Fight over premium VOD between studios and theaters reaches new level of vitriol
The fight between theaters owners and studios over premium video-on-demand releases is getting downright ugly.
The trade group representing the nation's theaters Thursday dismissed efforts by Time Warner Chairman Jeff Bewkes and CBS President Les Moonves to defuse tensions with exhibitors, who have been angry about moves by studios to make movies available for purchase in viewers' homes only 60 days after they debut on the big screen.
Speaking at an industry conference, Bewkes appealed for calm. "There's too much excitement about this" he said, while stressing mutual interests shared by studios and exhibitors. "Nobody wants them to be at risk." Moonves, who also spoke at the conference, said: "I know theater owners are scared" but "they are going to have to change a bit to prevent a crisis."
John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, would have none of it. "Forgive us if we decline to take business lessons from the end of the industry that enabled the erosion of value in the home market,'' he said, referring to proliferation of low-cost DVD rental services. Fithian said offering movies for $30 in the home would only encourage piracy.
"Studio bosses should spend more time talking to their partners about models that might work, instead of asking us to calm down,'' he said.
Representatives of Bewkes and Moonves declined to comment.
-- Richard Verrier
Photo: John Fithian, CEO of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners. Credit: Ryan Miller / Capture Imaging