Napster co-founder Sean Parker's idea to bring theatrical movies to the home earlier than usual has been the talk of the cinema industry in recent weeks. But John Fithian, chief executive of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, is calling the yet-to-be-launched service a "big distraction."
The leader of the cinema trade group mounted a vigorous defense of the traditional way of doing business during remarks Tuesday at the CinemaCon film industry conference in Las Vegas. Theatrical movies typically don't hit the home video market until 90 days after their cinematic debut.
Addressing movie industry professionals at Caesars Palace, Fithian said the traditional so-called window between theatrical release and in-home availability benefits the industry because it leads to greater revenue from DVD and on-demand.
"Exclusive theatrical windows make new movies into events," he said. "Success there establishes brand value and bolsters revenue in downstream markets."
Fithian was responding to Parker's proposed home-video service, called Screening Room, which would give users access to films the day that they're released in theaters, for $50 each. That has upset theater owners who say such a concept would cannibalize ticket sales if implemented.
Fithian, in a news conference, expressed frustration with how Parker's concept has dominated the conversation at the convention despite another record year at the global box office.
"The issue of the Screening Room is a serious distraction from this week," he told reporters. "It's up to the exhibitors and the distributors to decide the future of windows."
The shortening release gap for films has long been a topic of debate within industry circles as theater owners and studios grapple with changing consumer habits. Paramount recently tried to narrow the window for two
of its low-budget horror films, but that effort met with little success. Universal Pictures in 2011 had to abandon plans to release "Tower Heist" early via video-on-demand after cinema firms cried foul.
Though some prominent filmmakers have endorsed Screening Room, at least one prominent studio executive in Las Vegas sided with cinema owners.