Big Studios Consider the Unthinkable: Home Viewing of Movies Two Weeks After They Hit Theaters

Big Studios Consider the Unthinkable: Home Viewing of Movies Two Weeks After They Hit Theaters

Warner Bros., Universal are in talks with cinema chains to dramatically shorten theatrical window — cutting out middle men like Sean Parker’s Screening Room

Matt Pressberg and Meriah Doty | December 1, 2016 @ 4:32 PM

Major Hollywood studios are considering offering movies to home viewers in as little as two weeks after they hit cinemas in the latest sign that major changes could be in store for the theatrical window.

Bloomberg, which first reported the news, cited studio insiders who said the films will be priced between $25 and $50 for home viewers, a figure TheWrap has also learned is accurate, based on early conversations — and a premium over both movie tickets and video-on-demand rates.

Warner Bros. boss Kevin Tsujihara hinted at changes in the windowing process at an investor conference in Arizona on Tuesday, saying the studio was working with cinema chains to change the windowing process — but was prepared to do something either way.

“We’re working with them to try and create a new window,” Tsujihara said at the conference. “But regardless of whether it happens or not – whether we are able to reach that agreement with them, we have to offer consumers more choices earlier.”

A Universal spokesman told TheWrap the studio is “having discussions with exhibitors about shortening the release window.” A source close to Warner Bros. told TheWrap Tsujihara was clear about his intentions at the Arizona conference.

The fact that studios are now discussing this with theater chains directly could mean Sean Parker’s startup Screening Room — which wants to offer new theatrical releases to home viewers for $50 a pop — could be DOA, even as studios and exhibitors look to adopt a similar business model, only without the middle man.

Several studio execs and A-list directors like James Cameron have been highly critical of Parker’s venture. However, a studio source told TheWrap he wouldn’t declare Parker’s venture kaput quite yet.

Reps for Screening Room did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment in time for publication.

While the theatrical box office seems to have bounced back after a summer slump, a decline in the home video market has spurred the need to consider alternatives. DVD sales are down by a double-digit percentage year-over-year, and home entertainment revenue (excluding subscription services like Netflix) dipped 12 percent in the third quarter, according to a study from the Digital Entertainment Group.

That trend has incentivized studios to look for innovative ways to deliver fresh content to viewers who don’t — or can’t — go to the theater without losing their business for months while they wait for the film to clear the traditional theatrical window.

DirecTV has a Cinema Exclusives program, in which independent films are premiered exclusively on DirecTV for a short period of time — usually 30 days — ahead of their theatrical release, effectively creating a new window.

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