'Tower Heist' VOD failure was 'communication problem,' says Meyer
Universal's failed attempt to pioneer early video-on-demand with its film "Tower Heist" last fall resulted from a "communication problem" between the studio and theater owners, according to Universal Studios President Ron Meyer.
Speaking Friday at a conference at UCLA's Anderson School of Business, Meyer said his company believed theater operators would be on board as it prepared to offer the Eddie Murphy comedy "Tower Heist" via VOD for $59.99 in two test markets three weeks after its theatrical release last November.
"We believed the theater owners would be supporting [us]," Meyer said to an audience of students and guests. "I can only say it was a communication problem taking place because there's a certain 'Rashomon' as to whether they agreed or didn't agree and what we agreed on."
Universal executives had believed cinema owners would accept the so-called "premium VOD" effort — which they have previously opposed for fear it would discourage theater attendance — because it was limited to about 500,000 people. But major chains including Regal Entertainment, Cinemark USA and National Amusements vowed not to play the film anywhere in the country unless the studio gave up its experiment.
Universal has no specific plans to try an early VOD release anytime soon, Meyer said, but the issue is far from dead. "Certainly it's going to be tried again ... there's no question about it," he said. "It may not be tomorrow, but it will be someday."
Meyer also spoke briefly about Universal's previously announced plans to add a Wizarding World of Harry Potter — already a huge hit at Universal's Orlando resort — to his company's theme park in Los Angeles. For the first time, he estimated when it might launch, saying "I hope it won't be much more than three years."
— Ben Fritz
Photo: Eugene Levy, Alyson Hannigan and Ron Meyer at the premiere of "American Reunion." Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images.