Those fretting that Comcast will immediately and drastically close theatrical windows once it takes over NBC Universal should take a breath.
Yes, Comcast has been a leading proponent of video on demand, and would like to shorten the theatrical window AND the cable window. But now it will have a big stake in the content creation side as well. And one thing studio execs do NOT want to do is diminish the much larger revenue streams from exhibition and homevideo sales.
Rather, they are engaged in a delicate balancing act, trying to adjust to consumer demand for content in home more quickly while also protecting established revenue streams. (For more on this, read my Variety story from last week here.)
Brian Roberts is not a digital revolutionary. He is, by all accounts, a button-down businessman who wants more control over his company’s destiny. And that he will have control over both sides of the equation. Will he push for premium VOD ahead of disc releases? Probably.
How long will studios continue to defer to exhibitors on theatrical windows? Does it make sense for them to do so as other windows collapse further down the distribution chain?
In the past few weeks, NATO, the trade org for theater owners, has won concessions twice. First, Paramount delayed the homevid debut of “The Goods” to make amends for a speedy release of “G.I. Joe.” More significantly, Sony abandoned its plans to release “This Is It” on DVD for the holidays due to pushback from theaters.
Sony argued that the movie was different given its limited theatrical release, the LAT reported yesterday, but theater owners did not see it that way, and the studio ultimately backed off.
“We didn’t want it to be an issue,” Sony’s Jeff Blake told the LAT. “At the end of the day, we wanted a big theatrical run and they certainly stepped up and supported that.”
Been talking with lots of exhibitors lately and it reminded me of an earlier freelance life, when I chatted with vid retailers on a regular basis. Interviewing these business folk is worlds apart from talking to managers, producers and studio execs. Kinda refreshing.
In any case, here’s my Variety story on ShowEast honorees.
Contrary to popular belief, journalists don’t always start a story with a preconceived angle. Sometimes we learn what the real story is only after digging into it.
Case in point: My story about L.A.’s changing screen scene in today’s Variety. I already knew the basics — moviegoers prefer newer to older screens — but didn’t fully appreciate the ramifications until I looked into it more deeply. A neighborhood’s retail health depends on these theaters; new theaters like Regal’s downtown multiplex can affect businesses throughout the city. Santa Monica, for example, has seen movie attendance slide as newer multiplexes have sprung up on the westside; the city wants to reverse that trend with new state-of-the-art facilities.
I still hate the thought of Westwood’s Fox (left) or Crest going under. There’s something really great about going to movie premieres at the Fox, and, as nice as the Regal theaters look to be, it just won’t be the same.
But I understand the economics behind this potential shift downtown better now. For more, check out my story here.