×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Premium VOD War Is Back: Disney, Sony Early Releases Sure to Enrage U.S. Exhibitors

Studio tests in South Korea could rekindle conflict in the States

Another all-out battle may be brewing between studios and U.S. exhibitors over release of blockbusters on video-on-demand while pics are still playing in theaters.

In recent months, Disney and Sony Pictures Entertainment have tested premium VOD releases in South Korea, with titles available online or on cable VOD three to five weeks after theatrical debut, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The trials, involving Sony’s “Django Unchained” and Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Brave,” mark the first time Hollywood movies were available to home viewers in the region while they were still in the theater windows — something movie theater owners have vehemently fought against in the U.S.

South Korea has very high levels of piracy, and many studios have even abandoned the home-video market there as a result. The relatively early-release VOD trials in the country may be an effort to capture some marginal revenue given rampant file-sharing.

Still, while U.S. piracy has not hit crisis proportions, studios frequently float trial balloons in international markets before launching them in the States — and the Korean experiments could mean majors are on a path to again try early-release premium VOD in the U.S. Execs at other majors are closely watching Disney and Sony’s tests in South Korea and may follow suit, according to the Journal.

Disney and Sony declined to provide results of the VOD tests. But South Korean cable operator HomeChoice said buy rates for premium still-in-theaters titles was 30% higher than other movies, the Journal reported.

Theater chain operators, which in the U.S. include Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment and Cinemark, fret that early-release VOD would directly cut into box office sales. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, releasing a title on VOD while it’s still playing in theaters “muddies the value proposition” for consumers.

Exhibitors have fought past attempts by studios to provide premium VOD.

In the fall of 2011, Universal Pictures scrapped plans to release “Tower Heist” on VOD — for a $60 one-time rental fee — three weeks after theatrical premiere, following boycott threats from major exhibs.

Earlier that year, DirecTV launched select VOD titles, available for $30 rental 60 days after theater release, which also raised the ire of theater owners. But the satcaster eventually abandoned the effort, likely because of poor sales.

(Marc Graser contributed to this article.)

More Biz

  • Village Roadshow Studios Queensland

    Australia’s Village Roadshow Receives Second Takeover Bid

    Australian studios, cinemas and theme parks group Village Roadshow Limited has received a tentative takeover bid from private equity firm BGH. The bid follows a December offer from another funds group, Pacific Equity Partners. The earlier offer valued VRL at A$3.90 per share. BGL’s proposal is for a bid worth A$4 per share, payable in [...]

  • Us Basketball Team Players Lebron James

    LeBron James Breaks Silence on Kobe's Death: 'I'm Heartbroken and Devastated'

    In a heartfelt Instagram post, LeBron James broke his silence on the tragic death of Kobe Bryant late Monday, saying he was “heartbroken and devastated.” “Sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try, I begin crying again thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship, bond and brotherhood we [...]

  • Investigators work the scene of a

    Pilot in Kobe Bryant Crash Said He Was Trying to Get Above Clouds

    The pilot of the helicopter that crashed on Sunday, killing Kobe Bryant and eight others, radioed to the tower that he was trying to get above the clouds shortly before the crash, an NTSB official said Monday. Jennifer Homendy, a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that the agency would look at [...]

  • Kobe Bryant Dead

    Lakers-Clippers Game Postponed In Wake of Kobe Bryant's Death

    UPDATED: This post was updated with TNT’s plans to air a tribute to Bryant.  Tuesday night’s game between the Lakers and Clippers has been postponed indefinitely following the death of Kobe Bryant on Sunday. In a statement, the NBA league office said, “The decision was made out of respect for the Lakers organization, which is [...]

  • Mimi Haleyi Weinstein trial

    Weinstein Attorney Goes on Offense Against 'Project Runway' Assistant

    Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorney went on the attack on Monday afternoon, suggesting that a sex assault accuser had fabricated her claims because it was no longer “in vogue” to be friends with the producer. Miriam Haley testified earlier in the day Monday that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her at his apartment in 2006. [...]

  • Kobe Bryant Dead

    Southern California Radio Stations Go Silent in Honor of Kobe Bryant

    Southern California radio stations are holding a moment of silence at noon to honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died on Sunday. The stations dedicated one minute and eight seconds of silence to Bryant. The eight extra seconds are a reference to his original jersey number. The Southern California Broadcasters Association gave specific instructions on [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein arrives at court for

    Weinstein Defense Makes Third Request for a Mistrial

    Harvey Weinstein’s defense team filed a formal request for a mistrial on Monday, arguing that numerous judicial errors have hopelessly prejudiced the jury. The motion was the third request for a mistrial since the proceedings got underway earlier this month. In the motion, defense lawyer Damon Cheronis argued that Annabella Sciorra had given hearsay testimony [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content