Studios Flirt With Offering Movies Early in Home for $30 (EXCLUSIVE)

Theatrical Distribution Window cracking
Illustraiton: Variety; Photo: Shutterstock

Six of the seven biggest Hollywood studios are continuing to push to offer movies in the home mere weeks after their theatrical debuts.

However, the companies, particularly Fox and Warner Bros., are showing greater flexibility about timing. Initially, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara had kicked off negotiations with exhibitors by offering to cut them in on a percentage of digital revenues if they agreed to let them debut films on-demand for $50 a rental some 17 days after they opened. Currently, most major movies are only made available to rent some 90 days after their release. Some studios offer films for sale electronically roughly 70 days after their bow in theaters.

Other studios, particularly Fox and Universal, felt that $50 was too steep a price to ask consumers to pay. They are now trying to get exhibitors to agree to a plan that would involve a lower priced premium on-demand option that was made available at a slightly later date, according to three studio insiders and two exhibition insiders. Fox and Warner Bros., for instance, are considering making films available between 30 to 45 days after their opening, but at $30 a rental, a price they believe won’t give customers sticker shock. Universal, which is seen as being the most aggressive negotiator in these talks, would like the home entertainment debut to remain in the 20-day range.

Studios are looking for ways to shore up home entertainment revenues as DVD sales continue to slide. They also believe that their advertising can be more effective and cost efficient if a film’s home entertainment release is closer to its theatrical debut. By grouping those two things closer together, studios wouldn’t have have to launch a massive promotional campaign to reintroduce consumers to a movie months after it was on the big screen.



‘Beauty and the Beast’: 5 Reasons the Disney Fantasy Scored at the Box Office

Then there’s the issue of shifting consumer tastes. Younger consumers, used to streaming services such as Netflix, are accustomed to being able to access content whenever and on whichever device they would like — they’re not used to having to wait months to watch something.

Lionsgate, Paramount, and Sony have also been talking with a group of exhibitors that includes AMC, Regal, and Cineplex. Disney is not interested in shortening the release window, the industry term for the amount of time a film runs exclusively in theaters. That’s unsurprising because Disney releases Marvel, Star Wars, and animated movies that tend to have long runs in theaters and have a size and scope that tends to work well on the big screen.

Because of anti-trust laws, the studios cannot work together to sign deals. They have to reach agreements with each participating chain on an individual basis. The talks have been going on for over a year, and are still very much in flux, insiders caution. Many issues have to be resolved before a final pact is in place.

Further complicating the picture is the fact that there are a number of different models being circulated.  Some studios, for instance, are weighing a scenario where movies could be made available for rental at a higher price as soon as they dip below a certain number of screens. The thinking is that it doesn’t make sense for a movie to stay exclusively in theaters if it isn’t being widely shown.

Universal would like all of its films to be released on premium video-on-demand early, but other players like Warner Bros. and Fox seem more amenable to having a different release pattern for different movies. In that kind model, bigger franchise films that tend to have longer runs in theaters might be held back from release on demand.

No deal is imminent. Theater owners are engaged in the talks, and they’ve spent million of dollars researching consumer behavior. They’re particularly concerned that if movies are offered to consumers too early and at too low a price they will stop showing up at the cinema.

Sony is very early in its discussions, but it would be in favor of an early on-demand debut that’s somewhat later than the one being floated by the likes of Universal and at a higher price point.

Exhibitors are firm on one point. If they agree to shrink the amount of time they have exclusive access to movies then studios must agree to keep the window for lower priced rentals and copies of movies at roughly 90 days. Those movies typically cost between $3 to $6 a rental and in the range of $20 for a disc or digital copy. Exhibitors want studios to make a pact not to try to alter the traditional home entertainment distribution model  for between five to ten years.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 166

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Greg says:

    Do editors still exist? The amount of typos in this is comical.

  2. $30 per movie. LOL.

    How about this, $15 per month for unlimited streaming of movies 30 days after release. All they need to do is partner with Netflix who can introduce a ‘premium’ service with new movies.

  3. fd says:

    Hollywood is a dinosaur that needs to be shot dead. They really are deluded. People are using torrents because they can’t justify buying singular DVDs at that price, let alone stream it. Absolutely nuts they think that’s gonna work. They need to do the same what Music did-make almost all the content available on one platform for a fixed monthly price. As it is, in the UK we have about 4 different services who fight for the rights of different programs. Netflix’s library is getting worse, and it’s just not worth the hassle to pay 100 bucks a month to be able to access all the video content you may want at any given time.

    Either that or adopt a Steam-like (video games) platform with a sense of community, value for money and promotional attitude.

    As it is, they’re behind the times. Get real, or just expect people to watch torrents, or not and still not pay. Either way, you aren’t getting money, nor are you losing it.


  4. FreeRangeAuthor says:

    $30 per rental? I wouldn’t pay that price for ANY movie of any kind or quality. They need to learn how to optimize revenue with VOLUME.

  5. nerdrage says:

    This isn’t going to change the fact that only Disney (which isn’t interested in this scheme, surprise) is making money at movie theaters. If you didn’t want to see Gods of Egypt or Ben Hur in the theater, you won’t pay $30 for it on VOD. Maybe check it out for free on streaming, one day.

  6. Robert A. Pacl says:

    Superficiality, thy name is America. It’s mind-boggling to realize there are people in this country who define their importance by how soon they can see a movie before their associates. And pay a premium besides. People going hungry here and air-heads throwing money at an already over-paid segment of our society. Greatest country in the world???

    • nerdrage says:

      Well its far from just being Americans. piracy is driven worldwide by the lack of cheap alternatives when a movie is in the theater and getting the marketing push. After that push ends, who bothers to remember it? Aligning movie distribution with their publicity windows is the real problem here.

      • Dana says:

        You are completely ignoring the fact that average movie ticket prices are at $8.65 (and substantially higher in some areas) so by the time you buy a few tickets, pay for parking and popcorn – $30 to watch with a couple friends at home is actually the more economical option.

  7. John Harrow says:

    The studios need to increase the bribes that they pay the movie reviewers to off set the social media saying “THIS FLICK STINKS”. More and more the phase used is “That is two hours that I wish I had back.”

  8. I watched “Logan” last night.. although I found it entertaining, I couldn’t ignore the political base of the plot..”poor Spanish speaking girl being pursued by evil government types that want to stop her from crossing the border”… THAT is the type of crap that turns people off..

  9. Jerry McBride says:

    With all the junk coming out of Hollywood lately, they should be paying me $30.00 just to watch it…

  10. Joel Emmett says:

    $30 seems like a great price point, and would help eliminate piracy.

    • Yeah.. because “NO ONE” can connect a vod device to a dvd-recorder or download the movie to a harddrive.

      • ATrex says:

        It’s not that easy. Certainly it’s doable, but not without special hardware that strips or ignores HDCP. You can bet that if the theaters do this then they’ll probably only allow it on HDCP 2.2 compliant devices (or an even newer standard), and they may even uniquely watermark the video and/or audio tracks so if someone does rip a movie and distribute it, then can decode the watermark and look up who purchased the original stream and go after them.

  11. tempered1 says:

    Well,,,, looks like watching a VOD movie just got a whole lot more expensive, huh??? Don’t these clowns get it – people are shying away from VOD and theaters BECAUSE of price!

    But,,,, their model says it’s okay to charge more cause those that subscribe will pay a higher premium which will offset the drop in subscribers! Talk about flawed thinking – it reeks of greed!



  12. Chuck Shults says:

    Still not interested. Television networking (Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul), is infinitely more interesting to me than any movie Hollywood comes out with. I think it takes longer than 2 hours to tell a really good story, anyway.

  13. Dadude says:

    With Kodi who pays for movies anymore?

    • nerdrage says:

      Star Wars movies make a billion at the box office each time, so yeah, people DO watch movies in the theaters – if they are event movies with big brand names and explosions, that is. Trouble is, there are few big glossy franchise brand names and Disney has hogged them all up. The other studios are flailing for answers.

  14. Nick says:

    My god! The freaking disconnect these executives have with the general public. They can’t figure out why sales are down. I’ll tell you why. Because they keep spewing out crap. they think we will consume anything they throw at us. Well I got news for them. You all are out of your freakin minds if think we will pay more than 15 bucks for anything. And that includes while it is in theatre’s. Get better or sell it for cheaper. Those are your choices Hollywood.

  15. Curmudgeon10 says:

    As if I would pay $30 for something that will be in Redbox or on iTunes within a few weeks to as much as a few months. Fortunately, my life no longer (did it ever?) revolves around having seen the latest in thing at the movie theater.

  16. Machismo says:

    Hollywood way over values the price of their movies. Look at all the money movies has lost this year. They mix in Gay scenes around every turn and the majority of people do not want it. Yet, they are not getting the message, in Denial? They also will not sell me any movie for $30.00. Hollywood likes to pat themselves on the back because no one else will do it. They hand out their own awards because no one else will do it. They flaunt their pitiful lifestyle of misery not being happy with that pile of cash. They raise brats for children that seem to always be in trouble. Their lives are in shambles between scenes and yet we are supposed to glorify them? Hollywood needs to listen to what the majority of the people want and not the minority. They need decent movies with no swearing, something that can touch your heart and make you feel good when it ends. Something inspiring….For a change.

  17. Hal Slusher says:

    Since I watch maybe 2 movies a year this would be great

  18. Homer says:

    Hollywood as usual deaf, dumb, & blind to it’s fan base, which is why it is probably clueless to why viewership and sales have fallen only in the USA in past several years. We are tired of their politics, their hatred of US and whites, their overpriced movies/shows, their monopolies, their hypocritical exploitation of capitalism to get rich while bashing other companies, & their double standards. When will they be like claim other companies and give their content away like other rich companies should do in their opinion? We protest by not purchasing their content, however, they are either completely clueless or just ignoring what they do not want to accept as usual. $30 is grossly over priced for this service at least in my mind. They over price this so either they get more money from those who will pay and/or they keep a corner on the market of the existing movie theatres.

  19. Hal Slusher says:

    Actually This would drive a stake through theater owners hearts. 30 dollars family of 5 and home made snacks and Soda. Or even have pizza delievered make it a fun night. It will work

  20. In your dreams. I don’t want to pay the current prices at theaters. What makes you think I would pay $30 bucks? Especially with commie hollywood making commie guilt trip movies. Hahahaha
    China is and will lose big time in buying out hollywood studios. But go ahead.

  21. Robert Clitherow says:

    With what Hollywood produces nowadays, I’ll stick to Netflix/Amazon and wait for any movies to be released on them, so I can watch them on my home entertainment system instead of in a filthy, noisy theater. 30 years ago we waited years for movies to come out on TV.
    Having new release movies sooner is a very good idea for the impatient and for people like me who refuse to go to theaters.

  22. Jaye says:

    Not one actor out there is worth more than 50K a year. Paying an idiot 30 million to play at pretend games then charging the public big bucks to watch crap.

  23. RX says:

    So they think $30 for a RENTAL — nearly twice the cost of theatrical ticket — won’t give customers sticker shock? Are they fucking NUTS?

    Oh, and even better, they want the right to hold back rentals on franchise/blockbuster pictures should those turn out to big hits. Otherwise, “enjoy our underperformers for only thirty bucks!”

    (and please, don’t bother with the cinema parking/snacks/babysitter bullshit. For most people who even go to movie theatres — younger, singles, groups of friends, couples-no-kids — those things are NOT issues, and many people are quite content to buy the ticket and nothing else, and often the parking is free because the theatre is in or near a mall or shopping centre)

  24. Going to the movies is a family affair for many people. Drop the prices and pay these idiot “stars” less money and people will come back to the theaters in great numbers. Yes, it’s nice to stay home, but being at the theater and seeing some movies on the big screen is still a fun time. DROP THE TICKET PRICES AT THE THEATER!!!!

  25. zolitap says:

    Start making more money weekly. This is a valuable part time work for everyone. The best part work from comfort of your house and get paid from $100-$2 each week.Start today and have your first cash at the end of this week. ▬▬▬▬▬☛O
    .★★★◕◡◕◕ ◡◕◕◡◕____BIG…..EARN….MONEY..___❥❥❥❥❥❥❥-</b

  26. smalliot says:

    They could offer it for FREE or to pay me and I’d say no after what they have become. Keep going Marxist Hollywood and DNC, 2018 is coming.

    • RX says:

      Yeah, and soon after we’ll finally be able to say good riddance to that pompous but thoroughly insecure man-child currently pretending to run the show while running to hide at his resorts. Buh-bye RNC. Thanks for not actually achieving anything whatsoever except fooling conservatards into thinking you have.

  27. Mark says:

    $30 dollars must be the Trojan horse the studios will use to get the system in place, once it’s in place, they’ll drop it down to $9.95 and then the theaters won’t be in a position to go back to the old sysytem.

  28. Fred Garvin says:

    I wouldn’t pay $30 if it was 17 days BEFORE it’s release.

  29. t0mmyberg says:

    I would like to know what king of shiite these guys are smoking. First of all there are like 2 or 3 good movies a year. Second I cannot imagine spending anything like that kind of money to see a movie. The only exception would be a movie party.

  30. I am unimpressed with Hollywood’s offerings and have been for quite some time. Now that many of them have decided to voice LOUDLY their liberal agendas, it just makes me want to spend my hard earned money on any of their movies that much less. Really, we don’t even watch that much broadcast television anymore either because their programs are so tired and boring. So I too will stick with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Vudu for the few programs/movies that we want to watch.

  31. Too late Hollywood. No one wants what you have. Computer generated, left wing garbage. We are done with you.

  32. Snake Pliskin says:

    Good luck with that. No one in their right mind would waste $30.00 for leftist swill.

  33. Ed says:

    Non starter….Price way too high… People will not pay this

  34. I think its a great idea. Imagine a family going to see Beauty and The Beast 2 : Electric Boogaloo.

    2 adult , 2 children : $42 ( Regal ticket prices ) or $49 ( AMC ticket prices )

    So already its a money saver. then factor in the transportation cost. Gas, parking etc
    And then the overpriced popcorn and soda prices etc

    The hazzle alone of getting to and from the theatre.

    So just for a family of 4 or 5 this would be great. And you get to keep the film for a day or two, so the kids can see it again if they want. Or the whole gang can see it twice in one sitting.

    Same goes for a group of friends really.

    • RX says:

      This is exactly why it won’t fly. Singles and couples will cry foul at having to pay the same price (for a single person, that’s DOUBLE the cost of a theatre ticket) as a family of four or five to watch the same show. Even if they lower the price, it will still be a problem. The system is fine as it is. If you want to see a brand new movie, but are burdened with family, you WAIT. It won’t kill you.

  35. Ron Hyatt says:

    Hollyweird is gonna have to pay _me_ 30 dollars to watch Dead to me.

  36. Everyperson says:

    Those prices are exhorbitant!
    I am very picky about going to the movie theatre now because i wont feed those high and mighty stars who think the world revolves around them, forgetting they are here to entertain, not to expouse their religious..political.. or other world views.
    And not to mention the prices of the popcorn!!!
    So, their losing money at the theater, even with new deluxe seating (exception of date nights and new kid releases which are discounted)
    So they are going to wring us dry at home, dont think so… people will wait for netflix, amazon, hulu, vudu, and redbox and other downloads albeit illegal…
    Go for it and watch the drop off in movie sales dramatically increase.

  37. SeanInAZ says:

    Finally! The idiots in Hollywood have started to figure it out! I will happily pay $30.00 to stay in the comfort of my home, and watch a movie on a TV that has far superior picture and sound quality then any movie screen out there. I don’t have to deal with parking, crowds, idiots talking/ texting on their phones, and overpriced snacks. On top of that, 30 bucks is way cheaper then the $50.00-$100.00 dollars that I would spend at the theater. It’s $40.00 just to walk in the door! So, for $30.00, I can stay home, and own the movie outright. Yes, please.

  38. Just Me says:

    Desperate times call for desperate measures.

  39. Tex Taylor says:

    It’s been my experience the last decade, most movies made today aren’t worth 50¢, much less $50.

  40. Bill Sims says:

    If any Hollywood types are reading this I’m letting you know. The price point on a movie that is in theaters is $14.99 I can tell you, you would literally double viewers. I haven’t been to a movie theater for at least three years but I would pay $14.99 once a month to see first run films. Oh, by the way. You will need to come up with some better movies. Here’s a clue. Drop the overt support for every misfit weirdo in society. Not that we hate them, don’t leap to that conclusion. I just don’t want to constantly have that rammed down my throat. Go out on a limb and make a move that supports traditional family values. Yeah, haven’t seen one of those in a while.

  41. SlothB77 says:

    Invite a few friends over to watch and suddenly that $50 doesn’t seem too expensive.

  42. ragu4u says:

    99% of the movies made ANYWHERE today aren’t worth even the cost of admission at a “Dollar” cinema. I’ll be MORE than happy to wait months & months to see films of that low caliber. Even the EPICS go my waiting list!

  43. Joe Campbell says:

    I haven’t been to a movie theater in years, and only buy DVDs after the price becomes reasonable.
    I would never consider this price for (usually poor quality) movies on demand!

  44. Ronald Smith says:

    Movies today are poor quality remakes, overly priced and starring liberal celebs who constantly bash this country and our president. Not spending my money and apparently, according to box office statistics, neither are millions of true Americans.

  45. John Hurst says:

    Laughing – People aren’t going to movies (because) of the theater or they want to watch them at home. Their not going because you’re movies suck, your actors/movies are “political” and the price point is too high. Jacking the price and offering them at “home” isn’t the answer…

  46. Bored says:

    People aren’t going to the movies much, it must be because they want to stream it, so let’s negotiate a solution! Uh, perhaps you could ASK the audience why they’re not showing up…

    In a past life, date night was defined for me as dinner and a movie. Now it’s just dinner. CGI is not enough to get me to go to the theater. And I’ve never ever been interested in frat boy content, or teen angst, or one more person either with a preachy political agenda or is dying so let’s be profound. 50 shades of S & M. Oh, how boringly edgy.

    Hollywood has lost it’s way. So has music and most live theater productions. It’s because the business side is all business, no one is creating anything new, the ideas are stale, the product oftentimes insufferable. Remakes of remakes, prequels and sequels. Sex inserted just because no one wants a G rating. We don’t need 3-D, we need CONTENT. A large chunk of the audience went back to cable or just left entirely. Why? Because we’re either being bored or insulted, for a relatively high price.

    Hollywood movies are often like going to a high priced restaurant being run by Seinfeld’s soup nazi. He cooks what HE wants and then says that you can’t complain. The public has been complaining for the last several decades, and is mostly ignored if it doesn’t meet the standard of the studios. We’re bored, so we left. We’re tired, so we left. We’re insulted by the preaching, so we left. The business either needs to get a clue, else it’s eventually going to collapse And because of the over the top egos there, I’m sure that they’ll continue to blame the audience. Or think that it’s about the need for more technology.

    We need new content, new stories, new angles, new ideas. Stop recycling. Stop messaging. Go back to storytelling the human condition from all sides, instead of what is the political idea of the day. Go back to what worked. Or ignore this and continue to work on solutions to the wrong problem.

  47. cimmerian77 says:

    Lmao! Looks like the only fools stupid enough to purchase one of these movies will be those very same studio executives.

  48. Justsomeguy says:

    What’s the rush? I can readily wait 90 days; indeed, life is busy, and there are loads of films available. Just saw The Revenant for the first time last week, so really: do most adults like me have a need or such immediate demand that we’ll rush to pay 30 bucks for what, these days is likely a tired, droning, lecturing rehash of some old plot?

  49. Shawn Z. says:

    Maybe they should concentrate on being less of a political mouthpiece for liberal Democrats. They’re too stupid to realize that in doing so, they alienate half of the population that thinks differently then they do. I know I don’t go to movies because of their political leanings. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  50. M says:

    ” DVD sales are down? Who buys cd’s anymore, they have been dead for a while. I look at my collection of maybe 300, taking up space, and collecting dust.
    So some genuiness thought of this? So I can rent a movie for 30$, have as many people as I can fit into my basement, watching my 70″ HD TV, with surround sound, then record it, and publish it on the web. How stupid

More Film News from Variety