The relationship between film studios and movie theaters is an oddly contentious one. You’d think the two would be the best of friends as few entertainment experiences can rival watching a fantastic film in a well run theater, but instead the two parties seem consistently at odds. They’re constantly fighting over the percentage of gross profits each one should get, they’ve recently started bickering about who should foot the bill for the cost of 3D glasses, and now at least one studio is making a bold move sure to anger theater owners even more.
Per the LA Times, Universal will be making the upcoming Brett Ratner joint, Tower Heist, available on VOD just three weeks after it opens in theaters. It’s limited to two markets for now, so only movie fans in Atlanta and Portland, Oregon will be able to order the film from the comfort of their living room couch for the totally reasonable price of just $59.99.
Sounds high to be sure, but the average movie ticket in theaters is around ten bucks, so if you can find five more people interested in seeing Murphy, Stiller and friends in a Ratner film then you’re golden. You also probably have friends with poor cinematic taste.
The idea of movies being made available on VOD close to their theatrical release dates isn’t a new one. IFC has even found some success releasing small films to VOD in the weeks before the movie gets a limited rollout in theaters. Universal also put a toe in the water earlier this year when they offered some mid-level films including Sucker Punch and Your Highness to DirecTV viewers for $29.95 each just sixty days after their respective theatrical debuts. But two months is a far cry from three weeks, and with the ever-shortening theater-to-DVD window now averaging four months it never really felt like much of a change.
Just as relevant as the reduced time-frame though is the much higher profile of Tower Heist. All jokes about Ratner’s dwindling talent aside, this movie looks to be a sizable hit for Universal. Stiller and Murphy are part of big and intriguing cast including Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Téa Leoni, Michael Peña, Alan Alda, Gabourey Sidibe, and Judd Hirsch, and the plot looks to be Ocean’s Eleven with a conscience.
The movie will probably open big, but the question remains as to what effect its arrival on VOD will have on its box office. Obviously these two markets won’t make much of a dent overall, but the numbers from these areas just may decide if Universal continues this trend and if other studios follow suit.
Would you pay $60 to watch a blockbuster film at home three weeks after its release? Not this one necessarily, but you know, a potentially good one…