Christopher Nolan Rejects Early VOD Minutes After WB Exec Talks It Up at CinemaCon

Christopher Nolan CinemaCon

LAS VEGAS — Warner Bros. addressed the elephant in the room during its presentation to theater owners at CinemaCon, which made for an uneasy few minutes on Wednesday afternoon.

Moments after worldwide marketing and distribution president Sue Kroll made a pitch for shortening the amount of time between a film’s theatrical debut and its premiere on home entertainment platforms, director Christopher Nolan all but shunned the idea.

“The only platform I’m interested in talking about is theatrical exhibition,” Nolan quipped.

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker was there to introduce footage from “Dunkirk,” his upcoming World War II epic, which he said would be available on IMAX, 70mm, and 35mm screens at cineplexes.


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Kroll, who worked with Nolan on all three “Dark Knight” movies, had stressed just moments prior that any changes must be made in concert with the exhibition community.

“Everyone in this room is facing a challenge, but also an opportunity,” said Kroll. “Consumer tastes are changing and that is changing the way we’re doing business.”

She noted that streaming services and new technologies are giving consumers “more choices for where and how they consume our content,” adding, “where there is demand somebody is going to step in and fill that void. We have to be innovative.”


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Kroll’s comments came as six of the seven major studios are engaging in negotiations with major theater chains such as AMC and Regal on a deal that would provide movies on demand for rental from 10 to 45 days after they open. Universal, Fox, and Sony are among the Hollywood players pushing different scenarios. The plans differ, but rentals would cost anywhere between $30 and $50. In return, participating theater chains would get a percentage of the digital revenue.

“Together is the way to move toward a future that will be better and beneficial for all of us,” Kroll said.

Typically there is a 90-day period between a film’s premiere and its home entertainment launch. Some theater owners privately are concerned that if their window of exclusive access to movies shrinks, they could cannibalize their business. Their concern is people would skip multiplexes and wait until movies become available on demand.


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CinemaCon has often been a place where these conversations and debates spill out in public, occasionally threatening to overshadow what is intended to be a lovefest between studios and exhibitors. In 2011, news broke that Warner Bros., Fox, Sony, and Universal were weighing a plan to release certain films on demand some 60 days after their release. The response from theater owners was swift and fiery, with filmmakers like Todd Phillips slamming the plan.

This go round, things appear to be more pacific. Warner Bros. has been one of the loudest advocates for shaking up the current film distribution ecosystem. In February, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara told analysts that talks were progressing.

“We’re aggressively working with exhibitors to talk about models that will grow the market instead of cannibalizing the market,” he said.

Tsujihara wasn’t at CinemaCon, because he was traveling in China. Kroll said she looked forward to continuing “productive conversations.” She also spoke lovingly of the role that movie theaters play in culture.

“The movie theater stands alone,” said Kroll. “It is and always will be the cathedral and the temple of this art form.”

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  1. Ronnie says:

    This shorter window thing is puzzling, especially when you have movies with huge price tags and you’re trying to recoup that money as quickly as you can. I agree that all the 3D upcharges are ridiculous for movies not filmed in the format, but there are also films whose experience is made for the big screen and should be experienced there, but upping the ticket prices doesn’t help. The theatre owners need to remember who their paying customers are.

  2. millerfilm says:

    The best idea for how to advance movie technology? Create a system where we could hit DELETE and make bad movies go away forever! :-)

    • Ricky says:

      And who gets to decide whether a movie is bad, you? If that movie brought joy to even one person that kind of talk shouldn’t be happening.

  3. So what says:

    This is not an epic! It’s not a hero tale, nor lyrical in any sense. Why don’t you just call it “iconic.” That’s what you people do, right? Can anyone write anymore?

    And the idea of speeding up films to general market is absurd. It basically glorifies what’s new, when all of those people could be exploring Bogey, Cagney, Wyler, and Wilder. It’s fucking stupid.

  4. harry georgatos says:

    There’s too many moronic films targeted to undemanding teenagers that has killed the cinema going experience. Older audiences don’t want to spend expensive dollars to watch crap when there’s HBO and NETFLIX. Expensive money-grabbing ticket pricing has killed the cinema experience where at the cost of a ticket one can buy the movie on Blu-ray. It’s just not worth it.

  5. J-dog says:

    TV sold out by giving their content to Netflix (which created clutter and is now killing them). Don’t do the same. Make good movies, lower the price of admission, make them only available in theaters, and you will revive movie going. It is only the need of trying to recoup marketing spend on crappy movies that has the studios contemplating this — people won’t spend a lot of money to watch a just released crappy movie at home.

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