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Theaters vs. Studios Battle Over New $30 On-Demand Service

by April 18, 2011
Would you pay $30 for On-Demand movies?

Would you pay $30 for On-Demand movies?

Does the wait for new movies to hit home video really seem excessive? Are you willing to pay a premium to view a movie at home in as little as 60 days after its theatrical run? If you said yes to either question you’ll love the new but controversial Video on Demand product the movie studios have cooked up for you – even if the theater chains hate it. 

Several Hollywood studios, including Warner, Sony, Universal and Fox have banded together to bring us an even faster turnover from the movie theater to home. It’s a new Video on Demand product dubbed: Home Premiere.  

The 20+ million DirecTV users will all have access to Home Premiere, On-Demand movies as early as next week. Comcast and other cable companies will release the premium service only in select markets. The first movies expected to get the Home Premiere treatment include a forgettable pair: “Unknown” a thriller staring Liam Neeson by Warner and “Just Go With It” a family-friendly Adam Sandler comedy by Sony. 

The studios plan to use satellite and cable On-Demand services to sell you Home Premiere, which will serve up movies only 60-days after their local Cineplex run. That timeline fits snugly between a new film’s appearance at theaters and their release on DVD. 

Timing is everything in the movies. The time window from theater to DVD-and-Blu-ray seems to get shorter all the time. But in an effort to retain the value of film’s on disc-media Warner, Sony and Fox have managed to negotiate a hold on Netflix and Redbox to a 28-day waiting period after a movie hits DVD and Blu-ray before they’re allowed to distribute online. Typically you wait about 90-days for a movie to hit the disc media of your choice after a movie’s theatrical run. 

This is where Home Premiere comes in. The studios feel the short duration from theater to home is worth the drastic premium of $30. That’s more than two adult movie tickets for a screening in your home. 

The studios however, feel the premium is worthwhile. They imagine a married-couple-with-children demographic that doesn’t go to the movies due to cost. The studios feel the premium is justified for larger families. To them, staying home and shelling out $30 and a packet of Jiffy-pop is real movie-going value. 

But the theaters are definitely NOT on board with the studios plan. A statement released by the Association of Theater Owners last Thursday expressed fears that the scheme will "…fundamentally alter the economic relationship between exhibitors, filmmakers and producers and the studios… taking part in this misguided adventure."

The theater owners group also cited piracy concerns, the primary reason that Paramount will not be participating in the new VoD program, saying: “They risk exacerbating the scourge of movie theft by delivering a pristine, high definition, digital copy to pirates months earlier than they had previously been available.”

Is $30 for a slightly early home video viewing worth the price? 

Audioholics.com is concerned with a quality-over-quantity experience. So, it has to be said that we’re far less concerned about wait-time for media on our home theater systems than we are with having it arrive in a pristine state. Instead of dreaming up new On-Demand products maybe the studios and satellite/cable companies could do something about the over-compressed audio/video they send into our homes

The price of Home Premiere will be $30 for a single screening, that’s more than most new releases on Blu-ray. So, if you wait about a month you can buy the Home Premiere movie in the most pristine high-def, uncompressed state - with a multi-channel, high-resolution audio track. Paying the premium for Home Premiere is a trade-off in timing versus quality that just doesn’t add up.

About the author:
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Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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