Early digital rentals could be bad news for movie theaters

early digital rentals avoid movie theaters theater
For the most impatient among us, our days of waiting may soon be behind us. No longer will cinephiles have to wait for months for movies to leave movie theaters in order to watch these films in the comfort of our own home (legally, of course). Rather, as per a Bloomberg report, a number of movie studios are now determining whether or not to offer digital rentals of their films just a few weeks after they first appear on the big screen.

This, of course, would fly in the face of many movie theater chains, who naturally oppose such a plan. After all, why rush to a theater when you need only wait a few weeks to rent the same title? But don’t assume that the rental price would be significantly cheaper than theater fees; Bloomberg reports that audiences might have to pay between $30 and $50 for a premium movie download.

It would also appear that studios like Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures have thus far been unable to come to an agreement with Apple and Comcast to actually launch such a product.

However, this isn’t to say that all hope is lost. Bloomberg reports that most Hollywood studios (save for Walt Disney) are “eager to introduce a new product to make up for declining sales of DVDs and other home entertainment in the age of Netflix.” In fact, these studios have even explored sharing revenue from premium video on demand with movie theater chains, should the latter give their approval. The problem, though, is that these theaters have demanded a long-term commitment of up to a decade for that revenue sharing model, which studios are none too pleased by.

As such, studios are more incentivized than ever to work with potential distributors like Apple and Comcast, who might still agree by early next year to offer digital downloads of blockbuster just two weeks after they make their cinema debut. And this would give studios some leverage against movie theaters.

Indeed, it would seem as though cinemas are feeling the noose tighten already, as stock prices for some of the larger chains dropped on Friday.

There are those who believe that these premium rentals could be detrimental to studios as well, however. Some movie theater executives have pointed out that around half of a movie’s revenue is derived from its time on the big screen. But movie studios have suggested that this is only the case because of the decline in DVD sales, which might be recompensed by these premium downloads.

So wait just a little longer, friends. For you may soon have to wait barely at all to watch the newest films at home.


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