Premium VOD vs. Hollywood Battle Heats Up to Level Epic Intensity

Premium VOD vs. Hollywood Battle Heats Up to Level Epic Intensity

Apr 21, 2011

Yesterday DirecTV finally announced their plans to launch a premium VOD service that would allow customers to watch a film at home while it's potentially still in theaters. For the price of $29.99, folks will be able to watch films like Just Go with It, Hall Pass, The Adjustment Bureau and Cedar Rapids only 60 days after initial release, instead of the usual 120 days. Why you'd desperately need to watch Hall Pass 60 days before everyone else who didn't see it in theaters is beyond me (especially at that price), but the idea of the program has pissed off a lot of people. It's pissed off theaters because the amount of money they make is directly tied to their exclusivity of the studio's product, and it's pissed off a lot of famous filmmakers like James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro and others, who want to preserve the movie theater experience and cut down on piracy. See, like a***oles, everyone has an opinion. Here's mine ...

Look, I'm a consumer, and naturally I want as many choices as possible. Do I think VOD has been a great service so far? Yes, especially when it comes to building more awareness for independent movies. VOD has provided a platform for so many festival films that probably wouldn't have seen the light of day without it. Plus, it's given folks who don't live in NY or LA an opportunity to watch these smaller films while they're in limited release in only a handful of cities. That, to me, is fantastic. I'm totally down for a platform that helps spread the word when it comes to emerging filmmakers and independent content.

But now we're starting to talk about studio fare -- big-budget stuff -- and Premium VOD is emerging as a platform for studios (and cable providers) to make up the money they're losing on DVD. Sure, they're also in the business of playing nice with theaters, but most of the time money trumps relationships. The theaters need the studios more than the studios need theaters (which is why some theaters are beginning to distribute their own movies), and so at the end of the day whoever owns the content is going to play the biggest role in defining the rules.

If those rules mean movie theaters are forced to close down, it'd be sad. I want options, but I'm not for options that don't include seeing a film on the big screen. I feel there's another layer of anticipation that builds during the window between theatrical release and at-home release, and it'd be nice to preserve that. I can understand families seeing this as a viable option and a more inexpensive way to watch movies as a family, but then wait two more months till it's even cheaper.

I'm not sure there could ever be a world where all movies were available day-of-release through a variety of channels that included both movie theaters and your living room. That's obviously what some want the end result to be, and I'm pretty convinced such a system would not work without sacrificing the moviegoing experience we all grew up enjoying. Question is: What's more important to the incoming generation: watching content immediately however they see fit, or preserving tradition?

I think I know the answer. Do you?

Categories: WTF, Hollywood!?
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Which one of these people is in the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past?

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James McAvoy