Cinemark May Not Play 'Tower Heist' Over Universal's Early VOD Plan
Anyone surprised? I'm not. Just a few days ago, Universal announced a radical plan to release Brett Ratner's ensemble comedy Tower Heist (watch the new trailer from today) on Video OnDemand only just three weeks after it's released in theaters. While the $59.99 price to watch it that early seems obnoxiously high (and who would even want to pay that much anyway?), the plan has already started to backfire, as expected, and movie theaters are quite angry about this decision. Deadline has confirmed that Cinemark, the third's largest movie theater chain along with AMC & Regal, has "threatened" to boycott the movie because of this.
Details on this early Video OnDemand "experiment" are still sparse, at least in the public, but it was only supposed to happen in two cities - Portland and Atlanta. Odd choices, but this is obviously why Universal chose these two, since there wouldn't be too much of an uproar in those markets. That said, it's obvious the movie theater chains feel threatened, since release time between a theatrical release and DVD or VOD is usually up to 8 to 10 weeks, and now they're trying to shorten it down to just 3, which no movie theater chain will accept for a major feature starring the likes of Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and Matthew Broderick.
They say: "If Universal Pictures moves forward with its Tower Heist premium video-on-demand offering, as announced, Cinemark has determined, in its best business interests, that it will decline to exhibit this film in its theatres." This is much worse for Universal because they're threatening to pull it from all of its theaters, not just in the two markets that this VOD experiment is happening. It's not surprising that they're making this threat, but it is surprising it came out in the public, which means the two couldn't work things out internally and had to rile up the media and make a public threat to show them just how serious they are.
Some are saying that there is a war brewing between movie studios and movie theaters, and I'm inclined to believe it. With Sony's changes over 3D glasses costs, and now this change and threat in return, it's obvious these two groups are having troubles working together. I'd honestly like to see some radical changes in the system, but it's hard to speak from the outside without looking at all the numbers themselves. That said, maybe it's better off that Tower Heist will be in less theaters, considering it is a Brett Ratner movie. At the same time, who was even thinking of paying $60 to rent this anyway? We'll be watching closely for updates.