from the closer dept
The very idea of major movie studios simultaneously complaining about movie piracy during the initial release of a film and instituting long release windows so that films are only in the theater for legitimate viewing has never made a bit of sense. As study after study has shown, one great way to reduce piracy for a film is to make it available for home viewing as early as possible. The reason for this should be obvious: in this case, piracy of a film is a sort of market study, one which informs the studios that a part of the public really wants to watch the movie at home as opposed to in the theater. Trying to force that part of the market into the theater by delaying home rentals or purchases no longer works, because piracy is an option. Stamping out piracy has never worked, but making the film product available the way the customer wants would, at least to decent percentages.
And it seems this decades long lesson may finally be finding purchase by its students in the film studios, as several major studios are reportedly considering slashing release windows by a third.
According to a Variety report, six of the seven biggest Hollywood studios are considering plans to allow new movies to be delivered via VOD into the living room between 30 and 45 days after launch for around $30. Fox and Warner are said to favor this structure but other plans are also floating around. Universal are reported to be pushing for a VOD release less than three weeks after launch, with Warner Bros. suggesting a shorter 17-day delay but with a larger $50 rental price.
Of course, any move to bring content to the home more quickly could have a profound effect on the many theater chains around the United States and present a serious stumbling block in negotiations. However, a proposal from Warner would see exhibitors receiving a cut of VOD revenues, if they agree to a narrowing of the theatrical release window.
Getting the theaters on board will indeed face headwinds and it's important to note that these plans are reportedly very early on in the negotiating process. Still, this only makes sense. The job of moviemakers is to give the public movies the way they want them. The job of theaters is to create an experience that makes people want to go to the theater. It can't only be the movie itself. The movie is the studio's job. It has to be the theater attracting viewers. If it isn't, that's on the theater companies, not the studios.
Still, it's frustrating that even these baby steps are facing so much pushback, because what the studios should actually do is much more severe than a 33% cut in the windows. There's a joke in atheist circles that goes like this: first there was polytheism, then there was monotheism, and they're getting closer to the right number all the time. This joke ports nicely to the case of release windows, where the best number available is zero windows at all. With that kind of innovation being too much to hope for from entrenched industries, let's at least hope that some of the more forward-thinking studios can convince the one studio that you already know is against this whole idea.
While the rest of the major studios are keen to move forward, Disney is reported to be against the proposal. For a company that came up with the artificial restrictions embodied in the Disney Vault, for example, that probably won’t come as too much of a surprise.
In which case I would kindly ask Disney to stop bitching about piracy. The other studios are at least trying something new instead of pushing the same doomsday talking points.