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Cinema owners plan to not screen blockbusters made by studios involved in a premium VoD plan.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 22 april 2011

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This article titled “US cinemas threaten not to show films in video-on-demand dispute” was written by Josh Halliday, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 13th April 2011 10.40 UTC

US cinema chains are threatening to banish some films from their screens in response to a contentious video-on-demand plan by several Hollywood studios to allow new releases into living rooms within weeks of their big screen debuts.

Four of the six major film studios – Universal, Sony, Warner Bros and Fox – plan to make new releases available to rent online just two months after their cinema debut. New releases will be available to rent for (£18) under the premium VoD proposals, set to be introduced in the US later this month.

Cinema owners have reacted angrily to the plans, which could significantly reduce the box office potential of new releases . The National Association of Theatre Owners (Nato), which represents the largest cinema chains in the US including Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Theatres, said it will fight the move.

John Fithian, chief executive of Nato, told the Financial Times on Tuesday that cinemas were prepared not to screen blockbusters made by studios involved in the premium VoD plan.

“Let’s say you’re Regal Cinemas and it’s a busy weekend with a couple of big pictures opening,” Fithian said. “If it’s 50-50 between this picture and that picture and you have a partner that respects your [business] model and another one that doesn’t, you’re going to give the screen to the partner that respects your model.”

Fithian added that Regal and Cinemark, which own more than 7,000 cinemas in the US, had already begun to scale back promotion of films made by studios involved in the premium VoD venture.

Sony’s Just Go with It, a comedy featuring Adam Sandler, will make history as one of the first films to be offered on the new on-demand service, according to the US entertainment trade magazine Variety.

Film studios have long wanted to reduce the four-month period of exclusivity enjoyed by cinemas. It is seen as a way to offset a decline in physical DVD sales, while also helping to combat internet piracy and initiate a radical change in film viewing habits.

However, not all of the big six studios are on board. Fithian confirmed Paramount Pictures has privately expressed opposition to the shorter window. It was previously reported that the studio behind Shutter Island and Jackass 3D had concerns over internet piracy.

Paramount’s opposition could give it the upper hand when it goes head to head with rival studios this summer, with big-name releases such as Transformers 3 and Super 8 set to go up against Warner’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Fox’s X-Men: First Class. Disney, the other Hollywood major, has yet to reveal its hand over the premium VoD plan.

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