As distributors and exhibitors continue to wrestle with how to recoup investments amid the protean shifts of multi-platform releasing, Paramount has taken the debate over the theatrical window in a bold new direction.
The Hollywood studio has struck a deal with two of North America’s largest exhibitors, AMC Theatres and Canada’s Cineplex Entertainment, to roll out a historic initiative to narrow the increasingly archaic window, which currently averages 90 days, between a movie’s theatrical and home-video release.
Hedging bets against piracy and shifting consumer behavior, Paramount will make “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” (October 23) and “Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” (October 30) available for home-viewing just 17 days after their wide release ends — per the pact, that’s once the films drop below 300 theaters. AMC and Cineplex, as well as other exhibitors, will receive a percentage of the studio’s digital revenue, including iTunes, through 90 days, on top of theatrical earnings. And that’s key.
This is welcome salve on the wounds of top exhibitors who dug their heels when Netflix and The Weinstein Company co-partnered on next year’s day-and-date release of the “Crouching Tiger” sequel (including AMC, which shunned the film). That window-shattering release model also applies to Netflix’s Fall awards bid “Beasts of No Nation” and, to a lesser extent, Amazon Studios, which expects to roll out some 12 movies a year with a four-to-eight-week window.
Rival studios jockeying for eyeballs in a content-glutted market may be inspired, or pressured, to step up and match Paramount’s deal, which overturns decades of tradition. Major studios have shattered the window before, including Warner Bros., as one source reminded us, when it opened “Veronica Mars” day-and-date last year on VOD and in theaters—but the idea of sharing VOD revenue with exhibitors on a major studio release is a groundbreaker.
Currently the Paramount initiative only applies to these two (relatively low-budget) genre titles. Bigger movies can go on to play for over two months, whereas Halloween-dated genre titles can expire after a month. So under the terms of the deal, consumers could easily be watching these films at home six weeks after opening day, when branding and profile and theatrically generated word-of-mouth are still fresh in their minds.
Will other exhibitors come onboard? Paramount welcomes them. “Exhibitors want to keep their businesses strong. Filmmakers want us to put a premium on the theatrical experience and optimize consumer access to their creations,” said chairman and CEO Brad Grey.