James Cameron, Todd Phillips and Many against Studios’ VOD Plan
Video on Demand (VOD) is a system that allows users to select and watch video content whenever they want on their televisions, personal computers and other devices. The Studio plan is simple: In a bid to broaden revenue, Warner Bros., Fox, Universal and Sony has reportedly finalized a VOD deal with DirecTV. This new service, called Home Premiere will begin on April 15th and allow consumers to watch a movie at home 60 days after its theatrical release for $29.99. A similar service is expected on Comcast and VUDU. The debate is equally straightforward: The country’s largest theater owners, collectively known as NATO believe the plan directly undermines their ticket sales and threatens the ‘theater experience’. Cinemark Entertainment fired back at studios that they will not carry trailers or advertise films until they know whether or not the film will be part of the VOD package. Some have suggested theaters might not carry a film at all if it is slotted for VOD. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Cinemark CEO Alan Stock said, “Our goal is to promote and advertise movies for their theatrical run.”
Regal, AMC and Cinemark are collectively the country's three largest theater chains with approximately 16,000 of the 38,605 screens in the U.S. Siding with theater owners, heavy hitters James Cameron and Todd Phillips take odds with the VOD plan. Cameron, who continues to push for new technologies in filmmaking and is adamant that home-based screening is inferior to the theater experience, cites the value of higher frame rates and improved 3D experiences. Todd Phillips also chimed in opposing the plan at this year’s CinemaCon – the yearly gathering of theater owners. Phillips argued that the theater experience cannot be replicated at home and added, “If I had wanted to make movies for television, I would have been a TV director."
At the end of the day, everyone will be affected one way or the other. Some consumers will find the added benefit of watching movies at home whenever they want with a premium service a welcome option as ticket prices soar. Others, including filmmakers, theater owners, and distributors see VOD as a direct threat. Yet the content of films and how they are screened is nothing new – anyone who has sat through a Scorsese film edited for television can attest to the sort of threat of the original filmmaker’s vision and artistic rights. Many, no doubt will resist VOD and those seeking a ‘theater experience’ will continue to line up at the box office. The only question that remains is for how long.