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Paramount Teams With Exhibitors to Shorten Home Entertainment Release Windows

Paramount Pictures is partnering with two leading exhibitors on an initiative that could significantly shrink the amount of time between a film’s theatrical release and its home entertainment debut.

The studio is teaming up with AMC Theatres and Cineplex Entertainment on an unorthodox rollout of two low-budget horror films, “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” and “Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.” The films will be available on home entertainment platforms 17 days after leaving theaters.

One other chain has signed on and is expected to go public as soon as tomorrow, but it’s not clear if other major exhibitors like Regal and Cinemark will show the films.

In recent years, studios and exhibitors have clashed whenever there has been an effort to shorten the window for when a film becomes available on DVD or on-demand platforms, which is traditionally 90 days, as many believe audiences will skip the multiplexes if they can see many films from the comfort of the couch.

Paramount is sweetening the pot by offering theater chains who show the film a percentage of the studio’s digital revenue for the period of digital and cable on-demand availability through the first three months from the initial U.S. theatrical release. The percentage that an exhibitor receives will be related to its market share, a spokeswoman for Paramount said.

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The two films, both of which have October release dates, will be allowed to play in theaters exclusively until the number of screens showing the pictures drops to 300 or less. At that point, the clock will start ticking on the pending home entertainment release. Typically, for films of this size, that will take place four to six weeks after a theatrical debut, the spokeswoman said. She depicted the initiative not as shortening windows, but enabling greater flexibility, because by a time a picture has such a limited theatrical footprint, neither exhibitors nor studios stand to generate much revenue.

Paramount isn’t the first studio to try to overhaul release windows. In 2011, Universal Pictures got an earful from theater chains when it tried to release the comedy “Tower Heist” in a few select markets for a premium price three weeks after it hit theaters. Faced with a boycott, Universal abandoned that plan. Last year, Sony got into it with theater owners when the studio pulled “The Interview” from screens amid terrorist threats before backtracking and launching a simultaneous video-on-demand and theatrical launch. Most exhibitors refused to play the film, consigning it to a few indie chains and arthouses.

News of Paramount’s plan has yet to provoke the same level of exhibitor backlash, and a spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners, the cinema business’ main lobbying arm, praised Paramount for working with its members.

“For several years we’ve been asking for the studios to work with theater owners on developing new models and ways to grow the whole pie and market in ways that don’t damage a film’s theatrical run,” said Patrick Corcoran. “We applaud Paramount for discussing this with theater owners.”

Corcoran said NATO’s other members would have to “evaluate and decide for themselves” about supporting the Paramount initiative. AMC is the second largest theater chain in North America and Canada-based Cineplex is the fifth largest.

The Wall Street Journal first reported plans for the initiative.

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