For years, film studios have been wrestling with how best to incorporate home video releases into their business models. While the majority of revenues mostly come from the theatrical release of films, home video sales do carry their own financial incentives, with the majority of home owners now having immediate access to media whether in physical (DVDs, CDs etc.) or digital formats (iTunes, Google Play, Netflix etc.). Of course, home releases also give movies that don’t perform so well at the box office a second chance to cash in.
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More recently, the time taken between a film’s initial cinematic release and it’s home video release has shortened dramatically, and online streaming services now provide faster access to new films than we’ve ever seen before. With the number of people signing up for streaming services continuing to skyrocket, and consumption of movies along with it, movie studios have been interested in finding ways to capitalise on this trend. Now, it seems as though they may possibly be closer than ever to accomplishing this.
Studios such as Warner Bros. and Universal have been the most proactive in looking to push “premium video-on-demand” releases “within weeks of their theatrical premieres”, to use the exact wording of Variety’s Brent Lang. Other big firms such as Twentieth Century Fox and Sony have also begun talks with cinema owners and exhibitors in order to see how feasible this would be, and to get a feel for the exact way in which this could work.
Variety‘s report indicates that the most prominent idea for the scheme, at this time, is to offer new films in the home for around $50 (£40) 17 days after their theatrical debut. The rental would be available to the customer for 48 hours from the time of purchase.
The main difficulty is that cinema chains and studios are still trying to wrap their heads around exactly how all of this could be implemented, as alluded to earlier on, and all the work – including the legal side of things – that would need to happen before the early home movie rental concept can become a widely accepted reality. On the subject of legalities, things are made even more complex yet by the fact that certain Anti-trust laws prevent the studios from working with one another – the negotiations would have to take place on a “company-by-company basis”, which lengthens the process drastically, and studio executives would much prefer to simply have one simple universal solution.
There’s also the issue of taking into account how filmmakers themselves feel about this, what with a number of directors being more particular about the way in which their films are viewed – they make a film designed to be seen on the big screen, at least at first, but with the option to view movies at home people may decide not to go for the cinema experience which not all directors would want.
While there are clearly a number of hurdles to clear first, it does seem as though most parties are keen to establish some sort of early home viewing option here, and that would provide consumers some added flexibility in terms of how they want to watch newly released titles moving forward.