from the is-this-a-joke? dept
So what do you do if that plan fails? Well, if you're smart, you look at more reasonable price points. If you're not... you raise the price. Yes, that's right. Universal, with the assistance of parent company Comcast, is now going to test the preposterous $60 video on demand offering. The reason for the jacked up price? Because it'll come out on VOD three weeks after being released in the theaters -- at which point the film will still be in the theaters. The test is also going to be done on what the studio hopes is going to be a blockbuster: Tower Heist, starring Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller and Matthew Broderick.
Here's what's wrong with this: the studio is thinking about this from the studio's perspective and not the consumer's perspective (at all). Of course, this is NBC Universal we're talking about, so that's not particularly shocking. In the studio world, release "windows" are everything. And each later release window is less and less of a big deal. So it's totally natural to them to think "gee, if we move up the release window, that's more valuable, so let's jack up the price." But a consumer isn't thinking about release windows. A consumer is thinking "I want to watch a movie. I could go out to the theater, or I could watch it at home." And then they look at the option at home... and if they can, say, watch a film at no additional cost from Netflix... or if they can grab a movie at Redbox for $1... and they compare that to $60 for video on demand, who's actually going to do that? The pricing is insanity.
Even funnier, however, was watching how the theaters totally freaked out over the original $30 plan, as they do with any plan to shrink the precious "window" between the theatrical release and any other kind of release. This is because theater owners don't know what business they're in. They think that they're in the content business, when they're really in the business of selling their seats. The fact that theater owners thought they couldn't compete with an insane $30 rental suggests that they don't know how to provide a good experience.
And, of course, now that there's an even more ridiculous $60 price point, you would think that the theater folks would chuckle and say "hey, we can compete with that, no problem." But it appears theater owners may be even more unable to comprehend the mind of the consumer than the execs at NBC Universal. Thus, Cinemark is already warning that it will boycott the movie if Universal goes forward with this plan.
In the meantime, it's also worth noting that the theaters convinced a bunch of big name Hollywood directors to sign an open letter to the studios protesting these kinds of "early" VOD releases. One of the names on that letter, by the way? Brett Ratner. The director of Tower Heist. Embarrassing... He is, of course, trying to distance himself from this trial, noting that he wasn't informed of it until the day before it was announced and had nothing to do with it. Of course, that's part of what happens when you do a deal like this. The studio owns the project, and they can do whatever they want with it.
Either way, don't expect too many people to pay up for this experiment. It almost makes you wonder if the idea is to make it fail on purpose.