John Fithian: Exhibitors and Distributors Continue to Debate Windows

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Eli Meir Kaplan for Variety

This column is part of Variety’s Broken Hollywood feature. For more execs and their opinions on the state of Hollywood, click here.

In 2011, we had the biggest public food fight ever on the issue of windows. We came out of that pretty strong on the topic as exhibitors, but nevertheless sullied as an industry by the public fight. So we got together more productively as studios and exhibitors, and talked about how we can grow the business together instead of fighting over pieces of the pie. Things like superticket and advance marketing of home releases in cinemas emerged from that.

We want studios to make more money in the home because that money comes back into greater production and more movies for us down the line, and solid budgets for them. We started some cooperative talks. We got some progress going, and then a few things have raised the profile of the windows issue again. We weren’t very happy to see the Imax/Netflix attempt at releasing a sequel to a big movie simultaneously in Imax and on VOD. It’s a crazy idea, with no consultation with exhibitors and all the things we had made progress on — working together, growing the business together; they got it wrong on that one.

One of the biggest mistakes Hollywood made was allowing subscription services and cheap rentals to come early in the process and devalue movies in the minds of consumers. They’re trying to push that back by putting electronic sell-through ahead of the DVD releases. That’s smart. It’s just a matter of where those windows come. We want them to make money on EST, but we don’t want them to come too far into the theatrical window.