Six of the biggest movie studios in Hollywood are reportedly exploring ways to offer at-home movie rentals during their theatrical release. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include the current number one studio, Disney, which is supposedly disinterested in shortening the home release window.
Variety is reporting that movie studios have had high level talks to discuss shortening the theatrical release window. That’s despite cinema chains having previously resisted any discussions that would reduce the exclusive window in which films are exclusively screened in theatres.
Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara is reported to have kicked off the discussions, offering exhibitors a percentage cut of the revenue generated from digital revenues. In return, Warner Bros. would be able to offer its films for digital rental just 17 days after they open in movie theatres.
Pricing has been the biggest obstacle for movie studios. Too expensive and people won’t pay to rent films at home; too cheap and the studios run the risk of losing potential revenue. Warner Bros. suggested a price of $50 a rental, although both Fox and Universal are said to have dismissed that as being too steep for the majority of consumers.
The theatrical release window in the UK currently stands at around 15 weeks, although that is a dramatic drop from the 27 weeks that was the norm in 1999. It’s thought that exhibitors are willing to negotiate that down even further, as long as the revenue sharing deal is far and the rental price isn’t too affordable that people stop going to the cinema.
It’s thought that both Fox and Warner Bros. have approached exhibitors with a deal that will see the theatrical release window reduced to between 30 and 45 days, with a film rental price of around $30. Universal is supposedly being a little more aggressive, asking for the home entertainment debut to take place around 20 days after its initial release in theatres.
Disney is reportedly the only major movie studio not asking for a reduction in the theatrical release window. It’s not overly surprising that the world’s number one studio is happy with the status quo – after all, the company made $7.6 billion at the global box office last year, largely thanks to hits such as Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Finding Dory.
Despite Disney’s reluctance, Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, Lionsgate, Paramount and Sony are all reportedly in talks with AMC, Regal and Cineplex in the US. It’s not known whether similar talks are being held this side of the pond.
Insiders speaking to Variety report that talks have been ongoing for over a year, with each studio offering different deals and at different stages of the process. Universal has reportedly asked for all of its films to be released on premium video-on-demand, while Warner Bros. and Fox want to work on the basis that only some films will be available for home viewing early. Sony is said to be earlier in its discussions, but the rumours are that the studio is asking for a release window that is later than Universal’s, and more expensive.
It’s not surprising that there’s an appetite for shorter theatrical windows. The rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Video has caused panic among cinema chains and movie studios alike, and several solutions have already popped up over the last year.
Sean Parker’s Screening Room is one streaming service that wants to make day-and-date movie rentals a possibility, while XCINEX has also been in talks with studios. Apple has supposedly been looking into a similar solution.