Universal delays "Tower Heist" VOD plan


After the substantial blowback from movie theater chains, Universal Pictures’ plans to offer its upcoming Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy on premium VOD just three weeks after it opens in theaters on 11/4 has been scrapped—for now. This week, a number of independent theater chains including Sherman Oaks, CA-based Galaxy Theatres, Regency Theatres in Calabasas, CA and Emagine Theatres of Detroit, vowed not to play the movie in any of their locations if Universal proceeded with its plans. Cinemark USA also said last week it would not show the movie on any of its 3,800 screens unless Universal reconsidered its VOD plans.

Said the studio in a statement: “Universal Pictures today announced that in response to a request from theater owners, it has decided to delay its planned premium home video on demand (PVOD) experiment in which Comcast digital subscribers in Portland and Atlanta would have had the opportunity to rent Tower Heist on demand just three weeks after its theatrical release on November 4, 2011. Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future.”

The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) president CEO John FIthian responded with his own positive statement: “NATO would like to thank Universal for responding to various theater owners’ concerns and cancelling the PVOD test it was contemplating.  They have been engaged with individual exhibitors on this test, and while it was something that many theater owners could not ultimately support, the open and collaborative nature of the dialogue is appreciated. NATO recognizes that studios need to find new models and opportunities in the home market, and looks forward to distributors and exhibitors working together for their mutual benefit.”