Universal on 'Tower Heist': Never mind
If you were were wondering whether to fork out $60 to see Eddie Murphy from the comfort of your home, you can stop tossing and turning.
Universal has released a statement that it won't make the Murphy and Ben Stiller comedy "Tower Heist" available three weeks after its theatrical release in select markets after all.
"In response to a request from theater owners, [we have] decided to delay [the movie's] planned premium home video on demand experiment," the studio said in a statement. The trial balloon has basically been punctured: when you delay an experiment that's all about moving things up, you've essentially canceled it.
The news comes after Cinemark, National Amusements and other theater owners said they wouldn't play the Brett Ratner-directed movie at all if Universal moved ahead with a plan to make it available on Comcast systems in Portland and Atlanta. (The theater owners, of course, were concerned that releasing the movie so soon, rather than waiting the usual three months, would cut into ticket sales.)
In other words: Universal and the theater owners got into a staring contest, and the studio blinked.
The company tried to leave the door open down the line -- "Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future."
But after the backtrack, it's reasonable to ask how soon they or any studio would try it again, and raises a question about the fate of the PVOD movement, which until now had been gaining momentum.
Then again, the studios could come out with some added leverage: If the movie doesn't do well now, it could fall on theaters to explain why they pushed so hard against a new revenue stream.
Photo: "Tower Heist." Credit: Universal Pictures