| Industry leaders weigh into the debate about collapsing theatrical windows and allowing moviegoers the chance to pay a premium for home viewing of first-run films. |
Giants film business of the have added their voices to the debate with comments at recent movie conferences.
J.J. Abrams loves movies, and he can make a passionate case for seeing them in the theatre but has had some disappointing times in his local cinema. He makes the point that theatre chains should not be surprised if moviegoers would rather stay home if they don’t make it a valued event. “I understand the economic realities of it, and it’s tough,” he said. “At the same time, if they don’t make it worth people’s time, you better not call people to the theatre and give them (a poor) experience.”
Most major studios outside of Disney would like to advance the narrative that a shortened theatrical window with the emergence of premium VOD (Video on demand) is a given future reality. But Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents and founders Tom Bernard and Michael Barker have recognised the strong support in the industry for maintaining the theatrical window.
“I’ve talked to a lot of the major theatre chains and they feel that they really want to hold strong,” Bernard told Deadline at the Tribeca Studio regarding the majors’ pitch for a shortened theatrical window. He commented on the improving moviegoing experience: “There are better seats, you can reserve a seat, the concessions are better and they’re remodelling a lot of the theatres.”
Bernard said that if a pay-per-view scenario arises for major studio films similar to PPV boxing events, a film “that would have made $500 at the box office, is now $200 and the exhibitor has a small piece.” Even if the majors decide to lower their prices on PVOD, once they let the toothpaste out of the tube, it will be hard to put it back in.
“Barker further praised the virtues of the current window system especially for independent movies: “We’ve learned when it comes to specialized films, these are the movies that have the long tails…If they’re going to become profitable, they need the long tail.”
A “tortoise vs. the hare” scenario has always worked in the long run for indie movies, which need the word of mouth to build up and play out. “Slow and steady has always won the race for independent film,” according to Barker.
Adds the SPC chief, “A VOD day-and-date scenario could work for certain films, but it’s also a scenario where it really short shrifts the opportunity for certain films to become successful. There’s actually value in all these companies, whether it’s Netflix or Sony Classics or the big studios, but it’s become a world in which we really have to study the individual piece of film and come up with the scenario that’s best for that specific film.”