Posted in: Broadband Video Companies, News, Video Distribution, Video on Demand by Dave Parrack on October 13, 2011

Tower HeistUnder pressure from exhibitors Universal Pictures has backed away from its plans to release Tower Heist as a VOD stream just three weeks after its theatrical release. But the experiment is on hold rather than dead in the water.

Tower Heist Plans

It was just last week when Universal announced its plans to offer Tower Heist, a new action comedy starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, as a premium video-on-demand release for $60-a-pop. The film would make its theatrical debut and then 21 days later be available to view online.

The experiment, as it was termed, would be confined to Comcast cable subscribers in Atlanta and Portland, of which there are around 500,000. But while the size of the potential audience was never an issue, the timing of the release was.

Universal Caves

Unsurprisingly Universal faced a backlash from theater chains both in the affected area and nationwide. Both Cinemark and National Amusements stated they would not screen the movie at all if the premium VOD plan went ahead.

At this point Universal decided to back down, canceling the premium VOD plan for Tower Heist. However, the studio made it clear this was just the opening skirmish in a war that it intends to keep fighting in, stating:

“Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future.”

Expect more bloody battles to come between the big studios and exhibitors. The former want to gain as much revenue as possible, the latter want to retain a window of opportunity longer than three weeks. Both sides are bedding in for a long fight.


In a way I applaud the studios for trying to give consumers a choice of how they watch a movie. But the price they’re trying to charge for watching online is ridiculous. And as a love of films and the cinema I don’t want to see movie theaters becoming a thing of the past.

21 days is too short a release window for theaters, especially when it used to be 120 days. Why not compromise at somewhere between 42 and 60. giving everyone the opportunity to make a choice and make money? Because that would, of course, be too easy.

[Via The Wrap]

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