Favreau, Nolan And Tarantino Are Against Premium VOD

Have you been tuned into this ongoing discussion over Premium Video On Demand? I’ll summarize: DirecTV launched a new Pay-Per-View service in April that offers fairly new movie releases for $29.99 a pop. “New” in this case means two months after their theatrical release. As you might imagine, this hasn’t been a big hit with theater owners or filmmakers. Theater owners because, obviously, people might not rush to see a movie in theater if they know they can just wait a couple of  months and see it in the comfort of their homes. Sit down with more than three people and you’re actually saving money that would’ve been spent on movie tickets.

As for filmmakers, the big beef is the quickening death of the theatrical experience. Home theater technology has grown exponentially in the past 20 or so years, to the point that it’s often preferable to watch movie in one’s own living room over seeing it in a theater with a roomful of strangers, some of whom will almost certainly talk loudly during the movie or leave a cellphone ringer on. There’s a special place in hell for those who then answer that cellphone.

But I digress. Some big names have come out against Premium VOD, folks like James Cameron and Peter Jackson. Now The Hollywood Reporter reveals that a few more have been added to the list: Mark Boal, Daqvid Dobkin, Jon Favreau, Christopher Nolan, M. Night Shyamalan and Quentin Tarantino. Former Warner Home Video boss Jim Cardwell also joins the list. The filmmaker argument is, rightly I think, that movies were born in theaters and that is where they are meant to be experienced.

Keep reading for an open letter from the collective of filmmakers, complete with the newly updated list:

AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE CREATIVE COMMUNITY ON PROTECTING THE MOVIE-GOING EXPERIENCE

We are the artists and business professionals who help make the movie business great. We produce and direct movies. We work on the business deals that help get movies made. At the end of the day, we are also simply big movie fans.

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk by leaders at some major studios and cable companies about early-to-the-home “premium video-on-demand.” In this proposed distribution model, new movies can be shown in homes while these same films are still in their theatrical run.

In this scenario, those who own televisions with an HDMI input would be able to order a film through their cable system or an Internet provider as a digital rental. Terms and timing have yet to be made concrete, but there has been talk of windows of 60 days after theatrical release at a price of $30.

Currently, the average theatrical release window is over four months (132 days). The theatrical release window model has worked for years for everyone in the movie business. Current theatrical windows protect the exclusivity of new films showing in state-of-the-art theaters bolstered by the latest in digital projection, digital sound, and stadium seating.

As a crucial part of a business that last year grossed close to $32 billion in worldwide theatrical ticket sales, we in the creative community feel that now is the time for studios and cable companies to acknowledge that a release pattern for premium video-on-demand that invades the current theatrical window could irrevocably harm the financial model of our film industry.

Major studios are struggling to replace the revenue lost by the declining value of DVD transactions. Low-cost rentals and subscriptions are undermining higher priced DVD sales and rentals. But the problem of declining revenue in home video will not be solved by importing into the theatrical window a distribution model that cannibalizes theatrical ticket sales.

Make no mistake: History has shown that price points cannot be maintained in the home video window. What sells for $30-a-viewing today could be blown out for $9.99 within a few years. If wiser heads do not prevail, the cannibalization of theatrical revenue in favor of a faulty, premature home video window could lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue. Some theaters will close. The competition for those screens that remain will become that much more intense, foreclosing all but the most commercial movies from theatrical release. Specialty films whose success depends on platform releases that slowly build in awareness would be severely threatened under this new model. Careers that are built on the risks that can be taken with lower budget films may never have the chance to blossom under this cut-throat new model.

Further, releasing a pristine, digital copy of new movies early to the home will only increase the piracy problem—not solve it.

As leaders in the creative community, we ask for a seat at the table. We want to hear the studios’ plans for how this new distribution model will affect the future of the industry that we love.

And until that happens, we ask that our studio partners do not rashly undermine the current – and successful – system of releasing films in a sequential distribution window that encourages movie lovers to see films in the optimum, and most profitable, exhibition arena: the movie theaters of America.

We encourage our colleagues in the creative community to join with us by calling or emailing NATO at 202-962-0054 or nato@natodc.com.

Sincerely,

Michael Bay
Kathryn Bigelow
James Cameron
Guillermo del Toro
Roland Emmerich
Antoine Fuqua
Todd Garner
Lawrence Gordon
Stephen Gyllenhaal
Gale Anne Hurd
Peter Jackson
Karyn Kusama
Jon Landau
Shawn Levy
Michael Mann
Bill Mechanic
Jamie Patricof
Todd Phillips
Brett Ratner
Robert Rodriguez
Adam Shankman
Gore Verbinski
Robert Zemeckis
Christopher Nolan
Jon Favreau
Quentin Tarantino
M. Night Shyamalan
David Dobkin
Mark Boal
Jim Cardwell

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Comments

  • Mr. M

    I’ve got no dog in this fight…I have no sympathy for the film industry simultaneously embracing/advancing new technologies while also seemingly fighting against them. I can see where a $30 price point may be of a benefit for a family viewing experience, but at first blush seems high for a single or couple (yes, I know then you factor in snacks, parking, cimmute time, convenience, weather, then maybe it does balance out).

    What I *do* agree with is this plan — without knowing any details — seems to open the door wider for pirates.  If they solve that problem, then they have something.

  • EndlessKng

    The only thing I disagree with in this whole article is the notion that M. Night is still a “big director.”

  • Mr. M

    That’s the Shyamalan twist in this whole scenario…

  • percane

    The filmmakers are right, the studios are killing the theater experience in a number of ways. They’re right that price points can’t be maintained.
    They’re right that this will increase piracy.

    A couple of other issues are 1) some of the studios (warner and paramount for example) also own the broadcast networks, so in the theater vs tv battle they have a conflict of interest. 2) things like 3-D pricing and the often lackluster quality given to the viewers of those 3-D movies (clash of the titans for example) turn off viewers of the theater experience.

    The filmMAKERS deserve our support, but Mr. M is right about not having sympathy for the film studios, they’re shooting themselves in the foot looking at short term gains at the cost of their longevity.

    anyone else here remember when it took a year or two to get movies from the theater to cable?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe film makers should stop trying to force over-priced 3D gimmick films, and tired, rehashed, pointless sequels and remakes on the consumers at inflated prices and consumers will return to the theaters.

  • gr8 l8ks

    Some don’t. There’s some really good ones in the industry, so stop generalizing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    “We are the artists and business professionals who help make the movie
    business great. We produce and direct movies. We work on the business
    deals that help get movies made.”

    It’s called a strike guys. You hold all the power. You get what you want.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    The piracy problem can’t be solved. Any protection that can be thought of can be countered.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    It still does take that long. It’s just that no one waits that amount of time.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    That would be the studios forcing it on the filmmakers. It’s a business decision most of the time.

  • http://twitter.com/BigAl6ft6 Al D.

    I’m all in favour of day and date VOD releases for smaller movies I simply can’t see where I live.  Tree of Life, Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Midnight in Paris, hell, even that freakin flick Passion Play with Mickey Rourke and whatshername, Megan Fox, which is apparently awful, I’d like a chance to see. 

    Full steam ahead on VOD for releases under 50 theatres, how about that?  If it goes wide, then go ahead and keep it in theatres. You can only have so many critical successes released in New York and L.A. until the rest of the world gets kinda pissed off. It shows up in Toronto once in awhile, maybe. If I’m lucky. and I still have to lug for almost 2 hours to get there.

  • kalorama

    They’re pretty much trying to lock the barn door after the horse has vanished over the horizon.

    The notion that the consumer is somehow being deprived of some vital cultural touchstone is (depending on your POV) a sweetly archaic bit of romanticism or purblind denial.  The push towards VOD is being driven by the same consumers these guys/gals seem to think are being robbed of this oh-so-precious gift of the theater experience.

    The moviegoing experience they’re waxing rhapsodic about is almost gone
    already, killed by the dominance of the big budget blockbuster movie,
    the proliferation of the massive multiplexes, and the death of the
    neighborhood theater. Most of the stuff they’re afraid of happening as a
    result of VOD is actually one of the main impetuses of VOD.

  • Anonymous

    Stop charging me 12 bucks a ticket (current prices in San Diego).

  • http://twitter.com/eclecticism María

    I’m in the same predicament you are, and definitely like this idea. I probably won’t be able to see Tree of Life until it’s out on DVD, and that’s heartbreaking.

  • CaseyJustice

    It really doesn’t help their case to have Michael Bay’s name right there at the top.

  • http://iamwallis.tumblr.com iamwallis

    how dare people want to save money!? damn dirty apes!

    people should willingly spend half of their checks to get to and from a theatre to watch a a movie with ridiculously bloated pricing, even if it isnt in 3D (of course the argument being that the theatre has to recoup money for buying 3D equipment some way), buy 5 dollar candies that you can get from a local Walgreens or CVS for 80 cents, and wash it down with popcorn and soda’s that when combined cost the price of an appendage.