National Amusements prexy Shari Redstone joined the chorus of exhibitors decrying premium VOD on Friday at Variety’s Venture Capital & New Media Summit.
In a keynote Q&A conducted with her father, Sumner Redstone, in attendance, Redstone suggested it was short-sighted to give viewers access to movies in earlier windows at the expense of what she sees as the most important link in the distribution chain.
“Ultimately, the value of a movie is determined by how well it plays in a movie theater,” said Redstone, who is also vice chairman of Viacom and CBS Corp. “And if we don’t continue to promote that, this industry is going to continue to go down.”
Redstone also didn’t mince words on another issue plaguing the theater business in the U.S.: too many theaters.
“It would be really nice to see a lot of theaters close,” she said. “Fewer theaters would mean a better experience for patrons.”
National Amusements is increasingly diversifying its business overseas, with Redstone describing increased focus on investments in countries with booming theatrical business like Argentina and Brazil. Earlier this year, she sold a chain of theaters in Russia approximately a year after buying it herself from her own company.
Redstone also spoke out against MoviePass, the startup venture that tried to impose a Netflix-like subscription service on the theater business last month. She called on the exhib biz to continue talks to create its own such service, but warned that simply giving moviegoers carte blanche for a monthly fee wasn’t wise. Instead, she suggested more targeted promotions, such as creating subscriptions that could help boost weeknight screenings, as opposed to weekends.
She was bullish, however, on what 3D will mean for the future viability of the theatrical business. Though she conceded that poorly conceived 3D conversions weren’t doing the industry any favors, she hailed Paramount’s own box office hit “Transformers 3” as the kind of 3D work that would take the fledgling technology to the next level.
In addition to discussing her career at National Amusements, Redstone talked about her new work in venture capital as co-founder and managing director of Advancit Capital; she disclosed the firm will announce its first investments in the technology and media space in the coming months. She’s already begun incorporating existing technology to improve her core theatrical business, leveraging social media from Facebook to Foursquare to drive attendance.