If Carolco Pictures and TCI go through with pay-per-view premieres, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer doesn’t intend to distribute the films theatrically.“We can’t accept any obligation to distribute the pay-per-view movies,” Alan Ladd Jr., MGM co-chairman/co-chief executive, said in an interview Thursday. “I don’t feel we’re in a position to experiment and raise the wrath of the exhibitors and video people.” MGM has a contract to distribute Carolco films beginning Jan. 1, pending approval by the Securities & Exchange Commission. According to Ladd, distributing films theatrically that have premiered on TV is “not part of the deal.” TriStar, which distributes Carolco films through the end of this year, is unaffected. The deal calls for Tele-Communications Inc., the nation’s largest cable operator, to invest $ 90 million over four years in Carolco in exchange for four feature PPV premieres (Daily Variety, April 26). MGM’s repudiation of the unprecedented deal fuels a brewing boycott of features that premiere on television. On Tuesday, the National Assn. of Theater Owners published an open letter to the industry that declared: “NATO is dedicated to preserving the ‘window’ for the full and complete theatrical release of motion pictures. Destruction of this window as proposed in the recently announced TCI/Carolco deal is inimical to the best interests of the entire filmed-entertainment industry.” That same day, exhibitors including Cineplex Odeon Corp., Pacific Theatres and Loews Theatres declared they wouldn’t unspool “television movies” (Daily Variety, May 5). Now the distributor that would handle such films is joining the chorus of industryites who want to preserve the traditional order with theaters getting features first. Carolco refused to have any exex interviewed for this article; however, a spokeswoman said: “The company believes that MGM will want to distribute all the pictures Carolco produces.” Ladd said: “I don’t think we’d do it at this point in time, because you have to think about your other windows of profit,” including video and other ancillary licensing sources. Asked if he would reconsider if it was an Arnold Schwarzenegger film like Paul Verhoeven’s pending “Crusades” for Carolco, Ladd grinned and said, “That could be different.” However, he isn’t convinced a star or director of that caliber would agree to participate in such an experiment. “Would Arnold go for that at this point in his career?” Ladd asked. “Maybe for an extra $ 40 million. Who knows?” In addition, Ladd is in the auspicious contractual position of holding the right of first refusal — or acceptance. He voiced skepticism about consumer acceptance of a small-screen preem, even for a Carolco megapic such as “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” “I’m not sure they’ll pay,” he said. “My feeling is, if it’s important, I want to see it in the theaters first. If it’s a Schwarzenegger picture, I want to see it in a cinema first. I don’t know if people will want to pay $ 30 to watch a movie on TV.” Ladd said he would be willing to reconsider if tests prove him, the exhibs and NATO wrong. “If the first trial run goes through the roof, then the whole business would have to reconsider,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen at this point.”
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