so out of hand that many would be customers simply wait for the DVD release than sit through 30 minutes of commercials after paying $10.00 per ticket.

the problem is obvious - whats passing for film-able scripts these days is merely lame, regurgitated, illiterate crap... fix the stories being told, hire talented (not cheap) writers & directors and actually listen to them and then maybe the box office might begin to turn around....

What about the writers? Us Hollywood writers should have some say in all this! After all, these are the movies we're writing.

I mean, my brother and I send months, sometimes years writing a film. To have it be on TV in less time than it took to write it is insulting.

For instance, we wrote "Laser Dreams: Light of Love" over the course of a year and a half. Now we can't say whether or not it's getting made (Hopefully we can say more later), but if it did get made, I don't think either of us could bare to see our baby on Direct TV 70 days after the film came out. It negates all the hard work we did.

You can count the Tornowski Twins against this.

A unanimous chorus stating the obvious here -- Hollywood movies stink today! At least 95% of them are plain terrible. I wonder why anyone would make the effort to see this garbage on the big screen anyway.

Consumers will pay about $30 to rent the Sony Pictures movie for 48 hours.

Seriously, is anyone going to rent a movie for 48 hours for 30 bucks? What a stupid plan!

Laser Dreams: Light of Love? We are witnessing the fall of western civilization.

I don't even watch Hollywood movies anymore, they're just regurgitated vomit from the slopchute of Hollywood. I've worked in Hollywood and the industry is filled with creeps--people you wouldn't invite into your home if you met them in person. I am particulrly disgusted with all the stinking scumbag script thieves in Hollywood--I've had over half a dozen scripts stolen from me (I'm owed TWO Oscars). It's a good bet that any movie you're watching, the script was stolen from a hard working writer who has to pay bills but can't because his script (and paycheck) was stolen from him. Hollywood is a criminal organization and needs to be investigated by the FBI. There's billions of dollars in stolen revenue involved.

I agree with the comment that much (if not most) of what Hollywood produces is garbage. It's actually sad to see how much junk we produce and export. It's getting to be like the fast food industry - simply junk. But I would definitely pay extra for (good) early releases. I'm fortunate to have a rocking home theater and would rather pay $30 or even more for a new release instead of going to a dirty, sticky theater with generally rude/talkative customers and extremely over priced concessions. The concession are absolutely ridicules. Popcorn bags just got smaller and there are almost zero healthier choices. And when we do go to the theater is runs us almost $100 bucks for the family. Pay $30 buck for 69 day old release, or even $60 for a totally new release. I've been waiting. Comfort, better food, environment and even experience at home...!

Over the last four months, I've seen The King's Speech, Win Win and Hop in theaters. Hop sucked and the other 2 were great. There are no movies out now that I will see in a theater because they're not worth $25 - $30 in movie tickets.

3 movies in 4 months. Hollywood, are you listening?

If you want me going to more movies, make 'em better. Otherwise, there's a lot of other entertainment available.

I can't imagine anyone paying $30 for Just Go With It, even if it came with a jumbo popcorn and a soda.

@secarletspider: Go to their website and see the rest of the drivel they're peddling. It's good for a laugh.

There are two comments posted her from supposed "writers." Neither is professional. One can tell from the comments posted. I am a professional writer, both produced and published.

@tornowsky: I followed your link. No one is buying your work because your ideas suck. Keep at it though. You may bet better. By the way, it's never wise to tout yourself too loudly. In my experience, people who do that are usually among the lesser talented. If you're good, your work speaks for itself. You might want to tone it down a bit. And by the way, if it takes you a year and a half to write a script, you might want to consider a different profession. You can't make a living that way.

@Mike Peters. You are obviously a non-professional No one is stealing your work and the suggestion that you are owed two Oscars is ludicrous. If you really believe your idea was stolen, then sue. You'll have to prove access and who had the story first, but if you can prove those two things, you'll prevail. Oh, and make sure you have a script that backs up your claims. You can't copyright ideas.

By the way, Mike, there's really only one reason work doesn't sell: it's not good enough. Now, that may sound crazy considering we're all saying that most movies aren't worth the money it costs to see them. There's lots of reasons scripts sell and not all of them have to do with it being a good story/script. Many of them are pure business. It is, after all, called show business.

I once doctored a script that was produced simply because they sold one territory (based on one of the stars) which brought in enough money to make it profitable before they ever shot a frame. And by the way? It was a terrible movie! I made it filmable, but I certainly didn't make it a good script.

I've been writing professionally for over 20 years. I have been read by tens, if not hundreds, of industry professionals. No one has ever stolen my work, although I've had to drop some ideas because some producer announced a project that was too similar. Your assertion that is one big criminal organization is something with which I take great umbrage and is just further evidence of your non-professionalism.

While much of what is produced in the studio system is drivel, not all is. I do agree that if movies were better, box office revenue would be higher.

I think they need to think about movies people don't want to go see. If you release BlockBuster's that soon, you might lose a lot of Theater support. Thus the Theater's will lose out to Home Theater, meaning the lazy people in America have won again making us look bad. I would look and see about making the price higher for new movies being put in Theater's, eventually leading to better quality films. Or sales in the first month before I started doing this to huge Blockbuster's. Make people get out and spend some money for the magic and beauty of Holly Wood.

"Studio execs: make something better if you want to increase your revenue!"

Someone told me that family friendly movies make more money than R rated violent, sexually explicit, crap that is being turned in mass quantity today. Hollywood lost its sense of direction in the late '60's when it started allowing nudity into films (nudity never added anything to a film story) and excessive violence, as well as movies that had a message so contrary to people's moral conviction as to be labeled offensive by the Catholic Conference of Bishops and just about every other major Judeo-Christian religion in the U.S. As far as I am concerned, and I think a lot of other people in the heartland of America feel this way, we do not care if a movie that is contradictory to our fundamental beliefs plays in a theater or is available for rent, we just are not going to watch! The same is true for syndicated television shows.

My wife and I rarely go out to the movies anymore. We just treat them all the same, and look at the DVD release date as the original release date. Why would a person go to a crowded mall, deal with parking, pay WAAYY too much for concessions, only to find a bad print of a bad movie, with people's rude, inconsiderate kids talking over the movie the whole time? It's supposed to be a pleasant experience, not a roll of the dice. How about this? I'll pay $8 or $10 more for my ticket, but I want to know that there won't be any rude adolescents, the print will be in good shape, and you charge me reasonable prices for my popcorn and milk duds. I'll take my chance on the movie itself if I know the other aspects of my experience will be in place.

These studios are going to kill the business. They have no clue as to what they are doing. They make crappy film, they line the pockets of their insider friends from producers to actors, then they botch the digital play. Total morons, there should be a class action legal coming from share holders.


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