Does Ratner's Tower Heist threaten Hollywood?

Posted by David Konow

For those who can't stand director Brett Ratner and feel he represents everything wrong with Hollywood, (or at least a lot of things wrong), now there's even more reason to hate him.



His next film Tower Heist wants to try a movie on demand experiment, and it's really rubbed theater owners the wrong way. The basic spiel is if you want to watch the movie at home three weeks after it opens on November 4, you can for $59.99.

As reported in the L.A. Times, Universal is trying to calm everyone down saying this is just an experiment, but Rafe Cohen, the president of Galaxy Theaters said, "We just feel it's a time to draw a line in the sand. We're standing on principal that it's best to preserve the theatrical window."
 
Of course, theatrical windows have been getting smaller and smaller, which some have blamed on NetFlix, and years ago there was speculation that some movies were only getting a basic, bottom line theatrical release to get movies in and out of theaters as fast as they can, because the DVD market back in 2005-06 was a lot stronger. Now with that market collapsing, many are trying to figure out what the next secondary afterlife market for movies will be, and perhaps this is an experiment in that regard.
 
And you can understand theater owners freaking out, because as the Times reports, "Theater executives fear that releasing movies in the home less than 90 days after their opening in theaters sets a bad precedent and will eventually encourage consumers to stay at home, rather than trekking to the multiplex to buy tickets."

Of course this is going on already, but if the process is sped up, and the genie's finally out of the bottle, good luck putting it back in again.

Then again, as Patrick Goldstein mentioned in the Times, if the movie's weak, who's gonna pay $60 for it? It will cost far less in the theaters, you can buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray for far less too, rent if off NetFlix, etc.

You may also recall years ago at the dawn of the VCR and home cable boom, Universal tried this same experiment with the 1983 theatrical version of The Pirates of Penzance, where you could also see it opening day on SelecTV. According to Wikipedia, same result, theater owners went nuts, boycotted the film, and it could only get 92 playdates and subsequently flopped.
 
As Goldstein continued, the exhibitors want a piece of the action, but the studios won't make them partners. "If this kind of experiment ends up creating a new way for the studios to make up for the money they are losing from the evaporation of the DVD market, that may be the real endgame."
 
As this blog post was being finalized, reports have come in that Universal seems to have scratched its plans for the Tower Heist VOD, while keeping the door open for further talks with theater owners.

As Deadline reports, NATO, the National Association of Theater Owners, said in a press release, "[We] recognize that studios need to find new models and opportunities in the home market, and looks forward to distributors and exhibitors working together for their mutual benefit."