Universal Succumbs to Movie Theaters, Cancels 'Tower Heist' VOD Plan
A victory for the movie theaters! Variety/The Wrap are reporting that Universal has officially backed down with their plans to release Brett Ratner's Tower Heist on Video On-Demand only three weeks after the movie hits theaters in November. We've been following this story since it was revealed a few weeks ago. Universal, trying to be progressive but going about it the wrong way, announced plans to show Tower Heist On-Demand for $59.99 in Atlanta and Portland three weeks after the theatrical release. Theaters, including namely Cinemark, threatened to boycott the film and not show it in any theaters if they followed through.
Earlier this week, smaller theater chains also expressed their discontent with this early VOD plan, and I'm sure more exhibitors (specifically Regal and AMC, who usually follow what Cinemark given all three are part of National CineMedia) would've followed suit and boycotted as well. Universal has officially cancelled the VOD plan entirely, but is still optimistic about working out VOD plans in the future, as independent studios release their movies this way without any kick back at all. Here's their statement: "Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future." The P in PVOD stands for Premium Video On-Demand, in relation to that obnoxious $60 price.
For their part, NATO (the National Association of Theater Owners, who represent ALL exhibitors in the US) also responded with a statement. "NATO would like to thank Universal for responding to various theater owners' concerns and cancelling the PVOD test it was contemplating," NATO president and CEO John Fithian said. "They have been engaged with individual exhibitors on this test, and while it was something that many theater owners could not ultimately support, the open and collaborative nature of the dialogue is appreciated." It sounds like the discussion going down at the movie theater industry convention ShowEast this year is going to be quite heated, in addition to these VOD debates, they've got the 3D glasses dilemma to work out as well. I would personally love to be there firsthand to see it all go down and hear the discussions.
As with the 3D glasses news, this isn't surprising at all. The moment I saw Cinemark threaten to boycott the movie, I knew Universal would have to back down. Movie theaters and their executives are resilient and, dare I say, stubborn, they won't change their ways and won't accept any offers for industry evolution, either. That said, Universal's plans for Tower Heist really didn't seem that smart to begin with. Why three weeks, why $60 to watch a movie, and why are they so adamant about VOD solutions like this being the future? Maybe they (meaning both studios and theaters) should focus on the quality of the content (films) and the quality of the experience (theaters) and then maybe people will consider actually going to theaters again.
Suffice it to say, this is not shocking news to me, and I fully expected someone to back down. It amuses me that it's Universal and Tower Heist though, because out of all the movies left to see this fall, that's one of the least exciting to choose for an experiment like this. At least in terms of general interest and the quality of content, but then again, maybe the audiences in Atlanta and Portland were really excited to see a new Brett Ratner movie starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy (watch the latest trailer here). We'll continue to keep you updated on the movie studios vs movie theaters war that seems to be brewing. For now it sounds like we won't be seeing more early PVOD plans anytime soon (unless it's for an indie film). Anyone let down?