Cinemas thwart Studio plans to modernise Hollywood
It's clear to many outside the industry of music and film that they need to move on with technology and the consumer. Rather than fighting, prosecuting, circling the wagons and protecting their old marketplace and revenue model, they should be finding ways to exploit the new marketplace.
So it's surprising when a big studio, music or film, attempts to do that, and it's also refreshing for they could be the first to make a real killing and corner the market. Well Universal have tried just that with the release of Tower Heist, except the cinema owners have threatened to destroy the cinematic release of the film if they don't drop their plans.
While Universal was planning to release Tower Heist in cinemas and then on video on demand just three weeks after to Comcast digital subscribers in Portland and Atlanta, cinema owners in America just weren't happy with that and threatened them with a boycott of the film if they did.
Let's get things in perspective here for a moment, they weren't going to release the film everywhere in America three weeks after the cinematic release, just in Portland and Atlanta, and even then it was only to Comcast digital subscribers, whom I assume are not a complete saturation of all cinemagoers in Portland and Atlanta. Plus, as if it couldn't get more restrictive and less of a threat to the cinemas, it would cost $59.99 to watch.
So even though this small experiment was intended just for a tiny proportion of the cinema going audience, the owners of those cinemas threatened to boycott it. Why? Well it's a step towards a move away from the cinemas having exclusive access to a film for an extended period before anyone else does either streaming or on disc.
It's interesting that I read a story somewhere earlier in the week, where various music studios were looking at a new policy of releasing music for sale at the same time as it was appearing on the radio. The idea was to combat piracy as songs can be on the radio for months before it appears for sale anywhere.
Sony said through the BBC that this model did not work and that they were reviewing the model on a case by case basis, doing what was right for the individual artist, and with other studios not adopting the policy it means they're abandoning the idea that could well stop a lot of music piracy.
Instead they'll be heading back to the old method of leaving a song playing on air long enough for repetition to work its magic and for the rubbish songs to get stuck in your head. Perhaps that's the real reason they aren't selling at the same time as being on the radio, despite the piracy, its marketplace saturation.
There are big similarities here, both these moves by the music and film studios would lead to less piracy but harm the old money making model, and they just can't let go.
At least in the film industry the studios were more willing to try embracing the new world, you know the one all the consumers have, but the cinema owners aren't. Despite the restrictiveness of the test they could see what was happening, losing their exclusive window.
The Hollywood Reporter has the CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners John Fithian backtracking and trying to hide the fact that they don't want this to happen:
"NATO would like to thank Universal for responding to various theater owners' concerns and cancelling the PVOD test it was contemplating. They have been engaged with individual exhibitors on this test, and while it was something that many theater owners could not ultimately support, the open and collaborative nature of the dialogue is appreciated. NATO recognizes that studios need to find new models and opportunities in the home market, and looks forward to distributors and exhibitors working together for their mutual benefit..."
They understand, but tough, they're not playing. If they wouldn't let this tiny test happen, what chance has any other model got? The studios need to steam ahead with it regardless, and if the cinemas boycott the film it's easy, extend the trial it nationwide or worldwide and see what happens.
People will come, oh yes, people will come.
Don't get me wrong, I love going to the cinema. While my home cinema system provides better video quality, audio separation and ability to concentrate on the film than cinemas, I love the experience of going to the cinema, even with the way over the top expense, however the studios want to beat piracy and make more money, the way to do that is giving the marketplace what they want.
Isn't three weeks enough for a film in the cinema? Surely after that the audience for the film has turned to the new releases, and the desire from the home market has grown? Isn't the call now for the cinema owners to join the studios in moving on with the audience?