Theater Owners Win Game Of Chicken With Universal

Movie theater owners successfully stared down Universal Pictures, which planned to release the Ben Stiller comedy Tower Heist on video on demand three weeks after it debuted in theaters. After a large contingent of theaters vowed not to play the movie if Universal stuck to the plan, the studio backed down.

According to Deadline, the National Association of Theatre Owners isn’t gloating over the victory. In a statement, the organization’s president and CEO said he understands where studios are coming from when they go looking for other revenue streams with newfangled on-demand plans:

“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.”

Universal’s statement indicates that a future release of a major movie on demand at the same time it plays in theaters is inevitable:

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.

UPDATE: Universal Halts ‘Tower Heist’ VOD Plan As Exhibitors Agree To Further Talks [Deadline via Hollywood Elsewhere]

Previously: Some Theaters Refuse To Show Movie That Will Go On Demand 3 Weeks Later