Shortening the theatrical release window of films has been a hotly-debated topic in Hollywood for nearly two years now, and eOne CEO Darren Throop is backing the same-day home release of these movies because he believes “the concept of waiting for something is a little outdated.”
“I personally believe that we need to shorten windows and give people the ability to enjoy the films wherever they want to enjoy them,” Throop said at TheWrap’s annual media conference, TheGrill, on Tuesday. “There’s an awareness for it. Three months later, there won’t be because there is so much content. [I believe] we should have day-and-date with dynamic pricing. If the consumer wants to watch it at home, let them watch it home.”
Last year, Napster co-founder Sean Parker was trying to disrupt the movie industry with Screening Room, a service that aimed to offer new movies in the home for $50 on the same day they hit theaters. Parker had enlisted the support of nearly a dozen industry heavyweights, including directors Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, but most exhibitors remained opposed to the idea, and studios weren’t quite sure what to make of it given their different business models.
Parker maintains the company remains active and there have been strides, but there’s been no product actually released on the market. But Throop says there should be an even higher bar than a $50 price tag.
“[I’d say] even more than that and let the consumer decide where they want to watch the movies,” Throop added. “Everything else is day-and-date — music is day-and-date, television is day-and- date, etc… Everything is instant, so the concept of waiting for something is a little outdated.”
While Nina Jacobson, executive producer at Color Force and a producer on the “Hunger Games” series as well as “American Crime Story,” understands the notion of having the option to watch a movie wherever the consumer sees fit, she doesn’t think that model works for her upcoming film, “Crazy Rich Asians.”
“It was an interesting conversation, but for us ultimately, it felt like this is a cultural event,” Jacobson said. “When something comes out digitally, everyone is watching it when they’re watching it … It can come and go. People aren’t seeing it at the same time — they see it when they come around to it. But your point is: there is room for both. You can choose.”
Throop agreed, saying there is room for a combination of theatrical and dynamic pricing, which would ultimately make independent producers, filmmakers and creative talent a lot more money.
“It’s important for the industry,” he explained. “We need to keep in step of what the consumers want. The consumer always decides.”
The idea of windowing and day-and-date release has been a hotly debated topic in Hollywood. Screening Room, for example, proposed that consumers watch new movies over a 48-hour window beginning the day of its theatrical release via a set-top box that would cost roughly $150. According to the proposal, theater owners and studios would collect as much as $20 each of the $50 fee for a new movie. Yet, it’s unclear how it would benefit theaters given their reliance on concessions sales. And that’s where the divide currently lies. Exhibitors believe that Screening Room will encourage people to stay at home rather than head out to theaters.
Other studios have been dabbling with day-and-date releases. Paramount, for example, tried the shortened window with “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” and “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” in 2015. The films were eligible to be released on home entertainment platforms 17 days after they dipped below 300 domestic theaters. Typically, home consumers have to wait three months after a film opens theatrically before it’s available via video on demand or streaming.
Netflix also tried it with releasing “Beasts of No Nation” on their streaming platform the same day it opened in limited theaters all over the country. The film eventually didn’t hit its box office goal and ran out of steam with its awards run — so one can argue the day-and-date release model has not yet arrived.