Attending the theaters is a terrific experience to enhance a movie, but for many people this activity is a luxury that is becoming more difficult to afford. Not only is the pricing a factor, the advent of streaming services and greater quality for home entertainment systems means that the enjoyment can be almost replicated in the living room. A phenomenon that was only available to the ultra wealthy some 10 years ago.
As Variety reports this week, the major studio players are locked down in negotiations to get their productions sent direct to the consumer at home much quicker. Senior Film and Media Editor Brent Lang identified 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers and Universal as the key participants. Explaining that one of them is leading the race to offer a fresh installment quicker than their competitors.
Warner Brothers Wanting To Charge Premium, Universal Have Other Ideas
Like any good negotiator, Warner Brothers CEO Kevin Tsujihara bought into the concept. With his initial plan to give movies to the customer just 17 days after their opening in cinemas. A good deal right? Well not if you check the pricing structure, with these titles going for a home release of a cool $50 each.
As the status quo currently stands, audiences have to wait anywhere between 70-90 days from the end of their run on the big screen for a small screen appearance. As Lang outlined, Tsujihara overestimates the buying power of the market as Fox and Universal tabled a different idea.
"Other studios, particularly Fox and Universal, felt that $50 was too steep a price to ask consumers to pay," he writes. "They are now trying to get exhibitors to agree to a plan that would involve a lower priced premium on-demand option that was made available at a slightly later date, according to three studio insiders and two exhibition insiders. Fox and Warner Brothers, for instance, are considering making films available between 30 to 45 days after their opening, but at $30 a rental, a price they believe won’t give customers sticker shock. Universal, which is seen as being the most aggressive negotiator in these talks, would like the home entertainment debut to remain in the 20-day range."
Disney Not Intimidated By Netflix Binge Culture
With such a stronghold in the market, Disney's acquisition of Marvel and Star Wars gives them the ability to run in theaters weeks after the majority of other productions have closed. For the other members looking to increase their coverage and jump onboard the trend of younger customers streaming their content, the studios are wanting to spread their reach with on-demand services.
"Lionsgate, Paramount, and Sony have also been talking with a group of exhibitors that includes AMC, Regal, and Cineplex," says Lang. "Disney is not interested in shortening the release window, the industry term for the amount of time a film runs exclusively in theaters. That’s unsurprising because Disney releases Marvel, Star Wars, and animated movies that tend to have long runs in theaters and have a size and scope that tends to work well on the big screen."
It appears as though the current dynamic will be changing, but how much and how dear will all depend on these negotiations.