Does the release of big box office movies on-demand mark the end of the movie theater?

May 16, 2011

The good news is you may be able to watch big movie releases on-demand in your living room much sooner than in the past. The bad news is it's sparked a feud between movie studios, filmmakers and theater owners. Four major movie studios, Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios have announced that they will make big box office releases available to the consumer much faster. The movies will be available on-demand through DirecTV and will cost about $30 (movie fans will have two-or three-days viewing privileges). The problem is theater owners and filmmakers are concerned that releasing movies sooner will prevent people from going to the movie theater—theater owners typically get a four month exclusive on films before they get released on video. Studios counter that theater owners make most of their money in the first few weeks of a release, so the financial hit won't be too significant. But big time directors like James Cameron (Avatar) and Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) say video on demand could threaten ticket sales and "irrevocably harm the financial model of our film industry." Who knew eating popcorn and watching a movie on your couch would cause such a stir. Will you still go to the movies if you can watch at home and save $20 on popcorn and candy, or is there something special about watching a movie with a room full of strangers?

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