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Studios, Cable providers may put movies OnDemand 30 days after they hit theaters

The theatrical distribution window is shrinking yet again. While most films are already out on DVD within 3-4 months of their theatrical release, Hollywood studios are planning a new home distribution system that will cut that time in half. Cable and Satellite operators like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and DirecTV could get 30-60 day old movies for release OnDemand, for a premium price, of course. The caveat: they're really expensive. 

According to a story by The Hollywood Reporter, customers will have to pay $50 to watch movies that are 30 days old and $25 to watch films that are 60 days old. It's rumored that these films would be available to watch only once, or come with some sort of strict rules. 

This begs the question: Why would consumers pay $50 bucks to see a movie they can go to the theater and see for less. Or they could wait another couple months and the movie would be on DVD.

"We're going to become aggressive in experimenting with new windows, including that one," Walt Disney Co chief executive Bob Iger said on Tuesday when asked on a conference call if Disney would participate in an early video-on-demand opportunity. "It's too soon to make specific comments or predictions about that, but I think it presents an interesting opportunity. There are people who we believe would like to see movies sooner than later and would pay a premium price to do that."

Still, maintaining windows is increasingly challenging as viewers find more and more ways to watch movies whenever they want via devices and the Internet, and as DVD sales sharply decline.

"Studios in the next 18 to 24 months are experimenting with lots of things. It's like a chess game and each move requires them balancing out different business strategies," the first source said. A second source said studios were hesitating, hoping to see someone else take the plunge before joining any deal themselves, leery of upsetting exhibitors. A third source familiar with the talks said Time Warner Cable and other cable companies apparently balked at a 20% revenue split offered by the studios in any deal.

Hmm. I am happy that these films are not coming out immediately, but the smaller these release windows become, the more people may decide to skip the theater. As expensive as it is, there is no better way to watch a movie than a big screen, surround sound, a theater full of people, and a bag of popcorn.


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