Would you pay $60 to watch Eddie Murphy from home? [Poll]
My colleague Ben Fritz has just posted this bombshell: Comcast-owned Universal has decided to make this fall's Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy "Tower Heist" available via on-demand three weeks after it's released on Nov. 4. You'll have to pay $59.99, and you'll have to live in Atlanta or Portland, Ore., where the program is being piloted, but if you do (and have Comcast), you'll be able to see the movie without leaving your home.
The move represents a major step in the increasingly dynamic, and complicated, relationship between theatrical and television viewing. As Fritz writes, the experiment "marks the first time a major studio movie will be available to watch in-home while still playing in thousands of theaters."
Universal's choice of film seems carefully calculated. This isn't so small a movie that no one will pay for it. But a Brett Ratner comedy is not such a major filmgoing event that it will rankle theater owners in the way that, say, an "Avatar" or "Harry Potter" might. (The fact that it will be available on the fourth weekend, after harder-core fans will no doubt already have bought tickets to see it, might also ease the sting, though theater owners could very well yet respond by pulling the film from theaters in those cities.)
All of this means that the results of the theaters-versus-television experiment won't be as conclusive as if this were, say, a guaranteed blockbuster that hit television the same weekend. And 60 bucks ain't cheap. Sure, pay-per-view wrestling gets away with it, but that's a live event you can't see anywhere else.
Still, the effect is to lower the limbo bar. A few months ago, studios tried a program with DirecTV that allowed television viewers to see movies like "Sucker Punch" 60 days after they came out (for $30). Now we're at three weeks. The next time, a studio may try two weeks, or sooner. The big question is whether people will pony up for it. Would you?
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: "Tower Heist." Credit: Universal Pictures.