DirecTV to unveil VOD plan next week

Home Premiere offering to launch despite threats from exhibs

DirecTV will launch premium VOD service Home Premiere next week to coincide with the Easter and spring break holidays.

Despite threats from theater owners, satcaster has closed in on a list of films to launch from Warner Bros., Sony, Universal and Fox when video-on-demand venture is formally announced early next week. Comedies, including Sony’s Adam Sandler laffer “Just Go With It,” Fox Searchlight’s “Cedar Rapids” and Warner Bros.’ “Hall Pass” are the first to bow, along with U’s thriller “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Home Premiere will offer titles 60 days after they’ve bowed in theaters – that’s about a month before films typically become available on DVD, Blu-ray and day-and-date on traditional VOD. The pics will rent for $30 for 48 hours.

DirecTV and studios declined to comment on the launch plan.

Comcast and other cablers are expected to offer premium VOD options in certain cities, while DirecTV tests the waters with an exclusive nationwide rollout.

The introduction of premium VOD is clearly timed to the Easter holiday next weekend and spring break vacations when families are gathered.

The $30 price point has long been considered one that may appeal not necessarily to individuals but to groups that can’t make it to a theater, hold viewing parties or are seeking to save on concessions.

After seeing a 21% uptick last year, studios have been eager to figure out new ways to grow the VOD rental biz, including more day-and-date releases with disc bows.

Before that, most films became available on VOD 45 days after a DVD hit store shelves. The final plans for the introduction of VOD are being made on the eve of an April 15 deadline exhib chain Regal Entertainment and Cinemark Holdings, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 exhibitors, imposed on studios to provide a list of upcoming films that would be earmarked for premium VOD so that theaters could consider pulling trailers and other marketing materials.

The chains, along with AMC Entertainment, don’t want to be used to promote films that will eventually be available at an earlier date to consumers who may opt to wait and watch a film at home rather than make a trip to the local megaplex.

On Thursday, the National Assn. of Theater Owners distanced itself from some exhibitors’ threatened boycotts of films offered on premium VOD.

The org “does not and could not encourage its members to engage in any boycotts of any movies distributed by any company,” the NATO statement said.

NATO, the world’s largest exhibition trade organization with more than 30,000 screens in the U.S. alone repped by its members, responded to reports that the org sanctioned exhibs dropping WB’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” from their lineup on July 15, saying, “NATO cannot and will not make those decisions for (its members).”

In a statement released on June 16, 2010, NATO prexy-CEO John Fithian had said, “Individual theater companies must and will make decisions about release window changes in their own company’s interest.” The org said its position has not changed.