Apologies to any shut-ins living in Portland (Oregon, not Maine) and Atlanta, Universal’s Tower Heist will not be coming to a television near you. It will, however, be coming to your local multiplex! Last week, a kerfuffle broke out over Universal Pictures’ plan to release Brett Ratner’s latest via their premium VOD platform just three weeks after the film opened in theaters. Though the film would only have been available via VOD to those in Portland (again, still Oregon, not Maine) and Atlanta and would have cost a steep $59.99, exhibitors promptly lost their minds over the move and vowed to not show the film at all. Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest theater chain, led the boycott, and was swiftly followed by Galaxy Theatres, Regency Theatres, and Emagine Theatres.
It was clearly only a matter of time before someone backed down, and that someone is Universal. The studio will not release Tower Heist via the premium VOD platform, but that does not mean that they have abandoned the idea entirely, with a statement that calls this bump in the road “a delay (to their) planned premium home video on demand…experiment.” Despite the fact that it was exhibitors balking at the plan that clearly sunk it, Universal also said that they “continue to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive” and that they “look forward to working with [their] partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future.” If we’re talking experiments, here’s a hypothesis – if a studio plans to release a film packed with major stars on VOD within a month of its theatrical release, exhibitors are not going to be pleased. Test that one.
President and CEO of NATO (no, no that NATO, the other one, the National Association of Theatre Owners) John Fithian said that “NATO would like to thank Universal for responding to various theater owners’ concerns and cancelling the PVOD test it was contemplating.” So they’re stoked right now.
Let’s have our own experiment, Rejects – would you have purchased Tower Heist on PVOD if it was available in your city? Are you interested in PVOD in general? Wait, are you interested in Tower Heist in general? [Variety, /Film]