Sony Pictures Classics’ Tom Bernard Calls Early On-Demand Distribution ‘The Death of Theatrical Exhibition’

Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard did not mince words about the prospect of early on-demand movie distribution while speaking at the Variety Studio Presented by AT&T at the Toronto Film Festival.

Speaking about proposals to get movies into homes earlier at a premium rate, Bernard said, “I think that is a disaster. It is a disaster coming.”

“If that happens, it going to be the death of theatrical exhibition because it’s just not going to work out,” he continued. “It’s a short-sighted idea. They need to make better movies, and people will go [to the theaters]. But the fact is, this premium window thing is not thought out well.”


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  1. Pete Bergamo says:

    Mi hits the nail on the head! Movies are a social experience. There is nothing like sitting with several hundred (at one time it would have been thousand) people who are laughing, crying or having the hell scared out of them! Try that from your couch!

  2. Crystal Brooks says:

    I like going to the theater. But I dont go to as many as I would like due to the lack of good films and cost. Reduce snack and ticket costs and you’ll see improvement. To me, why should I go to the movie theater when the film will be available for streaming in a few months. Wonder Woman is out now while still playing in some theaters. In another month, I will rent it so I can see what the fuss is about. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is out….so is The Mummy. I would rather wait and pay $4.99 than pay $10 or more dollars at the matinee. I believe the opposite is better: Lengthen the window. If it’s going to take LONGER to see it on VOD or rental, I would likely go see it in the theater. But the movie has to be good. You don’t ALWAYS have to give people what they want. They are shortening the window to reduce piracy, but that won’t happen until theater chains take action. And they are assuming that non-theater going people will pay MORE to watch it at home. Good luck with that.

  3. The Truth says:

    Theatrical exhibition is destined to become a niche business for purists. It’s just a matter of time, and the time is nigh. Why schlep to a theater, pay for parking and outrageously overpriced snacks, and put up with the jerk brigade if you can watch a feature on your 80″ 4K flat screen, on your own schedule, eating affordable real food, in the comfort of your own home? Moreover, why should anyone who wants to watch the movie at home have to wait until the theaters make their money? And why should they have to pay a premium for in-home first release airing? Distribution costs are much cheaper for streaming than for theatrical viewing. Those who prefer to see the film in a theater should be paying a premium to cover all the additional costs involved in theatrical exhibition.

    • Econ 101 says:

      For the ignorant and stupid out there aka “The Truth” understand this: The theatrical releasing is the only efficient way to control the economic payback for non ad based top tier high budget content like feature films. Also, I don’t want fools like you wrecking the Cinemas which my wife and I happen to enjoy very much. Here’s why you are wrong and how dangerous such thinking is to studios and cinemas:

      First, its the only way for the studios to control and capture payment per viewer. Theatrical captures revenue per head quickly and efficiently, revenue the studios vitally need this revenue to stay in business and hopefully earn a return on their investment. You seem to think that someone would plop down big bucks ($200 million for a big tent-pole production) then release it to everyone in VODland and “Hope” people are honest and pay per viewing head? Either you are naive or stupid. Few will pay. Ask the music business how that worked out when they put their digital songs directly in the hands of the consumer got the hell pirated out of it which has now forever changed (and not for the good) the way the music is produced and distrubuted. Ever wonder why a band now releases and album and has to tour 300 days a year now to support themselves? Because their recorded content is immediately pirated and yields almost no return to them or the record company distributing it. The only way to support themselves is to tour and charge admission to their shows. Same with professional sporting events. You have to have a ticket and go see the games live. Its the only way to collect the revenue. You might say its on TV as the same time, well “maybe” If the venue doesn’t sell out guess what? The TV broadcast is almost always blacked out in the local market. Event Cinema plays along the same lines as it HAS to to maintain economic viability. See a pattern here?

      Second and more importantly, there is no way to release a film digitally in the private confines of the home consumer and not have the hell pirated out of it. In 10 minutes some snot nosed teenager will hook up scanning software to the playback box / home brew monitor or set up a High Res camcorder and mike all the surround channels to capture the stereo audio all in the private comforts of their parents basement. One captured the genie is out of the bottle, the pirate has a nearly pristine copy of the film and audio that in a mere seconds it can be sold to others or shared voraciously with everyone they know which propagates exponentially from there. Gee, guess how the studios react as they stare into the internet toilet flushing their $200M investment down the IP hole? Studios are no fools and after a few tail whippings like this would be back in the controlled theatrical environment faster than you can say pirate. Its been tried and failed. Technology has changed yes, but human behavior has not.

      Third, I get you are no fan of going to the Cinema but many of us are. Maybe you’re a couch potato the never want to get off your couch, or are just some gruff introvert that dislikes being around other people. To the contrary, there are many, many of us that do and love the cinema and love the theatrical experience. Bitch all you want about the prices etc. but it is still the most affordable out of the home entertainment thing there is to do. If you think going to the cinema is expensive, I ask you expensive to what? like go to Disney World, or a professional sporting event? Complain all you want about the concession prices but in reality they aren’t that bad and no one is forcing you to buy anything. I can’t get a hamburger at a local sit down restaurant anymore for less than $11 so a $10 tub of popcorn offends you? My wife and I usually drop $20 at the concession stand for popcorn, a drink and a treat which we enjoy and given the amenities most cinemas offer these days I think is well worth it. I’ll take that 50′ screen and big sound system over your 80″ TV any day when I want the full experience of a worthy film.

      My beef with you is your ignorance and “me want it now” entitlement mentality. If what you espouse came to bear it would likely result in serious financial injury to the studios and cineplexes. Just because you have a big screen TV an internet connection and a couch doesn’t give you the right to demand the destruction of cinema for the rest of us that enjoy getting out to see feature films on the big screen with friends and family. If you want to watch it with the rest of your couch potatoes in your home the studios will have it available to you in time after its theatrical run. You’re out nothing.

    • Mi says:

      Because movies are in part a social experience.