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Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Theater Owners Strike Back

Some reaction to Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's plan to release six new Steven Soderbergh movies in theaters, on DVD, and on cable simultaneously...

The biggest U.S. theater chain, Regal Entertainment, says they just won't show the movies the Cuban and Wagner are producing:

    - "Our policy will continue to be that we don't exhibit films that are already in the market on DVD or pay-per-view," said Mike Campbell, president and CEO of Regal Entertainment Group, the largest U.S. theater chain. "We believe the plan is ill-conceived and won't receive much support from the traditional exhibition or distribution community."

    Said Tony Karasotes, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Karasotes Showplace Theatres: "I just think it's a wrong-headed approach. The way to properly distribute film is to use the traditional sequential pattern set up by the studios. (2929's plan) is ass-backwards, and I don't want to encourage that kind of approach because I own motion picture theaters."

    - Shari Redstone, president of Boston-based National Amusements Inc.: "It's a short-sighted approach -- not just for exhibition but for the people making these decisions. It will diminish the total revenue that can be generated by any one product. People do want to see movies in different venues: You see it in a theater, you buy it, you rent it, you watch it on TV. When you start to merge these windows, the total revenue starts to go away. You may get a big hit on the opening weekend, but it doesn't go further.

    "You also reduce the 'wow factor' of seeing a movie in a theater," she added. "If it's just seen in the home, you decrease the excitement and energy for entertainment and the movies."

My take: movies that people want to watch multiple times, they'll still watch multiple times. Movies they want to own on DVD, they'll still buy. Simultaneously release across several platforms (such as theaters, DVD, video-on-demand, portable devices) will make it more convenient to see movies, and I think will help movies steal time from other forms of entertainment, like the Internet, videogames, and TV. How come Hollywood is so bad at recognizing opportunity when it knocks?


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