NATO Chief: We Didn’t Ask Theaters to Pull ‘Harry Potter’ Over VOD

John Fithian says theater companies must decide for themselves how to respond to shorter windows

The National Assn. of Theater Owners denied on Thursday that it is encouraging theaters to boycott movies from studios that are releasing films earlier on video on demand. 

Among the movies reportedly being threatened with a boycott was the upcoming "Harry Potter" film. 

"The National Association of Theater Owners does not and could not encourage its members to engage in any boycotts of any movies distributed by any company. Recent press reports to the contrary are completely false," NATO President John Fithian said in a statement. 

Exhibitors have been outraged over reports that Warner Bros., Fox, Sony and Universal would launch an abbreviated VOD window on DirecTV in May. Neither the studios nor DirecTV has publicly acknowledged that a deal has been reached.

In particular, Fithian cited an April 13 article in The Guardian that implied NATO was pushing theater owners to pull movies such as the upcoming "Harry Potter" film from theaters. Fithian says the group was never contacted by the reporter. 

He also said that a similar piece on  “Business Insider” implying that NATO is threatening to drop the "Potter" sequel was also false. 

Exhibitors contacted by TheWrap, however, have refused to rule out pulling films from studios that push the shortened windows. As for Fithian, the NATO chief continued to criticize the studios' move. 

"NATO has often articulated our concerns about the possible release of 'premium VOD' movies in an early window. Our association issued statements on June 16, 2010 and again on March 31, 2011 regarding those concerns. But as our 2010 statement made clear, 'individual theater companies must and will make decisions about release window changes in their own company’s interest.' NATO cannot and will not make those decisions for them," Fithian said.