It’s not exactly a secret. Movie theater operators hate it when Hollywood studios release movies for home viewing and in movie theaters at the same time. They say it kills the box office and encourages piracy.
However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, studios — including Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Co – simultaneous releases to enhance their live streaming business.
On Tuesday, the head of the trade group representing cinemas announced strategies like “dead.”
“I am happy to announce that Synchronous Edition has died as a serious business model, and it was hacking that killed it,” said John Fethian, president of the National Assn. For theater owners, at CinemaCon, the annual Cinema Business Conference.
Vithian was speaking to a receptive audience. At CinemaCon, which takes place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, no streak of applause is more emphatic than a rallying cry for the time-honoured practice of releasing movies in theaters first.
Before the pandemic shut down theaters, movies were shown in cinemas for an average of 90 days before becoming available at home. This is widely seen as essential to the theaters business model.
But studios have adapted to the health crisis by trying different strategies. Then Warner Bros. Ltd., owned by AT&T, is sending its entire 2021 movie slate to sister streaming service HBO Max and to theaters simultaneously. Disney released movies like “Black Widow” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” on Disney+ for a fee of $30.
Now, there are signs that this practice has become a relic of the epidemic. Warner Bros. has committed to Other studios release films in theaters for 45 days before transferring them to live streaming or video-on-demand. Disney has remained externally flexible in its strategy, releasing some films to Disney+ at no additional charge, including Pixar’s Turning Red. But it’s the upcoming Pixar movie, “Lightyear,” which is exclusive to theaters.
Vithian said that while the same-day release tactic allowed streaming services to expand subscriber numbers with new movies, it also led to rampant piracy. His comments came after a lengthy presentation by Motion Picture Assn CEO Charles Rifkin about the growing sophistication of digital piracy and the measures the trade organization is taking to curb it.
“Strong theatrical windows protect against piracy,” Vithian said. “If a major title that demands people see in theaters is released too quickly home and then gets pirated, the temptation to stay home and watch pirated movies becomes even greater for many would-be moviegoers.”
This year’s CinemaCon comes as exhibitors work to recover from the pandemic slump, when studios have continued to delay big blockbusters that could bring audiences back to auditoriums. The box office in the United States and Canada is expected to reach $9 billion this year, more than double last year’s tally but still 20% below 2019 levels.
There is growing optimism that theaters will continue to see revenue growth in the coming months thanks to potentially blockbuster films such as “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Lightyear” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”
Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Motion Group, set the tone for the festivities on Monday night, joking with the assembled theater owners by mocking even the most pessimistic predictions of cinema’s future. “What are you guys doing here?” He asked from the stage of the Colosseum. “Don’t you know you’re dead?”
Rothman has bragged about the $3.3 billion that Sony films, including “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Uncharted,” have made since the last CinemaCon show in August. During the presentation, Sony released footage from Brad Pitt’s movie “Bullet Train” and the unfinished animation from “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”
Additionally, Sony has turned even more into its “Spider-Man” franchise, announcing that musical artist Bad Bunny is the star of “El Muerto,” an upcoming Marvel movie based on a mysterious comic book character. Sony said the image would make Bad Bunny the first Latin American Marvel superhero.